Alexandria, VA — June 16, 2009
Five participants of the Holy Week Faith and Resistance Retreat held in Washington, D.C., were tried, convicted, and sentenced to fines and probation today in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA for their Good Friday Pentagon witness. They were arrested as they prayed in silence around a cross near the Pentagon Metro entrance, while about 40 other
retreatants, dressed in black robes and white masks to mourn the dead, vigiled in silence to the beat of a drum in the designated protest zone. Preceding the arrest, the retreatants had processed around the south and southeast side of the Pentagon in silence carrying signs that said “Put Away the Sword,” “Abolish Nuclear Weapons” and “War Never Again.” The group also carried signs with facts about the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The five who were arrested were charged with “Disobeying a Lawful Order of a Government Agent,” which carries a six month maximum sentence. During the trial, each of the five gave compelling testimony and statements about the purpose of the witness, and why we are morally and legally justified to take nonviolent action to stop US warmaking, to abolish nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction, and to prevent crimes against humanity from occuring.
Brian Hynes from New York was given a $200 fine. Sr. Margaret McKenna from the New Jerusalem Community in Philadalphia, Susan Crane from Jonah House, and Art Laffin from the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, were fined $300. And Bill Frankel-Streit from the Little Flower Catholic Worker, was given six months unsupervised probation and a six month ban from the Pentagon.
Charges against Nancy Gowen and Molly Brechtel, who were also arrested on Good Friday, were dismissed because it was their first Pentagon arrest. David Ryle, who was also arrested on Good Friday, had his case continued and will be tried on July 10.
With love and gratitude,
Closing Statement for Good Friday Pentagon Trial
by Art Laffin
(The portion of this statement that is in brackets, was objected to by the prosecutor and not allowed by Judge Davis)
I joined with sisters and brothers in a prayerful, nonviolent witness at the Pentagon on Good Friday, to remember all those crucified by our empire’s warmaking and weapons: all those victims, past and present, who have been, and continue to be crucified to a cross of war, weapons of indiscriminate mass murder, economic exploitation, and dehumanizing poverty. In remembering Jesus, who was crucified by the Roman Empire, we sought to say through our witness, that we will not be complicit in the US Empire’s contemporary crucifixion of our sisters and brothers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guantanamo, Bagram Air Base, or anywhere else. As the eight of us who were arrested prayed around the cross in silence, near the Pentagon’s metro entrance, we sought to be a voice for the voiceless, to intercede for the victims, and to declare with our lives God’s command: Thou Shalt not kill!
I acted in a spirit of repentance, acknowledging my own complicity in our empire’s death-dealing. I prayed for a conversion of my own heart to more deeply follow the nonviolent Jesus, who showed us to how to live and die, and who so powerfully exemplified on the cross His command to love our enemies. I prayed for all who work at the Pentagon, and for all who are part of the warmaking apparatus–from the politicians, the military to the weapons contractors–to have a change of heart and be converted to the way of nonviolent love.
Judge Davis, the government has asserted that those of us praying around the cross committed a crime on Good Friday. However, we submit that the real crime is our government’s warmaking in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s possession and use of weapons of indiscriminate murder. In our Good Friday witness, we acted to uphold God’s law of love. We acted to uphold international law’s and treaties that are binding on every US court which prohibits our country from carrying out war crimes and mandates citizens to prevent crimes against humanity from occuring. The action we took on Good Friday was not only to confront and call into account the crimes the US has already committed, but also to prevent future crimes from occuring.
Since our witness on Good Friday, scores of people have been killed by US military forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And then we see just two days ago, Congress, at the president’s request, authorized another $100 billion to continue the warmaking and killing.
In Iraq, it is estimated that over 1 million Iraqi’s have died and, some 4 million displaced, as a direct result of the US invasion and occupation. And 4,315 U.S. soldiers have died, while thousands more have committed suicide, and 300,000 have been injured. Every day we see reports of more Iraqi’s and more US soldiers dying due to the immoral and illegal US occupation. God forgive us!
In Afghanistan, scores of civilians continue to suffer and die due to US occupation. In the June 9 edition of the Washington Post there was article titled: “US Troops Erred in Fight With Taliban That killed Dozens of Civilians.” The article reported that a 2,000 pound bomb from a B-1 bomber was dropped on a building killing between 97-140 civilians.
[And then there was a report on April 7 of this year that the US captured, Abdullah, an 11 year old would-be suicide bomber in Afghanistan. When a reporter asked the 11-year-old how felt about becoming a suicide bomber he said he knew he ‘would end up in pieces.’He also said he knew the difference between suicide and sacrifice and that he wanted to kill non-Muslims when he grew up ‘so they can’t come to our homes and kill us.’]
[I ask: what has the US become that an eleven year old boy would feel so desperate that he would want to take his own life as an act of revenge against the US? As the US escalates its war in Afghanistan this summer, more Afghan civilians and US soldiers will needlessly die].
In Pakistan, a U.S. Drone strike killed nine people in Pakistan on June 17, 2009. These strikes continue on a regular basis with no end in sight, killing untold numbers of civilians! God forgive us!]
Thus, in our witness, we were praying that our government and the people of our nation would simply stop the killing! How many deaths will it take till we know that too many people have died? Along with our extended community who were present with us, we were making the following appeal in our witness: heed Jesus’ command to “Put Away the Sword;” repent for the war crimes we have committed; make reparations to the victims; stop all US warmaking in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan immediately; stop the use of drones now; disarm all of our weapons now; eradicate poverty now; abolish war now! Yes we can! If we have the heart, will and determination to make it happen.
We stand in a long nonviolent tradition–from biblical times to now. Today, we reach out to you in love. We invite you and the prosecutor to join with us in this nonviolent movement to proclaim God’s reign of justice, peace and unconditional love as we strive to create the Beloved Community.