Nathan Burchfiel | Correspondent | Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Twenty- five members of Peace Action were arrested last Oct. 15, along with Cindy Sheehan, the California woman who became a figurehead of the anti-war movement after her son, Army Spec. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq.
The demonstrators staged a "die-in" at the White House to represent the American soldiers who had been killed in Iraq; the total had climbed to 2,000. However, the protesters did not obtain a permit for the event.
According to Peace Action political director Paul Kawika Martin, most of the protestors paid the $75 fine for demonstrating without a permit while a few fought the charges in court.
They could have faced six months in jail and a $500 fine, but Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal, agreeing that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges.
There are strict rules regarding protests near the White House, including that demonstrators remain 40 yards away from the fence, refrain from displaying signs and remain in motion. The federal court handling the case did not respond to requests for official court documents and a representative for Robinson declined comment.
"The prosecution was just sloppy in their case," Martin told Cybercast News Service. "They didn't prove a lot of letters of the law."
Martin said he was happy the case was dismissed but said he was prepared to pay a fine or serve time in jail because "that's part of doing civil disobedience, that you're willing to take the consequence."
The case was dismissed before Martin argued his position to the court, but he posted his prepared statement on Peace Action's blog. "We were arrested for the crime of civil disobedience and thus are on trial here today defending ourselves," he wrote. "However it is our contention that it is not we who should be on trial but rather the target of our protest: the Bush administration."
In his statement, Martin compared the anti-war protestors to "those who participated in the Boston Tea Party, the womens' (sic) suffrage movement, the civil rights movement and others who held the vision and displayed the courage to go to jail for justice."
Martin told Cybercast News Service that plans are underway for future acts of civil disobedience. "We've tried other ways of redress," he said. "We have lobbied Congress, we have petitioned Congress, we have sent letters to the president and it's still not happening.
"There will be civil disobedience here in the Capitol," Martin said. "It's definitely going to happen." He didn't elaborate on plans other than to mention that anti-war activists are conducting low-key sit-ins at congressional offices with hopes of urging their senators and representatives to support a withdrawal of troops.
He said there are also plans for civil disobedience at a New York City protest scheduled for the next weekend.
Martin said anti-war protestors will continue to break the law "the longer that we continue to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq and we continue to have dead U.S. soldiers coming home and dead Iraqis being killed."
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