"Have you heard about the St. Patrick's Four? Of
course not. They aren't going to tell you about the
St. Patrick's Four. The St. Patrick's Four were four
people from the Catholic peace movement who, on St.
Patrick's Day last year, poured their blood around at
a military recruiting station in Ithaca, New York, and
they were put on trial. And the jury refused to
convict. It was a hung jury. So I'm hopeful about
the future of this country based on the idea that
people have a certain common decency and that when
they learn the truth, the truth has a power that can
overcome even the most sophisticated of propaganda
machines that they government has and the media
Howard Zinn, May 8, 2004, "The Power of the
People," The Progressive, May 8, 2004. This was
Zinn's speech to The Progressive's 95th Anniversary
Two years ago today, March 17, 2003, four peace
activists in Ithaca, New York, poured their own blood
on the walls, posters, windows, and a US flag at a
military recruiting center in order to try to stop the
imminent invasion of Iraq. They took action based on
international law. Then knelt in prayer and waited to
be arrested. Though one state court jury refused to
convict them, today they face serious federal charges.
Last year the peace activists convinced nine members
of a state court jury that their actions were
consistent with international law. Daniel Burns, 43,
Clare Grady, 45, Teresa Grady 38, and Peter DeMott,
57, all members of the Magnificat Catholic Worker
community in Ithaca, admitted to the jury from the
very beginning that they poured blood in the
recruiting center in order to try to stop the war in
Iraq. They testified they risked arrest in order to
protect our sons and daughters in the military and to
protect our sisters and brothers in Iraq.
The four argued that their actions were legal because
the invasion of Iraq was illegal under international
law. Because the United Nations had not approved the
invasion of Iraq, the invasion was a series of serious
illegal acts that constitute war crimes. And, under
the Nuremberg Principles of international law,
individuals have international rights and duties to
prevent crimes against humanity which transcend the
national obligations of obedience imposed by the
They further argued that if their actions were indeed
illegal, they were authorized under the defense of
necessity because the harm they caused was far smaller
than the harm they were trying to prevent.
They talked with the jury about Susan B. Anthony,
Rosa Parks, and the Boston Tea Party. They reminded
us, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, that everything
done by supporters of Hitler in Germany was illegal,
it was only those who tried to stop him who were
violating the law.
After twenty hours of deliberation, the jury locked
up 9-3 to acquit them. As the jury was released, the
crowded courtroom gave them a thunderous standing
ovation. The power of the people to present their
views about justice had prevailed over narrow law.
Later, the District Attorney announced he would not re-prosecute them, stating that he thought another jury trial would yield the same outcome.
Recently, however, the federal government jumped into
Last week the St. Patrick's Four appeared in federal
court in Binghamton, New York to be charged on four
federal charges arising from the exact same action.
They are now charged with federal conspiracy "by
force, intimidation, and threat" to impede an officer
of the United States - a felony charge that carries
punishment of up to six years in prison and a $250,000
fine. They are also charged with criminal damage to
property and two counts of trespass, charges
punishable by up to an additional 2 years in prison.
In his closing argument to the first jury, Daniel
Burns asked the jurors to look at the defendants'
actions in context:
"The immediate context for the justice of our
action is the Pre-emptive Invasion of the War of Iraq.
An invasion opposed by the United Nations, opposed by
most nations in this world, and founded on lies about
weapons of mass destruction, and an invasion that has
cost a billion dollars a day, hundreds of American
sons and daughters, and thousands of our Iraqi sisters
"Also we ask you to look at the justice of our
action in light of the context of international law.
Why was the invasion opposed by the UN and many of our
allies? Because International law only allows an
attack on another country in self defense or with
approval of the UN security council - and we had
neither. And The Nuremberg principles provide a legal
defense for people seeking to prevent war crimes.
"No jury would convict 4 people of breaking and
entering if they broke into a burning house to try to
save a child. Here, the building was on fire - as
Iraq is now, and we broke in to try to save our troops
and the innocent Iraqis. We did not save them, but
justice says we should not be punished for trying.
"So, we end where we started. We ask for
justice. We ask for justice for the people of Iraq and
our troops, We ask for justice for world peace. We
ask for justice to say no to pre-emptive illegal war."
On this St. Patrick's day, as the war in Iraq
continues, we can only hope that international law,
and the law of justice, will have a chance to prevail
in Iraq and in the US. We can also be thankful to the
many people, like the St. Patrick's Four, who are
resisting the war in Iraq.
Bill Quigley is a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans School of Law. Bill is an advisor to the St. Patrick's Four. He can be contacted at email@example.com.