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Convicted for Our Convictions
The Manhattan criminal trial of Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Rev. Patricia Ackerman, and Missy Beattie is over, ending in a "guilty" verdict on the charge of trespassing and a "not guilty" on four more serious counts. Yes, we were relieved but a "guilty" on any is absurd because the arrest, itself, was dead wrong. Just call it another example of George Bush’s post-9/11 reign of terror, aggression, and disregard for civil liberties. Another George-Orwell-must be shouting from the grave, "Don’t say I didn’t warn you."
We four women for peace were arrested in March of 2006 in front of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Yes, that’s right-the U.S. Mission-our mission for which we pay rent and whose employees we compensate with our tax dollars. The U.S. Mission to the United Nations should not be housed, even temporarily, in a commercial building with a security staff that can determine who is allowed to enter.
Prosecutor William Beesch requested five days of community service for each of us. Cindy Sheehan’s attorney, Robert Gottlieb, said, "My client does community service every single day and the prosecution just doesn’t get it. She spends every day trying to end the war."
Judge Kirke Bartley agreed with our attorneys that the night we spent in jail after our arrest was punishment enough. He ordered each of us to pay $95 for court costs and as we moved to the hallway, peace advocates from an array of groups reached into their wallets and purses for money to cover this.
Then, we decided to return to the U.S. Mission to deliver the petition. We asked our supporters to join us. Congregating in a cafe on the ground floor of the mission, we ate lunch and, then, moved outside to the same plaza where our arrests occurred. We read the petition to the gathering crowd. After this, Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Rev. Patricia Ackerman, and I went through the revolving door, the same door we’d been accused of blocking on the day of our arrests. Once inside, we walked proudly, arm in arm, into the lobby with the petition. Peggy Kerry, nongovernmental organization (N.G.O.) liaison at the U.S. Mission to the U.N., and Richard Grenell, spokesperson for the U.S. Mission, met us in the lobby to accept the petition. Both Kerry and Grenell had testified for the prosecution. Kerry took the stand and said that Sheehan’s presence was unexpected and for that reason, she turned off her cell phone. In other words, Kerry was intimidated by the courageous woman who galvanized the peace movement and confronted the warmongers. Grenell provided comic relief under oath when he said that the group of happy women, wearing pink and layered clothing, frightened him. What a boob! Then, he pointed to me and said he spoke with me that day in March and out of the kindness in his heart invited several of us in to deliver the petition. I gasped. Because I did not have any contact with him. Certainly, had his testimony been correct, the petition would have been delivered and our 22 hours in "The Tombs" and a six-day, six-member jury trial would have been avoided.
I confronted Richard Grenell as we presented the petition and asked why he perjured himself. He didn’t answer. The real question, though, is why the petition was refused nine months ago. Was it the presence of Cindy Sheehan? Was it a demand for peace?
I also have a question for the jury. Why did they find us guilty of trespassing on property that every taxpayer in this country has a right to enter? And why if we were found guilty of trespassing in March, were we allowed into the lobby to present the peace petition in December?
Yes, our criminal trial is over. It was a huge waste of money and time. But the war rages on with deaths and devastating injuries daily, and those responsible for fixing intelligence to invade and occupy Iraq are still at large. They should be arrested and convicted of war crimes. Already, in December, 42 U.S. troops have been killed and more than 600 Iraqis have died. The chaos and pain continue. Soon, 2,950 families will have heard the words that will change their lives forever. Eventually, if "stay the course" prevails, we will eulogize the 3,000th U.S. serviceman or woman. Upward, the count will continue until someone is able to penetrate the thick skull of the worst president in the history of our country and convince him that victory is impossible, that there really is no triumph in war.
Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com