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Zumwalt Destroyer Protesters found Guilty

Posted by Ryan Hall
02.13.17

Connie Jenkins, member of Pax Christi Maine and involved with Pace e Bene/Campaign Nonviolence, along with eleven others held a nonviolent civil disobedience action last June 2016 at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. Read more about it on a previous post here.  Below is a reflection on the recent trial for the twelve protesters by Leslie Manning, a women who provided hospitality to Connie during the trial.  Connie has been inspired by the lived example of Fr. John Dear over many years. She has taken the Vow of Nonviolence and has participated in Campaign Nonviolence actions in Bangor. 

Zumwalt Destroyer Protesters found Guilty
Sentenced to 30 hours each of Community Service
By Leslie Manning

Justice Dan Billings, after hearing the jury’s verdict and recommendations for monetary fines from the Sagadahoc County’s District Attorney’s office, said the sentence justifies leniency because “the defendants believed they were acting appropriately with the greater good in mind” and that their actions were “within the tradition of civil disobedience and non-violent protest”.

12 people were accused of “obstructing a public way” by sitting on Washington St. in front of Bath Iron Works during the “christening” of the latest stealth destroyer on June 18, 2016. Two chose to accept the offer of a $140.00 donation to the United Way rather than face trial, for health and travel reasons.

The remaining ten were given a jury trial that in the opinion of one observer “restored my faith in our justice system”. Although the jury deliberated for less than 25 minutes, no defendant ever denied the facts in the case, which was intent on examining First Amendment rights to free speech, redress of grievances and that their actions were “reasonable”. As one defendant testified “I know that my first amendment rights do not extend to yelling “fire” in a building, but when the fire is happening, I have a moral responsibility to say so.”

Citing long time opposition to war, personal faith, resistance to paying war taxes, rates of military spending, climate change and their status as members of Veterans for Peace, each of the ten spoke their truth to the jury and explained why they were led to take that action on that day. Although they did not all know each other, after their arrests and trial they are now deeply committed friends and allies, counseled by long-time First Amendment and civil disobedience champion, Attorney Lynne Williams of Bar Harbor, ME.

Below is a statement from a local pastor who attended the trial and provided support for the twelve from the time of the original protest.

“The trial has asked important questions: what is reasonable or unreasonable, what is patriotic, what is moral, what is faithful? It has also provided an all-too rare opportunity to evaluate the costs and benefits of our military policies, which yield enormous profit for a very few, at the expense of all humanity and the health of our common ecosystem.

It’s inspiring to witness hearts and minds engaging in clear thinking in a court of law, often touching on matters of faith and spirituality, with real consequences for all concerned. Whatever the verdict, this trial is a reminder of the importance of our civic institutions and the duties of citizenship.”

Pastor Bill Bliss, The Neighborhood United Church of Christ, Bath

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