AIR NATIONAL GUARD DEMO UPDATES
Early in June, an Iowa county judge and prosecutor allowed four days of legal arguments in defense of civil resistance to end the U.S. bombing of Iraq. Defendant Mike Sprong was one of 22 people arrested last March while blocking the gate of the Iowa Air National Guard base at the Des Moines airport. Iowa Guard planes had previously flown bombing missions over Iraq that killed civilians, and were about to go again.
Most of the other defendants had earlier pleaded guilty or no contest, and been fined or sentenced to community service. Three co-defendants of Sprong had charges dropped just before the trial began, because the prosecutor considered organizer Sprong the most culpable.
Sprong's attorney was Drake University professor Sally Frank, who guided expert witness and Princeton University international law professor Richard Falk through over three hours of testimony. Prosecutor Fred Gay was prepared as well, cross-examining Falk on the legal basis for the continued bombing and offering his own expert witness, Drake Law professor Gregory Sisk, to warn of the dangers of individuals acting above the law.
After the lengthy and detailed case was laid out, however, Judge Matthew McEniry instructed the jury to consider only Iowa law, and not international law. The jury of six deliberated for two and a half hours before declaring Sprong guilty of trespass. After the trial concluded, two jurors made statements of support, having been convinced that the action was morally correct. Sprong was sentenced to 40 hours of community service and 30 days in jail, suspended, plus one year probation.
Less than three weeks later, Sprong joined Bonnie Urfer, initiating a job of nuclear disarmament in accord with international law, to "Silence Trident".
For more information about protesting the Iowa Air National Guard missions to Iraq, contact Fr. Frank Cordaro, (515)243-0765.
Related protests at an Air National Guard base in New York state were the subject of two recent trials in Dewitt town court. Jan Bazila, Bill Griffen and Dick Keough were convicted of trespass by a jury in less than ten minutes on Friday afternoon, May 26 (Memorial Day weekend). They will be sentenced August 16.
Frank Carver, Michael DeWaele, and Neil Golder were allowed to present a defense of necessity to the judge, but the jury was not permitted to see the video and slide show evidence. They, too, were convicted of trespass and will be sentenced September 12.
As part of the New York Air National Guard protests, Bill Griffen and Dick Keough also agreed to pay a $150 fine for pleading to a reduced charge in their case of pouring blood in a hallway at the Governor's office suite in Albany last March.
For more information, contact Dick Keough at (315)476-0048; email@example.com
Forty demonstrators rallied at the main entrance of Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, July 5, to protest the employment of the Massachusetts Air National Guard to Kuwait to patrol the "no-fly" zones and to bomb Iraq. Barnes Air National Guard base is home of the 104th Fighter Group with its squadrons of depleted uranium-laden A-10 anti-tank aircraft.
The main entrance to the base was closed when demonstrators arrived at 10 a.m. After a legal rally, eight people risked arrest by blocking the driveway and the entrance. Police did not move to arrest them, and after a half hour, demonstrators caucused and decided to occupy the driveway and gate throughout the day. National guard security officers and Westfield police officers turned away mail trucks, garbage trucks, delivery trucks, and private citizens during the day, redirecting them to an auxiliary entrance. Eventually, during conversations, the Westfield Police sergeant in charge told demonstrators he had decided not to arrest them "because you have a right to your opinion and the case would only be dismissed in court." Demonstrators left the driveway at 3 p.m.