Friday, April 18, 2014

Do U.S. Citizens Need to Go to PRISON to Stop U.S. State Violence?

You're gonna put this guy in prison? Really??

Last year at this time, on Good Friday morning, I was not only getting ready to participate in the annual 8th Day Good Friday Justice Walk -- a venerable Chicago institution -- but also getting ready to put on a play.

Jack Gilroy
The playwright Jack Gilroy was in town to make a special appearance together with a small group of us who were staging a reading of his play, The Predator. (See The Predator in Chicago - Good Friday, 2013 - 'A Passion Play for the Drones Era'") The Predator is a play that many communities have used to stir conversation about the nature of drone warfare.

Jack is much on my mind today, in part because of the anniversary of that performance, but also because of news he recently shared with me about an upcoming court appearance. I quote here at length from a letter Jack shared -- it is addressed to participants in a Peace Studies course that he advises, and it begins with encouragement from Jack about their work at their college:

The struggle is not over yet but if won, it will open up student minds to alternatives to violence like no single course ever has at B~ University . You can’t wave a victory flag yet but get it ready. There will be snags and disappointments but don’t get discouraged and give up the struggle. Many issues will be wrapped in the new curriculum and the process will not be to solve specific issues but to find ways to treat conflict issues diplomatically, rationally, intelligently—all with compassion.

That said, I am involved in an issue now that may prevent me from working with you next school year. I go to trial on July 14th in DeWitt Court House near Syracuse for a ‘killer drone die in’ that I was part of a year ago. I was one of 31 who lied on the ground of the entrance way to the 174th Attack Wing of the NY State National Guard. The 174th Attack Wing fires drones (located in Afghanistan and only God and the NSA know where else) electronically by ‘pilots’ located at their consoles inside the Hancock Air Base in Syracuse . [NOTE: die-in pictures here]

Some of our group chose to take a plea bargain (plead guilty and pay a fine) and have charges dropped. I would not do that. I committed no crime by asserting my constitutional rights of free assembly and speech. Every United States citizen has an obligation to call their US Government to honor when the US government is committing crimes. It is illegal to assassinate. Both President Ford and Reagan both issued Executive Orders to forbid assassination. And of course, this is a test of our morality that for me is much greater than legality. I will not be a party to killing any person.

Since the Magna Carta in 1215, Western jurisprudence has given high ground to habeas corpus—a person has the right to hear charges, to a fair trial. There is no hearing for those assassinated by US drones. Thousands of people have been killed by our drones--- many of them women and children.

My trial will be one of the first jury trials for this so called ‘crime’ of speaking out against killer drones. If convicted, I was told by the Judge to expect to be sentenced to the Jamesville Penitentiary for one year.

This is reminding me of how rapidly the resistance to U.S. drone killing is growing, and the many dimensions of this resistance.  And as I reflect on Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus' showdown with imperial power 2,000 years ago, it is also reminding me that there are people today who have come to the conclusion that the preservation of their own bodies may have to be foregone in the interest of saving others.

I'm pretty sure that Jack Gilroy is not a fan of spending time in prison.  I sense that he would be very happy if this cup could pass from him. But I also hear Jack saying, "If this is what it takes to stop the killing . . . thy will be done."

On this day, as you reflect on the meaning of Good Friday, take an opportunity to look around you.  There are Jack Gilroys all around us, and their number is growing.

Related posts

At trial, Jack Gilroy testified that he joined the Army out of high school, and was stationed in Austria in the early '50s at a time when the Cold War was hot. He says that despite a climate of distrust and contempt towards Russians, when he actually had to look a young Russian soldier in the eye during a ceremonial event, he didn’t see the evil he’d been trained to expect. Since then, Gilroy has spent 30 years as a teacher. A member of Veterans for Peace and Peace Action New York, he is currently working with Peace Action at Binghamton University to convince the college to offer a Peace Studies Program.

(See Hancock Show Trial #1: Anti-Drone Protester Convicted of a Misdemeanor )

Brian Terrell, prior to beginning his term in federal prison for entering a drones base near Kansas City, MO: "There seems to be in these last weeks a new openness to speaking about the issue of the drones. It is as if with the dreadful distraction of the presidential election over, people are wiping the sleep from their eyes and are shocked to see the evil that had been festering while they were not looking."

(See Brian Terrell: "I go in solidarity with prisoners every place")

Beale, in CA, is home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that demonstrators claim helps in the targeting of Predator and Reaper armed drones. Increasing numbers of demonstrators have been arrested at Beale over the past several months. On March 5, Ash Wednesday, arrests included several members of the clergy. Other actions are scheduled for later this month.

(See Former National President of Veterans For Peace Arrested at Beale)

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