Carmen Trotta, prisoner of his own conscience

February 15, 2019

The Villager

Carmen Trotta, prisoner of his own conscience

by Mary Reinholz

It’s not every day that I get a chance to interview a devout man of faith and derring-do whose religiously inspired activism has put him under house arrest at an East Village soup kitchen and men’s shelter run by Catholic Worker volunteers. However, I did just that when I recently sat down with Carmen Trotta, indicted last spring after an anti-nuke protest in the deep South.

There, inside the Catholic Worker’s fifth-floor walk-up building on E. First St., his longtime residence, Trotta, 56, wears an ankle monitor and awaits trial out of state. The reason why? Trotta joined six elderly pacifists who, on April 4, broke into the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia under cover of darkness to mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. They splattered blood on government property to protest the anti-ballistic nuclear missiles stored inside the port’s Trident submarines, calling them illegal, immoral and an existential threat to the planet.

“We went to the scene of the crime,” Trotta told me. He was referring to his Catholic comrades in the radical Plowshares movement who carried bolt cutters, hammers, crime-scene tape, vials of human blood and their own indictment of nuclear weapons. “These weapons are illegal,” he insisted. “If they’re not illegal, then there is no law.”

It took naval officers more than two hours to discover the seven protesters, according to early news reports. A base spokesperson, Scott Bassett, flat-out refused to answer my questions on what appeared to be a major breach of security at Kings Bay.

I reminded Trotta that he had broken laws to get inside a 1,700-acre base of the Atlantic Fleet, which has at least six subs that contain missiles with nuclear warheads capable of delivering far more firepower than the U.S. bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

“Is it a crime to to break into somebody’s house if it’s burning?” he responded.

In the wake of his April 5 arrest, for which he pleaded not guilty, Trotta — who was named Carmen after his immigrant Italian grandfather — spent about 50 days in a Georgia county jail. He was then released on $1,000 bond. He told me he now faces the possibility of up to 20 years in federal prison…

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