“On March 17, 2003, two days before the US invasion of Iraq commenced, four protesters – now known as the “Saint Patrick’s Four” – entered a military recruiting centre near Ithaca, New York, and poured small amounts of their own blood around the building’s vestibule in a symbolic protest against the coming invasion. By their own account, they were alone in the vestibule and no one was prevented from entering or leaving the center.
“For this act of non-violent civil disobedience, the longtime Catholic peace activists–sisters Clare and Teresa Grady, Daniel Burns, and Peter DeMott–are now charged with conspiracy to impede “by force, intimidation and threat” an officer of the United States along with three lesser offences. If convicted of federal conspiracy in a trial starting this Monday, September 19, they face up to six years in prison, a period of probation and $275,000 in fines.
“The trial is the first time the Federal government has pressed conspiracy charges against civilian Iraq war protesters and comes after a previous trial last year in county court on charges of criminal mischief and trespassing which resulted in a hung jury, with nine of twelve members favouring acquittal. As public interest lawyer and law professor Bill Quigley who is acting as legal advisor to the defendants, says, “Federal intervention in this case represents a blatant act of government intimidation and will have a chilling effect on expression of the first amendment rights of any citizen to protest or speak out against their government.” Which is, of course, the idea.”
The parallels to the American peace protestor, Scott Parkin, being deported from Australia on spurious national security issues raise the spectre that Western democracies are slowly but surely cracking down on dissent.
We must fight this at every turn.