St Patrick’s Four: A Victory for Nonviolence


“Fear, threat, and intimidation are strong messages from our government that come out of jail time and these kinds of charges.  I could respond out of fear, and stop protesting and committing acts of civil disobedience, but that would only obscure the love in my heart… if acting out of conscience and love  means risking your liberty and your comfort, well– we still need to risk going there and acting out of that love and knowledge and conscience.  And all of us have a role to play in that”.

- St Patrick’s 4 defendant Clare Grady after being asked
if the trial had changed her views on tactics of civil disobedience.

 

After seven hours of deliberation, a Binghamton jury found defendants Daniel Burns, Peter De Mott, Clare Grady and Theresa Grady  “Not guilty”  of federal Conspiracy charges for their actions of nonviolent civil disobedience in a recruitment center on St Patrick’s Day, 2003.  Family, friends, and other supporters gathered in the pouring rain to welcome the so-called “St Patrick’s Four” out of the courthouse and into freedom by singing songs, cheering, and issuing declarations of hope and solidarity to the mainstream press.

On April 17th, 2003, just 48 hours before the US invasion of Iraq, the four Catholic Workers entered a Lansing, NY recruitment center, read a peaceful statement against war, poured four vials of their own blood on photographs of American Servicemen and Iraqi children as well as the American flag, and knelt and prayed until they were arrested. Although the four had been acquitted for their action of nonviolent disobedience in a previous trial in Tompkins county, the Federal government filed charges of “Conspiracy by force, intimidation and threat and impeding an officer of the United States” in February 2005.

While found innocent of Conspiracy, which would have carried a six year jail sentence and up to $215,000 in fines, the St Patrick’s Four were found guilty of lesser criminal misdemeanors of property damage and trespass, which carry a possible prison sentence starting in mid January of one year and six months respectively.

“The decision to acquit on the conspiracy charge, a felony, is a huge victory, given the narrow parameters within which the four could present their defense, and given the restrictions on deliberations. This is a major setback in the government’s efforts to criminalize dissent,” said Bill Quigley, acclaimed public interest lawyer and law professor at Loyola University School of Law, who has been acting as legal advisor to the defendants.  Throughout the trial, the presiding Federal District Judge John McAvoy overwhelmingly sustained the objections of federal prosecutor Miroslav Lovric, and three out of four defendants were found in contempt of court for mentioning the Iraq War, international law, the previous trial, and withholding the names of the medical practitioners who drew their blood.

“Our actions were lawful, however, we were repeatedly denied the chance to explain why,” stated Teresa Grady, one of the defendants. “We were not allowed to mention Article VI, paragraph four of the Constitution, which says that the treaties of the United States are the supreme law of the land. We were not allowed to explain our actions in the context of the Nuremberg Principles, which declare that citizens can be held responsible for crimes of their government. Nor could we explain how this war was a violation of the UN Charter. The jury made a wise choice with what they had. It’s unfortunate, however, that they were denied the full truth.”

When asked by reporters whether they would protest in the same fashion again in light of Hon. District Judge John McAvoy’s warnings, the four responded with stronger convictions than ever. “The real crime, as we’ve always stated, is that our government conspired against the American people and lied us into an illegal and immoral war,” said Peter De Mott, a member of the St. Patrick’s Four. “The task is now upon us all to better understand the criminality of our government’s aggression and, as citizens, to act accordingly to demand that our government adheres to international law.”

Co-defendant Clare Grady re-affirmed these sentiments.  “We cannot live in fear.  We were convicted of force and stealth, but what kinds of fear and stealth “Our work is just beginning. We all must continue to speak on behalf of the victims of this criminal war — the innocent Iraqi civilians, US service members, and indeed all of humanity. Whether it’s Crawford or Binghamton or Washington or beyond, our dissent will not be silenced. Truth, justice, and peace will prevail.”

 

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