D.C. Superior Court Rules Sidewalks Trump Free Speech Rights

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Elliott Adams (518-441-2697)
Ann Wilcox (202-441-3265)
 

D.C. Superior Court Rules Sidewalks Trump Free Speech Rights

WASHINGTON - The D.C. Superior Court ruled last Friday that possible pedestrian inconvenience was more important than the US Constitution or stopping wars.

Arrested during a White House demonstration on March 19, 18 defendants, including 8 members of Veterans For Peace, were found guilty by Judge Canan, Friday, of “failure to obey” and “blocking/incommoding” and fined $150.

The defendants argued for their 1st Amendment right to petition their government for redress of grievances.

They called on the US Government to obey the domestic and international law and to stop its crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The government argued that protecting Constitutional rights and ending war crimes were less important than assuring that a potential pedestrian would not be delayed by a few seconds passing in front of the White House.

During the 4 day trial Richard Duffee, who worked under Benjamin Ferencz (the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor), submitted a motion for international law experts to be allowed in the court. The US Constitution makes the Geneva conventions and other elements of international law the supreme law of the land and enforceable in every court. But the Judge denied the motion. Duffee later said, “For the last thirty years, the United States has been reneging on the basic commitment it made after WWII to develop international legal institutions, because we want to be the judge in our own case.”

The defendants maintained a focus on the US Constitution, that international law is enforceable in every court and on the cost of war. The court heard personal stories from several vets. Chuck Heyn, a Vietnam veteran, said “When I left Vietnam I pledged to the guys I served with who did not come back that I would speak out against my country when ever my country decided to commit our troops to war based on lies”

It was a pro se defense (the defendants acted as their own lawyers) ably assisted by attorney-advisors Ann Wilcox, Deborah Anderson and Mark Goldstone.

Judge Russell F. Canan, Jr., Associate Judge of the DC Superior Court found the defendants guilty on all charges, fining them $50 plus $100 court fees. Defendant Bev Rice chose to go to jail rather than pay a fine for an unjust law. The case will be appealed.

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Veterans For Peace is a national organization founded in 1985. It is structured around a national office in Saint Louis, MO and comprised of members across the country organized in chapters or as at-large members. The organization includes men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations including from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary.

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