February 3, 2017
Guilty was the verdict returned from the jury that only “deliberated,” for perhaps 15 minutes. Obviously, returning a verdict after only 15 minutes can only mean there was no deliberation. In a most unusual trial where ten of the defendants chose to represent themselves, Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings allowed each of the defendants to tell their stories and motivation for sitting down in the middle of Washington St. in Bath, Maine and blocking traffic as a peaceful act of civil disobedience during the christening of the first Zumwalt, stealth destroyer.
Each of the defendants told of a lifetime of protests against war, militarism and U.S. foreign policy. To allow testimony in a “narrative” form, as opposed to being questioned by a defense attorney, made this trial unusual and exceptional. I sat in the courtroom for the entire two and a half days and was spellbound by each of the narratives that focused on endless wars, a bloated and ever increasing military budget, climate change, the devastating effects of Navy sonar on marine animals, and their own personal reasons about why they chose to exercise their First Amendment Rights.
The trial hinged on whether or not their brief, 15 minute exercise of civil disobedience was “unreasonable.” The jury obviously felt it was, and to swiftly arrive at a conviction without discussing the compelling evidence presented by the defendants, was an indication that these twelve jurors did not hear or care about the reasons and motivations of the defendants. It was an indication to me that this is the case with half of the people in this country who are either oblivious to the anger, hatred and divisions that have torn this country apart, or they have not felt the effects yet in their personal lives. Each of the defendants believed that they were performing a community service by alerting the public about the devastating effects that wars, militarism, the war economy, and violence are having on all of our communities here in Maine and across the country.
How can it not be obvious when 54% of our tax dollars goes to the military? When America’s #1 export is war? When one adds funding for NASA, the CIA, NSA and countless “intelligence” agencies, that percentage of our tax dollars spent on wars and militarism rises to more that 60%, resulting in the neglect of our schools, our crumbling infrastructure, healthcare, and the social safety net.
Our collective failure to see that our Democracy and civil liberties have been eroded and reduced to nothing over the past fifty or more years has led to this moment today when we are ruled by powerful financial and corporate interests that have overtaken our government, a government that is spying on all of us, and using force to repress the legitimate redress of grievances to the government. Laws are being enacted this very day to make protests a felony. Unconstitutional laws such as the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act call for the arrest and confinement of government dissidents without charge and representation for an indefinite length of time. Protests are now being defined as acts of terrorism. It is clear to many of us that America is now a fascist regime and that we are living in a minimum security prison.
There is only one way to take our country back and to reclaim our Democracy and that is to engage in massive, on-going acts of peaceful, civil disobedience on a scale never before seen in this country. These protests are happening all over the world and they are not necessarily aimed at most of the governments of the world, but against the forces of oppression that have the human experiment on the brink of extinction.
Unfortunately, those dark forces are driving us off a cliff and towards extinction and we are running out of time to save ourselves and our world.