published Monday, May 26th, 2014

Fired Oak Ridge Y-12 guard hoping for settlement

Razor wire has been put in place at the site where protesters cut through fences on July 28, 2012, to reach the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Razor wire has been put in place at the site where protesters cut through fences on July 28, 2012, to reach the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLINTON, Tenn. — A security guard who was fired after three peace activists broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge is waiting to see whether he will get a financial settlement that includes back pay.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Kirk Garland returned to Y-12 last month for a six-hour arbitration meeting, where he defended his actions after the July 2012 break-in. The complex is the nation's primary storehouse for bomb-grade uranium.

The three activists, including an 82-year-old nun, cut through three fences before reaching the plant's high-security storage center. They splashed blood with walls, spray-painted Bible verses and decorated the site with crime-scene tape.

Garland, who was the first guard to arrive on the scene after the break-in, said he didn't deserve to be fired for the biggest security breach in Y-12's history.

The former guard says he's the scapegoat for bigger security issues at the facility, such as cameras and detectors that didn't work as they should have. He denied allegations that he was too lax with the protesters. The trio, he said, had already done their damage by the time he was dispatched to the scene in the dark hours before down and didn't even try to flee or resist him. He maintains that his training taught him what to do to gain order. He also says that he would have been vilified or sent to prison himself had he shot the protesters.

But critics have said the nation would have faced a serious crisis had the protesters been a diversion for armed terrorists.

"Like I told the arbitrator ... we can sit here and you can scrutinize me all you want, but at the end of the day I stopped their actions, I detained them, I called for backup, we arrested them, I testified against them and they're in prison," Garland said. "How much more picture perfect can it be than that? And I went home to my family, and nobody got killed and nobody got hurt."

Since he was fired, the 53-year-old Garland has lost his home and his health, having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The International Guards Union of America, Local 3, filed a grievance on Garland's behalf that has been working its way through the system for the past two years.

Garland won't get his job back, because the government terminated the contract he had with his former employer, Wackenhut Security Services. Garland now works as a prison guard at the Morgan County Correctional Facility. His fate is now in the hands of a federal arbitrator.

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