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Oral Histories: Kim Wahl

Kim Wahl grew up near Chicago and settled in the Northwest after being stationed here with her husband, who served as an army physician from 1959-1969. Wahl had always been involved in community activism and the Catholic peace movement, but was moved to participate in civil disobedience after reading more about nuclear weapons and the arms race of the early 1980s.

Wahl’s involvement began in 1981 with Target Seattle and Target Eastside, community groups which aimed to stop weapons proliferation. Acting as a Democratic Party delegate for her region, Wahl came up against the intransigence of Senator “Scoop” Jackson and the military economy of the state. Inspired by traditions of spiritual and political resistance, witness, and civil disobedience, Wahl and her husband practiced tax resistance, refusing to pay the portion of federal taxes they calculated went to nuclear weapons.

The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolence was a pacifist community on 3.5 acres outside of Bangor Naval Base on Hood Canal, and Wahl soon joined them. Led by Jim and Shelley Douglass, Ground Zero members were planning a “peace blockade”: a flotilla of small boats that would aim to stop the submarine bringing Trident nuclear submarines to the base. After a long period of safety training, and legal and spiritual preparation, on August 12, 1982, Wahl and forty-six others boarded small ships to confront the submarine, an action that gained widespread sympathy and support.

Wahl is still active with Ground Zero and the peace movement: as she says, “peace is a long-term process.”

Click here to go to a special section Anti-Nuclear organizing in the Northwest.

Kim Wahl was interviewed on November 11, 2008, by Matt Dundas and Steve Beda.