Dilemma: How shall we 16 Protestors Plead in court? Who is Guilty of What?

The reason that I’m writing to you is to ask your advice. Those of us who were arrested at the United Nations when Bush was speaking, (there are 16 of us) are trying to decide how to get the most mileage publicity-wise out of our situation. Most of us are charged with the offense #240.20 (6), which I believe is disorderly conduct. Admittedly we went to 44th Street across from the U.N. for the purpose of performing Civil Disobedience by challenging the police blockade, with our signs and chants, saying that Bush is a war criminal and that he should be arrested. We were waving copies of the 51 page verdict delineating the Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration, to call attention to the findings of fact gathered by testimony at the International Commission of Inquiry, published on September 13, 2006. We were told to remove our hands from the barricade that we were trying to open; we refused!

Three of us are additionally charged with resisting arrest which is totally absurd, inasmuch as we all went there to be arrested. Most of us are to appear in the Centre Street court on October 18th. We discussed the options for several hours this evening at John Jay in a room provided by Father Luis Barrios, the Episcopal Priest, who is also charged with assaulting an officer…a totally bogus charge; they were brutalizing him, instead. With us was disabled Iraq Vet, Geoffrey Millard, who was manhandled as well.

On Thursday, October 5th, we will be in the streets again protesting the imminent and insane bombing of Iran. We hear that October 9th will begin the “October Surprise,” and that warships are moving into position. This actually dominated our conversation tonight; no wonder we couldn’t focus on how we are going to plead when we get to court. We’re not finished getting arrested yet!

So, here’s my question: several other lawyers are already involved, Siegel, Stolar and Upton, all of whom gave differing and non-spectacular advice to their clients, so far. The 16 of us sat around a table this evening and each had a different idea of how to proceed. Ultimately, we did decide that we would stick together and try to make a media event of whatever we do, which was the whole point in the first place. We will all wear We Will Not Be Silenced black T-shirts to court, for one thing, but how we plead is the dilemma. Here are the options that we discussed:

  1. Just plead guilty and take our lumps, whatever that may be. Some really objected, saying that of course, we are not-guilty of any real crime. The law is the crime: the police are guilty of thwarting our right to peaceably assemble, etc. and exercise our right to free speech, etc. Those few felt that they just couldn’t say “guilty.” We discussed the difference between morally and legally, etc. Those who favored “guilty” felt that we must turn the charge around, using that same word in referring to the Bush regime and its war crimes…like, we would each make the very same statement to that effect in court. We would probably be further charged, with contempt of court for giving the wrong answer? At least we might get the publicity that the issues deserve, plus, we 16 would go out with a bang, instead of a whimper. And, the other options discussed were:

  2. All plead not-guilty and be postponed, coming back again and again, etc. Probably eventually to be dismissed. If that isn’t a whimper, I don’t know what could be worse, and wasting a perfect opportunity to make a valid point. There was the suggestion that if you promise not to get into trouble for 6 months you can be released. Most rejected that, saying “no way, we plan to be visible and vocal! This is our patriotic duty!” We probably will get arrested again on the 5th, because we want to gather at the U.N. on 47th Street at Noon, after speeches for an hour or so, start up the march onto Second Avenue heading south. We want to turn onto 42nd Street and go to Broadway, then down Broadway to 14th Street where we will have a speakers platform, and ending maybe 4 PM or so. The police say we have to stay on Second Avenue all the way to 14th. This is absurd. We might as well stay in the pen at 47th Street for all the notice and participation we would get on quiet Second Avenue. I’m asking for your advice because I value your courage and your judgment. How do you think we can make the maximum impact in this situation? Will you please be our advisor?

Or maybe just suggest the best way for us to get the media attention about the Real crimes initiated by the Bush regime that are going on, like torture, and bombing civilian populations.

Hugs from Beth. I’m now officially part of the Grannie Peace Brigade, and “The U.N.-16, who will not be silenced,” as well as speaking in behalf of the Humanists, The World Can’t Wait!, Not In Our Name, and International Action Center…and other groups as well. We hear that many student groups are planning come out on the 5th. That’s one thing that this country needs lots of: informed young people who are activists! Hoping to hear from you.

Best wishes to you and family. May there be peace!