Iowa War Protestors Vow More Action
Iowa War Protestors Vow More Action
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Facing trial for a sit-in at the Cedar Rapids office of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, 11 peace activists vowed at a press conference on Tuesday to step up their efforts to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq."I was against this war six months before it started ... Iraq was not a threat to us, not a threat at all," UI student-protester David Goodner said. "You hear all of this pride and patriotism and hoo-hah after 9/11, and then you realize it's all a ruse."
The protesters include a former Catholic priest, two UI students who served in Iraq, Goodner, five additional UI students, a UI employee, and an Iowa City resident. They were arrested Feb. 26 following a planned event at the Republican senator's Federal Building office in Cedar Rapids; the group pledged not to leave until Grassley, who in days prior had voted to cut off Senate debate on a potential troop pullout, communicated with them by phone.
Grassley, who was traveling most of that day, never called. The activists, charged with simple-misdemeanor criminal trespass, will be tried simultaneously today starting at 9 a.m. in the Linn County Courthouse. The defendants will enter joint not-guilty pleas.
Their attorney, Iowa City-based lawyer Mary Wolfe, said in an interview Tuesday that her clients' case rests on the fact that the Iowa trespassing law they are charged with violating can be defended affirmatively, meaning the protesters can admit to trespass and still be acquitted if they can prove the act was justified. They face an uphill battle, though.
"They were part of the broader occupation project and felt they needed to get our representatives to listen to them in hopes that they decide the war is wrong," Wolfe said. "Our hope is the judge will feel they were justified in doing what they had to do."
Contacted Tuesday afternoon, Grassley spokeswoman Beth Pellett Levine did not provide a statement regarding the trial.
Tuesday's press conference, held at the PEACE center in Old Brick, was headlined by Kathy Kelly, the co-creator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. A two-time Noble Peace Prize nominee, Kelly was fined $200,000 in U.S. trade-sanction penalties for aiding Iraqis during the Gulf War. She said she hasn't paid a dime.
And neither, likely, will Goodner nor fellow protester and UI student Andrew Alemao, should they be convicted of criminal trespass. Both said they probably could not, with a clear conscious, submit to a fine or community service "when I didn't do anything wrong," as Goodner put it.
"And it's inexcusable that Grassley voted for not discussing the war," Alemao said. "If he's going to kill free speech in the Senate, we're going to let him know how we feel."
"We were justified in trying to make him responsive to the antiwar movement," said Ryan Merz, one of the UI students arrested. "He's been unresponsive for the last four years."
One of the protesters, former Catholic priest Frank Cordaro, is no stranger to nonviolent resistance. He has been arrested numerous times for protesting at military bases in Nebraska and elsewhere, resulting in several federal-prison sentences.
Also arrested Feb. 16 was UI graduate student and playwright Joshua Casteel, a former Army interrogator whose recently debuted play Returns details the horrors of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Opposing Grassley's Iraq Policies The 11 protesters who will stand trial: - Andrew Alemao, UI student - Joshua Casteel, UI graduate student; *Returns* author; member, Iraq Veterans Against the War - Frank Cordaro, Des Moines Catholic Worker, former priest - Megan Felt, UI student - Timothy Gauger, UI employee - David Goodner, UI student - John Paul Hornbeck, UI graduate student; member, Iraq Veterans Against the War - Ryan Merz, UI student - Conor Murphy, UI student - Rosemary Persaud, Iowa City resident - Justin Riley, UI student