Two More Jailed After 'Silence Trident'

Contact: Beth Preheim or John LaForge
Trident Resistance Network-Midwest
P.O. Box 373 Luck, WI 54853
Phone: 715-472-4185
Fax: 715-472-4184

Two More Jailed after "Silence Trident" Disarmament Action Drops Antenna Poles at Navy's Project
June 25, 2000

ELF CLAM LAKE, WI - Two peace activists, who cut down three poles supporting transmission lines for a controversial U.S. submarine communication system located near Clam Lake have been charged with sabotage and intentional damage to property. Bonnie Urfer, 48, and Michael Sprong, 37, both of rural Luck, WI used hand-held Swede saws to cut the poles at the nuclear Navy's Project ELF Saturday afternoon. The two waited over an hour for the arrival of Ashland County Sheriff's Deputies who took them into custody. A photographer of the action, Barbara Katt, 42, also of Luck, was also jailed and is reportedly charged with being party to the two alleged felonies.

The three are expected to appear at a bond hearing Monday June 26 in Ashland County Circuit Court at 1:15.

At a solidarity demonstration at noon Sunday, June 25, two women (Anika Spaldie, 31 of Sweden, and Kate Berrigan, 18 of Baltimore, MD) were jailed and charged with trespassing. During a vigil by 10 at the ELF offices, the two entered the ELF property to deliver the "Citizens' Indictment" that was carried by Urfer and Sprong on Saturday. They are to appear Monday June 26 for arraignment.

The disarmament action is the fifth time since 1984 that the transmitter - known as Project ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) - has been shut down by anti-war activists who have downed poles supporting the 28-mile-long antennae line with hand saws. The transmitter sits on public land in the Chequamegon National Forest. Another ELF facility is in Michigan's Escanaba State Forest. ELF is used to send orders to submerged missile-firing submarines around the world.

Urfer and Sprong, who called their action "Silence Trident," carried with them reams of documents they say justify their modern-day Boston Tea Party. They attached references to laws and treaties to the poles they cut. The documents explain that laws binding on the United States that make the ELF system an illegal weapon system. The two stressed that their action took place in a remote area and was carried out safely and nonviolently.

In 1996 two activists were found not guilty sabotage after they cut down three poles at the same site. After hearing testimony from three experts that Project ELF could only be used in an offensive first-strike nuclear attack and served no defensive purpose, an Ashland County jury decided that the disarmers had not interfered with national defense. In 1985 another pole cutter was also acquitted of the sabotage charge.

In a similar action in Oct. 1999 in England, three British peace activists were acquitted of all charges after destroying Trident submarine research computers that they'd thrown into the sea near the UK.

According to Bob Aldridge of the Pacific Life Research Center (, Project ELF sends coded, one-way messages to deeply submerged Trident missile-firing submarines. The submarines can be ordered simultaneously to the surface where they can launch 24 missiles, carrying up to 192 nuclear warheads. From these forward-based "platforms," enemy missile silos and command posts can be destroyed in less than 15 minutes. This, Urfer and Sprong claim, makes Project ELF the "trigger" for over 50 percent of U.S. strategic nuclear weapons. In documents the two brought to the site, the two charge that the aggressive nature of the ELF/Trident system makes it illegal under international laws and treaties as well as under domestic law.

In 1983 Federal Judge Barbara Crabb halted construction of Project ELF for environmental, health, and safety reasons only to be reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for reasons of "national security." Throughout the 1990s, Congressional opposition to the transmitter has been consistent with six of nine representatives and both U.S. senators from Wisconsin leading the call to cut funding for Project ELF.

Urfer and Sprong emphasized in their documentation that the U.S. Navy has never shown that Project ELF's electromagnetic radiation is not harmful to residents in the vicinity of the facility and to the environment. They say that their action is justified because ELF is an imminent threat to people and the environment.