A peace movement victory in court

by John Dear SJ on Sep. 21, 2010 

We saw that future as we walked onto Creech Air Force Base on April 9, 2009. We wanted to rescue the children and civilians who are being killing by our “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” as they’re called.

_____________________________________________

“Fourteen anti-war activists may have made history today in a Las Vegas courtroom when they turned a misdemeanor trespassing trial into a possible referendum on America’s newfound taste for remote-controlled warfare.” That’s how one Las Vegas newspaper summed up our stunning day in court last Tuesday, Sept. 14, when fourteen of us stood trial for walking on to Creech Air Force Base last year on April 9, 2009 to protest the U.S. drones.

We went in hoping for the best and prepared for the worst. As soon as we started, the judge announced that he would not allow any testimony on international law, the necessity defense or the drones, only what pertained to the charge of “criminal trespassing.”

With that, the prosecutors called forth a base commander and a local police chief to testify that we had entered the base, that they had given us warnings to leave, and that they arrested us. They testified that they remembered each one of us. Then they rested their case.

We called three expert witnesses, what the newspaper called “some of the biggest names in the modern anti-war movement.” These were: Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson; Ann Wright, a retired U.S. Army colonel and one of three former U.S. State Department officials who resigned on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq; and Bill Quigley, legal director for the New York City-based Center for Constitutional Rights. We presumed they would not be allowed to speak.

All fourteen of us acted as our own lawyers, and were not allowed any legal assistance, so members of our group took turns questioning our witnesses, and trying not to draw the judge’s wrath. Lo and behold, the judge let them speak, and they spoke for hours. More