Skip to main content

Eleven activists sent to jail for demonstrating at U.S. Supreme Court

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Eleven peace activists received jail sentences May 30 after being convicted of misdemeanor charges in connection with a Jan. 11 nonviolent demonstration at the U.S. Supreme Court calling for the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The 11 were among 34 people convicted of unlawfully gathering on the Supreme Court grounds by District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Wendell Gardner Jr. May 29 after a three-day trial. Their sentences ranged from one to 15 days, the length dependent upon the number of previous convictions stemming from other similar actions.

Six of those who were sent to jail are members of the Catholic Worker Movement. They are: Kirk Brown and Ed Bloomer of Des Moines, Iowa; Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa; Carmen Trotta of New York City; Arthur Laffin of Washington; and Bill Frankel-Streit of Louisa, Va.

Others receiving jail terms were Susan Crane of Baltimore, a resident of Jonah House who has engaged in faith-based nonviolent witnessing for three decades; Christine Gaunt of Grinnell, Iowa; Ed Kinane of Syracuse, N.Y; Malachy Kilbride of Washington; and Eve Tetaz, also of Washington, who is retired and whom friends described as a "full-time peace activist."

All were taken immediately from Gardner's courtroom to begin serving their terms after saying they would refuse to comply with the conditions of probation the judge set, which included staying away from the Supreme Court for a year.

Another person, Paul Magno of Washington, was cited for contempt of court after shouting at Gardner as he sentenced Tetaz. As he was being led by U.S. marshals, Magno appeared to go limp and was carried away.

The remaining members of the group, including Father William Pickard, a priest from the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., received suspended jail terms of seven to 30 days, one year of probation and the order to stay away from the Supreme Court for a year. All were required to pay $50 in court fees.

Many in the group wore orange jumpsuits in solidarity with Guantanamo detainees, who must wear such jumpsuits in prison.

The case against one defendant was dismissed on the trial's opening day after arresting officers failed to identify him. Charges against 46 others were dropped in the weeks prior to the trial.

The defendants were among 81 people arrested either inside the court's Upper Great Hall or on the raised plaza in front of the court building as they knelt, prayed and held banners calling upon justices to allow the 274 Guantanamo detainees their habeas corpus rights.

The demonstration was organized by Witness Against Torture, a mostly Catholic group of activists seeking to end what they call U.S.-sponsored torture and illegal detentions around the world. Most of those arrested are Catholic Workers. Their ages range from 19 to the early 70s.

As the trial unfolded, each person introduced himself or herself and then recited the name of a detainee they represented, offering a few words about the individual. They said they were citing the names of detainees because it may be the only time those being held get any mention in a U.S. court.

Trotta was led away after a particularly impassioned plea to the judge. He had asked Gardner to set aside the convictions he had handed down a day earlier and "join with us" in decrying the harsh conditions at Gauntanamo.

"Without justice, law simply becomes a mechanism of tyranny," Trotta said. "The very foundations of our republic are at issue."

Trotta told Gardner that he could change his mind and begin to change the course of government policies that allow people to be held indefinitely without charges.

Despite his plea, Trotta was sentenced to 10 days in jail. "What I personally might do as opposed to what the law says I must do are different," Gardner said. "I'm just doing my job."

Many of those convicted offered statements voicing their disapproval of the situation at Guantanamo and said the U.S. government's machinery prevents detainees from their constitutional right to a fair trial. Most pledged to continue acting on behalf of the detainees.

As with Trotta's statement, none of the other statements moved Gardner, who immediately imposed a sentence. At times he warned courtroom spectators -- who clapped quietly and offered words of encouragement to those led away to jail -- that any disruptions would not be tolerated.


Anonymous said…

Popular posts from this blog

A Proposal for We The People to Institute Positive Change

Hello sisters and brothers, subjects of the United States Empire, it has become clear the elected representatives on Capitol Hill no longer truly represent us and our best interests, but rather are serving their elite major campaign contributors. They serve the interests of the extreme rich and large corporations, certainly not the average American worker, student, or retired individual.

In order to improve our government, we, a collective of dedicated social justice activists, propose three demands to those who have power to legislate within the Federal Government. We list those demands here, and will then discuss how to make sure they pass into the law of the land:

1) Universal single payer health care, something that nearly all other developed nations of the world already possess for their citizens. We, as human beings, have a right to good health and to never be financially crippled in this pursuit of our own well-being. We demand that Congress pass House Resolution 676 and a Sen…

Gays and Lesbians Opposed to Violence (GLOV) Reforms

As appeared in Metro Weekly...

Stirred to Action
Viciousness of recent anti-gay attacks spurs community reaction
by Will O'Bryan
Published on September 18, 2008

Perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to motivating a community, a picture -- far more than flow charts of crime statistics or bullet points in a report -- may actually be invaluable. Add to that picture a compelling online essay, and you have the start of a community movement.

With a number of publicized attacks against local gay people in recent months, from Nathaniel Salerno's attack on a Metro train in December to Michael Roike and Chris Burrell being beaten to the ground near the 14th and P Streets NW intersection in August, the viciousness Todd Metrokin suffered in Adams Morgan in July -- written about on The New Gay blog by his friend Chris Farris in late August -- may have been a tipping point.

''There are the anecdotal stories you hear from your friends,'' says Pete Perry, a loca…

A week ago I was in DC Jail -- This is a reflection

A week ago, I was spending my third and last night in DC Jail. A loud, violent and cruel place. A place populated by young black men, as a white inmate I was an extreme minority. And as a gay white man of somewhat slight build, I elected to get the protective custody order from Judge Lynn Liebovitz upon my sentencing. My sentencing, in retrospect was not that severe, and this is because my pre-sentencing officer had recommended probation and I admitted that my days of being arrested for expressing my moral and ethical beliefs (which put me in complete opposition to the U.S. Government’s foreign policy) were over. Perhaps someday, when I am retired and close to my friend Eve Tetaz’s age I may resume nonviolent civil resistance against the moral bankruptcy and downright evil policies of the U.S. Empire, but for now I choose a different life for my lifetime partner and myself.

Many of you have expressed an interest in discussing my experiences further, and I am open to accepting questions…