Who are the St. Patrick’s Four?

On March 17, 2003, two days before the invasion of Iraq was launched, four members of the Magnificat Catholic Worker community of Ithaca New York walked into the waiting room of the local Army-Marine recruiting center and carefully poured their own blood on the walls, the windows, the posters, cardboard mannequins of soldiers, the door and the American flag.

Why should you care what happened to the St. Patrick’s Four?  I’d bet that many of us here would consider these folks kindred spirits.  That many of us agree with what they did and would find joy that the Four were acquited by a jury of their peers, fellow citizens from their own community.  And many of us here should be chilled to the bone when they find out what George Bush’s Justice Department wants to do to them now.
The Four’s Defense:

They brought pictures of Iraqi mothers and children into the recruiting center along with a letter from American peace activists in Baghdad Iraq who called on peace activists in the US to nonviolently resist the promise of shock and awe. They read a statement, then knelt in prayer and awaited the authorities.

The four, Daniel Burns, Peter DeMott, Clare Grady and Teresa Grady were each arrested and charged by the local District Attorney with felony criminal damage to property. They became known as the “St. Patrick’s Four.”The four argued that their actions were legal because the invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law. Because the United Nations had not approved the invasion of Iraq, the invasion was a series of serious illegal acts that constitute war crimes. And, under the Nuremberg Principles of international law, individuals have international rights and duties to prevent crimes against humanity which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.

They further argued that if their actions were indeed illegal, they were authorized under the defense of necessity because the harm they caused was far smaller than the harm they were trying to prevent. They talked with the jury about Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and the Boston Tea Party. They reminded us, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, that everything done by supporters of Hitler in Germany was illegal, it was only those who tried to stop him who were violating the law.

After twenty hours of deliberation, the jury locked up 9-3 to acquit them. As the jury was released, the crowded courtroom gave them a thunderous standing ovation. The power of the people to present their views about justice had prevailed over narrow law.

Later, the District Attorney announced he would not re-prosecute them, stating that he thought another jury trial would yield the same outcome.

A jury of their peers could not convict the Four.  They found merit in their argument that as citizens of not just the United States, but the World, they had a responsibility, a duty, to resist what they deeply felt were the criminal actions of their government.  The Feds could not tolerate the jury’s decision:

Last week the St. Patrick’s Four appeared in federal court in Binghamton, New York to be charged on four federal charges arising from the exact same action.

They are now charged with federal conspiracy “by force, intimidation, and threat” to impede an officer of the United States – a felony charge that carries punishment of up to six years in prison and a $250,000 fine. They are also charged with criminal damage to property and two counts of trespass, charges punishable by up to an additional 2 years in prison.

This is what exercise of free speech in Bush’s US can get you.  Good Christians (obviously the wrong kind for the new America; you’d think they shot a doctor or something) facing six years in jail.  Years in the court system.  Massive fines and legal costs.  All those students protesting recruiting in their schools in Seattle earlier this week?  They better take heed, as should any of us who may dare to raise our voice in protest.

Mike Malloy spoke about the St. Patrick’s Four on his Air America broadcast tonight and mentioned that a site had been set up to help raise funds to cover the Four’s legal costs.  If anyone can provide a link to that site, I’d appreciate it as I haven’t been able to locate it.

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