Common sense has prevailed, at least momentarily, in Madison, Wisconsin’s municipal court.
Trespassing charges were dropped today against three peace activists who had entered an Army recruiting station to discuss the Iraq war with recruiters.
The Army apparently decided to cut its public relations losses. When the officer who was to testify on the Army’s behalf failed to show up (was AWOL, in other words), the judge dismissed the charges against the trio.
They were arrested on March 19, the fifth anniversary of the war. Bonnie Block, David Nordstrom, and Joy First went in to talk to recruiters while other activists outside the recruiting station were reading names of the war dead. They were arrested and charged with trespassing, which carried a $424 fine.
They were to appear Monday before Judge Dan Koval in Madison Municipal Court on the charge, which carried a possible $424 fine.
The activists said they were ready to argue that a recruiting station is a government office and therefore public property paid for by taxpayers. As their press release put it:
The activists were engaging the recruiters in a dialogue that made the recruiters very uncomfortable, but the activists were not disruptive and they planned to argue that they had every right to be there.
Nordstrom noted, “In the 5 years of American occupation, about 1 million Iraqi men, women, and children have died. That’s a death rate of about 1 per 25 people. Much of the country’s infrastructure is destroyed. The occupation has spawned an armed resistance which has attracted foreign fighters from several countries.”
Block used the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to justify her actions, stating, “I am a dissenter and claim that right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 states: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression: this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ Even if that frontier is a military recruiter’s office.”
First said that they will return to the military recruiting station in the future, explaining, “As long as we have a war criminal in the White House, it is the responsibility of concerned citizens to speak out in resistance as our government breaks the law. We must continue to take action to try to do everything we can to stop the unbelievable carnage and suffering that is taking place in Iraq – that we feel deeply compelled to follow our conscience in this matter.”
The action was organized by Madison Pledge of Resistance, a member group of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance.