From UW Tacoma Library’s Oral History Collection: Father Bill Bichsel and the Disarm Now Plowshares

Interview and Project By Lucas Dambergs; blog post written by Erika Wigren

Born and raised in Tacoma, Father Bill Bichsel, best known by his nickname “Father Bix,” was a Jesuit priest and non-violent activist who committed his life to community service and anti-war efforts. With friends, Father Bichsel co-founded the Tacoma Catholic Worker, a community service center for the homeless and hungry.

Father Bichsel may be most well known for his involvement in the Disarm Now Plowshares Movement, an anti-nuclear weapons and anti-war movement.

In response to the creation and use of nuclear weapons Father Bichsel explained that they serve as “signs of hopelessness, and tremendous signs of fear….There is no possibility of dialogue, no possibility working things out, other than the use of weapons. And then just the horrific, the horrific pain and suffering and destruction that a nuclear weapon carr[y].”
Father Bill Bichsel, 2015.

On Nov. 2, 2009, as a part of the Disarm Now Plowshares movement, Father Bichsel and 4 others cut through fences to break into Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, where nuclear weapons were stored, in order to protest and pray for disarmament.

“We called ourselves Disarm Now Plowshares action,” he said. “There were five of us. Anne [Montgomery] was 84 at the time. I was 82, and the rest were in their 60s. We thought about it, prayed about it, for about a year, and discerned, where we want to be.”
He stated that having nuclear weapons in his own “backyard” made him feel “more of a responsibility for the weapons that are surrounding us.”
All 5 protesters were arrested, convicted of trespassing, and sentenced to jail time.

Not only did he lead and take part in various anti-nuclear movements throughout his life, but he also made news headlines when he challenged the Reagan administration and United States’ involvement in Central America.

Father Bichsel was arrested over 45 times, but remained committed to nonviolent protesting and the civil resistance against nuclear weapons. He died on February 28, 2015.

Read the full interview and view the project: “Father Bill “Bix” Bichsel and Disarm Now Plowshares” by UW alumn Lucas Dambergs.

UW Tacoma Library’s oral history collection, the Tacoma Community History Project, includes over 90 interviews with civic leaders, activists, labor unions, and other community members.

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