War on Trial in Binghamton

'That blood was already on the flag. We just made it visible.'

casey-sheehan-cross.jpg

Cross photo/I. Weiser
Faith and begorra: After a confab between two of the St. Patrick's Four and Cindy Sheehan at "Camp Casey," the most neighborly thing I could think of to do for George W. Bush is to place the mugs of the four upstate upstarts around a cross erected in Crawford by Sheehan's supporters.

Practically unnoticed by what my colleague Syd Schanberg calls the "media biggies," the trial and re-trial of the St. Patrick's Four in upstate New York have almost come and gone.

I've been as negligent as practically everyone else by not devoting space to this fascinating and dramatic prosecution of four anti-war protesters. (A tip of the fedora to colleague Jennifer Gonnerman for pointing me to it.) As to the protesters, they’re devout Catholics, but clearly not from the same pew as ardent Catholics like Nino Scalia, Tom Monaghan, and John Roberts. Many of those conservative Catholics aren’t averse to spilling others’ blood in Iraq. The Catholic protesters in Binghamton are willing to spill their own blood to try to stop the real bloodshed. They took containers of their own blood and doused a military recruiting office on March 17, 2003.

Though the judge presiding over the case in federal court in Binghamton won't allow the four to use international law as a defense, let alone put our disgraceful and unjustified invasion of Iraq on trial, that's what's happening. Defiantly, the four smart people are defending themselves and scoring points anyway:

    [Clare] Grady … spoke about why the four poured blood on the American flag in the recruiting office.

    "That blood was already on the flag," [she] said. "We just made it visible."

Clare Grady elaborated on that during an interview posted yesterday by the Voice. In that conversation, she told Joshua Hersh:

    "Blood cuts through the levels beyond intellect. It brings things down to gut level, which is very helpful as we consider where we're going in the conversation of the war, and the killing of innocents."

If a regime falls in Binghamton — or at least gets chopped down to size — will anybody hear it? Maybe not, because the dramatic trial is undercovered, even by — especially by — the nearby New York city media. But that's not deterring the crowd of protesters who have gathered.

As in the legend about their namesake, the St. Patrick's Four are on a snake hunt. So far, the Bush regime's reptiles have been agile, but protesters against the war, not only in Binghamton, are increasingly hostile and mobile. We'll see what happens this weekend at the big anti-war gathering in D.C., but for my money, occurrences like Binghamton and Camp Casey sometimes speak louder than huge gatherings.

Thanks to the blessed Web, protesters can visit many places at once. But not all the mobility is virtual. Just before the re-trial began, two of the St. Patrick's Four traveled to "Camp Casey" to help Cindy Sheehan knock on Bush's door.

Since they've been back in upstate New York, things have gone rapidly. Closing arguments were scheduled for today, after four raucous days in a courtroom packed with supporters of the St. Patrick's Four. Wayne Hansen of the Press & Sun-Bulletin reports this morning:

    On Thursday, Judge Thomas J. McAvoy stopped one of the four protesters from testifying Thursday, after citing him for contempt for refusing to say who had drawn the blood that was splashed or poured in a Lansing recruiting office. "I can't snitch," Daniel Burns told McAvoy.

    Burns, Peter DeMott, Clare Grady, and Teresa Grady are on trial in Binghamton's federal court on charges they conspired to impede a federal official and damaged or injured federal property. The four Ithaca residents could get up to six years in prison if they are convicted of conspiracy. DeMott was cited Wednesday for contempt after he refused to answer the same question.

The judge, in effect saying, "Don't shed on me," has banned the defendants from referring to international law. They're conducting their own defense. More from Hansen:

    They represented themselves last year in Tompkins County on state charges related to the protest at the recruiting center. That trial ended in a mistrial and their case was passed on to federal prosecutors.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Miroslav Lovric continued to bring up past arrests related to protests. Clare Grady told the jury she'd been sentenced to two years in federal prison after she and others trespassed in 1983 at an Air Force base in Rome, N.Y., and damaged a bomber with hammers. Earlier in the trial, DeMott, a Vietnam veteran, said he'd been arrested twice for damaging nuclear submarines at bases in Connecticut in the early 1980s. Lovric asked Clare Grady about the incident at the Air Force base. He inquired if she knew about the cost of the damage, her time served in federal prison and her association with groups that have damaged government property in the past.

Simultaneously with the trial, anti-war activists are using space in a nearby Methodist church to conduct a "Citizens Tribunal on Iraq," featuring not only soldiers who were there but even an Iraqi or two. I think there's already a verdict in that case.


Despite the paucity of coverage by the mainstream media, there are plenty of places to go to get more info on what's happening in Binghamton. Here are two basic ones:

Lucia Daley is doing a blow-by-blow of the actual trial on CounterPunch.

The St. Patrick's Four have their own website, which brims with background and updates.


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