By Coleen Rowley
Eight peace and anti-torture activists were convicted of trespass at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. At the time of their arrest, they were carrying messages, including a letter to President Bush, placards describing the victims of the indiscriminate killing and copies of international and constitutional law documents concerning the illegality of the Iraq War as well as the illegality of torture.
The St. Paul city assistant prosecutor argued however, that the case involved nothing but the power of the police to control crowds and the judge accepted the notion that the issue of trespass was more important than the issues of international and constitutional law. (In other words, the type of narrow legal reasoning prevailed that could be used to convict Rosa Parks of sitting in the wrong seat on the bus without letting her argue the illegality of the wrongful, illegal racial discrimination that restricted the seating.)
As a result of not being able to talk about their “claim of right” negating any criminal intent to commit the crime of trespass onto the property fenced off for purposes of the RNC, the eight were convicted. They included a retired surgeon, a physics professor, an Air Force veteran, a nun, a social worker, human rights workers, and educators. The good news was that Conscience almost got its day in court! Those who go along and follow unethical, unlawful orders will someday find they are the ones with the guilty consciences.