Four Catholic peace activists have just been acquitted of felony conspiracy charges — the first case of this kind since the Vietnam War. We speak with two of the four activists whose charges stem from an antiwar action on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
On Monday, a federal jury in Binghamton, New York acquitted four Catholic peace activists of felony conspiracy charges stemming from an antiwar action on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq. The St. Patrick’s Four, as the defendants were known, were convicted on lesser charges of damage to government property and entering a military station for an unlawful purpose. But the ruling on the felony charge represents a setback for the Bush administration’s attempts to crack down on dissent, as this was the first federal conspiracy case against antiwar activists since the Vietnam war.
The prosecutor in the case was assistant US attorney Miroslav Lovric. He characterized the four activists as violent, saying "It’s dead wrong to say this was civil disobedience. It was not...I found it disgusting that they were comparing themselves to all these people in history who were nonviolent."
The prosecutor also compared the St. Patrick’s Four to Timothy McVeigh, saying he felt justified when he blew up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. The prosecutor said "If people are allowed to destroy property...it’s a slippery slope."
The St. Patrick’s Four carried out their action in March 2003, when they entered a recruiting center in suburban Ithaca, poured their own blood on the walls, in the foyer and on a US flag and then refused to leave.
- Daniel Burns, One of the St. Patrick’s Four
- Teresa Grady, One of the St. Patrick’s Four
AMY GOODMAN: Here is some of the scene from that day, as two of the four read their statement defining their action at the recruitment center.
ST. PATRICK’S FOUR: Our apologies, dear friends, for the fracture of good order. As our nation prepares to escalate the war on the people of Iraq by sending hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers to invade, we pour our blood on the walls of this military recruiting center. We mark this recruiting office with our own blood to remind ourselves and others of the cost in human life of our government’s war making. Killing is wrong. Preparations for killing are wrong. The work done by the Pentagon with the guidance of this military recruiting station ends with the shedding of blood, and God tells us to turn away from it. Blood is the symbol of life. All life is holy. All people are created in the image and likeness of God. All people are family, and everyone is loved by God.
AMY GOODMAN: The statement of the statement of the St. Patrick’s Four, their action March 17, 2003, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. We’re now joined by two of the St. Patrick’s Four, Daniel Burns and Teresa Grady. Welcome to Democracy Now!
TERESA GRADY: Thank you, Amy.
DANIEL BURNS: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: So your response to the verdict; explain the significance, Daniel.
DANIEL BURNS: Well, we weren’t charged with pouring blood, we were charged with conspiracy to impede an officer using force.
TERESA GRADY: Intimidation and threat.
DANIEL BURNS: And the idea of that is it’s very vague, and it carries a six-year prison term, and had we been convicted of it, they could apply it, you know, anywhere they wanted to. If you had gone — and anybody who had done any resistance at any military or government location, they could apply it. Anybody who signed the pledge of resistance against the war in Iraq, they could apply it, and the idea of instilling fear of six years in prison, a $250,000 fine on anybody who even just, you know, who knows where they would? I mean, we know what they’re capable of, clearly, but it was a big victory for the peace movement.
AMY GOODMAN: And Teresa, the argument of the prosecutor that it’s a slippery slope between you and Timothy McVeigh once you start destroying property?
TERESA GRADY: Well, I think that it was very clear that international law and the law of justification which says that while what would otherwise be considered a crime is not a crime when you’re trying to avert a greater crime from happening, that was not allowed in the courtroom, and we feel quite confident that the other two charges that we were actually convicted on, which was damage to property and trespassing, in fact, would have also been acquittals had the jury been given the legal justification to work on or to use, as they deliberated, and so the slippery slope is just his way of once again inducing fear in people in order to try to keep people maintaining the status quo, I think.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you throw your own blood?
DANIEL BURNS: I poured my own blood, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
DANIEL BURNS: I didn’t throw anything.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
DANIEL BURNS: Well, because blood cuts right to it. When you see blood and maybe for a for a moment your heart rate changes and for a moment maybe you can imagine what it must be like, what war would be like, and to go in there, to carry the message about this war and about the potential catastrophe for our country and for the Iraqis and for the children of Iraq that — I mean, we are daily killing children in Iraq, and just for a moment, if they could see this, and maybe just get a little more than reading it in a newspaper, say, it just makes it more real to them, I believe.
TERESA GRADY: Just in terms of looking at the blood on the cutouts, there are really beautiful service people portrayed in these standup cutouts, welcoming people into the vestibule, which is where we did pour the blood, and to see the blood dripping on these very well dressed and very happy looking people was just kind of — elicited or showed the perversity of what war is about, without words.
DANIEL BURNS: And there’s no mention of blood in any of the literature. There’s no mention of being taught to kill or being killed or having to live the rest of your life having been exposed to all the depleted uranium and such in Iraq. It is clearly — it’s an advertisement and so the blood really just brought truth to the recruiting center.
AMY GOODMAN: This being the first federal conspiracy case against anti-war activists since the Vietnam War, that goes back to, well, a family tradition, Teresa Grady, your father.
TERESA GRADY: Yeah, my dad was charged with a number of conspiracy charges, all totaled, if he had been found guilty on them all, would have brought him 45 years in jail; however, the jury acquitted the Camden 28, which my father was a part of, when they went in and destroyed draft records of young men who were part of — in the selective service of the Camden offices.
AMY GOODMAN: In New Jersey.
TERESA GRADY: In New Jersey.
AMY GOODMAN: And your father’s name?
TERESA GRADY: John Peter Grady.
AMY GOODMAN: Is he still alive?
TERESA GRADY: He’s passed away in ’02, just before Phil died. Phil Berrigan. He died in October.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, you do face jail time now? You’ll each be sentenced separately?
TERESA GRADY: We do, yeah.
DANIEL BURNS: Separate days in sequential order. The judge said that’s where the dates came up, and that’s where they got us. No special treatment.
AMY GOODMAN: In January.
DANIEL BURNS: In January, yes. For two misdemeanors.
TERESA GRADY: January 24, 25, 26 and 27.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it was worth it?
TERESA GRADY: Absolutely.
DANIEL BURNS: It was definitely worth it. We had two trials. We were able to raise awareness. The idea wasn’t to try and get out of jail. The idea was to try to stop the war in conjunction with others across the country right before it happened. You know, obviously we didn’t do that, but we were able to raise awareness against the war, and so if I have to do some time in jail to try and stop this war any sooner, then I would have gladly [inaudible].
AMY GOODMAN: Daniel Burns, Teresa Grady, I want to thank you very much for being with us.