“We’re All in This Together”
Mary Anne Grady the sister of two of the St. Patrick’s Four defendants on trial this week in Binghamton, NY asked me to write some impressions of events surrounding the trial of her sisters Clare and Teresa Grady and two others charged with conspiracy by the Federal government.
On March 17, 2003 Teresa Grady, Clare Grady, Daniel Burns and Peter De Mott performed a non-violent act of protest against the impending invasion of Iraq. They poured a small amount of their own blood in the vestibule of an army recruiting center, read a statement, then knelt and prayed and no way obstructed access to the office its exits or its officials. Arrested by local authorities, charged with felony “criminal mischief,” they eloquently defended themselves in court and explained they believed their actions were justified in light of the US Constitution, international law, and moral imperatives while expressing their shared revulsion and outrage at the killing of innocents by the US in an illegal, unjust, unprovoked war against Iraq. The trial in Tompkins County, NY resulted in a hung jury, nine of the twelve jurors voted for acquittal and the District Attorney chose not to retry the case.
This second trial at the behest of federal officials was not completely unexpected by the defendants and their families. Marie De Mott Grady said her family was not entirely surprised when four FBI agents came to her parents’ home to serve papers with new charges, the most serious being “conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States.” After the first trial they didn’t think “the matter was going to be dropped.” Although not entirely unexpected, she said, it still came “like a stroke out of the blue.” The new charges carry extremely harsh penalties of up to six years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each defendant. Several lesser charges were filed also against the four. The trial venue was moved from Ithaca to Binghamton, NY where Judge Thomas McAvoy has forbidden mention of the Iraq war in the proceedings thus scuttling the defense the Four used with success in their first trial and preventing them from explaining why they protested as they had on March 17, 2003. “This court offers no opinion on the war in Iraq as it is entirely irrelevant to the matter,” the judge said.
When I turned a corner and found the treeless, shadeless, federal courthouse on an unseasonably hot afternoon, I first saw a crowd of about one hundred standing in the street surrounded by a police presence including county sheriffs in black cowboy hats, state and local policemen, federal marshals. Three plainclothes men stationed on a parking garage roof stood across the street intently watching us, a few local news stations were there and an array of colorful banners and signs.
The street was blocked with wooden sawhorse barricades painted day-glow orange with DPW printed on them. An additional set of orange barricades bisected the block. As I walked behind the barricades looking for a way in I came upon a small group of about 8-10 men standing to the side of the main group. They were older men all wearing veteran’s hats. One of them was bent over wiping off his shiny black shoe. He looked up and smiled at me as I passed. A man in black with a clergyman’s collar was with the veterans. He said he was a Presbyterian minister when I asked his affiliation. I asked why the barricades were there and why the street was divided into two spheres. His answer: “to keep the two groups apart.” Nodding toward the supporters of the Four he said, “they are morale busting.” He added that many of the men he’d come with are “very upset” with the defendants, especially one man who is “hurting deeply” because his son is in Iraq. I said I sympathized with the man but learned in the Vietnam era the importance of following one’s conscience. He mentioned without elaborating the dangers of “Islamic fundamentalism” and finished by saying in reference to the protesters on the other side of the barricade: “I don’t know how we’ re ever going to talk to each other, we see the world so differently.” But that’s what we have to do, find common ground, or we’re all doomed I found myself saying. He took my hand and shook it, said he agreed with that. Later I saw the clergyman on the other side of the divide talking to Nebeil Al-Oboudi, a gentle, soft-spoken Iraqi-American who later stood up at the Citizens’ Tribunal on Iraq to give witness to some of the horrors his family has endured in Baghdad.
Rumors circulated among the protestors that the police had set up the divide to protect the protestors from “attacks.” The protestors were relaxed, many sitting on the curb, others standing at tables providing water and information, others in folding chairs, many with small children and babies, all patiently waiting for news from inside the courthouse where jury selection was taking place. Many groups were gathered: Catholic Workers, Quakers, Mennonites, Veterans for Peace, student groups, mainstream Protestant and Catholics, concerned citizens from near and far. Many traveled from Ithaca and farther in support of the defendants.
Later, after a dinner provided by very friendly volunteers at the Centenary-Chenango St.Methodist Church basement, we moved upstairs to the Citizens’ Tribunal on Iraq (which runs all week) where panelists James Petras, Ann Wright, Ray McGovern and Michael Meacher added their voices and presence to the peace effort. The church was filled to capacity and the speakers received standing ovations and were interrupted at times by thunderous applause, cheers, and footstomping.
Mr. McGovern, a former CIA intelligence officer, quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer and St. Thomas Aquinas among others on “virtuous anger,” and referred often to Dr. Martin Luther King. Likening conditions in the US now to “1935” or “1939 in Germany,” he said there comes a time to put one’s “body into it” and “there is such a thing as too late.” He said we’re facing a Constitutional crisis when one branch of the government would deliberately lie and mislead another branch into war. Erosion of Constitutional rights and protections was a recurring theme throughout the evening.
Mr. Meacher, Member of Parliament and former minister of the environment in the UK, described the process that led his country into the Iraq war as nearly identical to the lies and PR campaign mounted by the Bush administration to manipulate public opinion. He cited research that underlines the real cause for the war against Iraq: oil. He gave figures on the sharp decline in the world’s oil supply in the coming decades and stressed the need to immediately begin a transition to alternative energy. Governments in the control of “vested interests” are not taking the proper measures he said.
Ann Wright, one of three US State Department officials to resign in 2003 in protest of the invasion of Iraq, has been on the road with Cindy Sheehan. Emphasizing her commitment to non-violent, peaceful protest, she said she is willing to be arrested at some point for civil disobedience fearing that this government’s desire for “retaliation” is deep and strong. She warned everyone engaged in dissent to “watch your backs.” She urged massive protests, voting everyone who voted for the war out of Congress and running for office “ourselves.”
Mr. Petras, author of Globalization Unmasked, said that the US lost the Vietnam War largely through the opposition of soldiers in the field and that ‘s why this government is particularly keen to target those drawing attention to its “Achilles heel”-recruitment. Speaking from the floor, long-time peace activist Elizabeth McAlister passionately invoked the duty to follow one’s conscience even if it has no effect on George Bush. She told the audience and panel that the many direct actions against draft boards during the Vietnam War had a great effect on stopping the war.
Father Ned Murphy, a Catholic priest and longtime friend of the Grady family, told me earlier in the day that he believed the trial was not so much an opportunity to teach, but an opportunity for each individual to “confirm themselves,” and that may have a “hardening” effect on the community. Robbie Sinnott, visiting from Ireland, spoke of the Ploughshare actions at Shannon Airport in protest of the Iraq war and the use of Shannon as a staging area for US troops in transit to Iraq. He said such non-violent direct actions are underreported but are taking place throughout Europe and other parts of the world. The threat to freedom and peace is global, he said, “it’s a global system and a global threat. We’re all in this together.”
For more information go to: www.stpatricksfour.org
LUCIA DAILEY is a poet and novelist.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.
As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005