FIVE DAYS IN JAIL FOR WISCONSIN GRANDMOTHER TRYING TO STOP KILLER DRONES
CONTACT: Joy First 608 239-4327
MAUSTON, WI – Bonnie Block, a Madison, WI grandmother and long-time peace activist, was found guilty of trespassing in a jury trial in the Juneau County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 1, 2015.
The penalty for the charge was a $232 fine or 5 days in the Juneau County Jail. In a moving sentencing statement, Block stated, “I can’t in good conscience pay the fine. It would be giving consent to the outcome of a legal process I believe was unfair and which sets dangerous precedents for those of us engaged in nonviolent civil resistance and seeking justice for victims of US drone warfare.” (See below for complete statement.)
After sentencing Block to 5 days in jail, Judge Paul Curran told Block that he would allow her to have lunch with her husband and son before reporting to the Juneau County “Justice” Center to begin her sentence.
The trespassing charge was the result of a May 17, 2014 action in which Block and Fr. Jim Murphy took a bus tour of Volk Field which was part of the Base’s Open House to which the public was invited. As they left the bus at the National Guard Museum, they handed out a leaflet with four questions about drones to the other passengers on the bus. As a result they were arrested and ultimately charged with trespass. Block opted for a Jury trial because she believed her constitutional right of free speech was violated as was her conscientious objection to drone warfare.
Block, who represented herself in front of the 6-person jury, was prevented from mounting a vigorous defense as a result of Judge Curran’s pretrial ruling in favor of a motion which prevented Block from talking about international law, the US Constitution, morals and ethics, and other topics important to the case.
In her closing statement Block explained that she is committed to nonviolence. As a grandmother, she is concerned about her children and grandchildren. She is also very concerned about the children around the world who are being killed by drones.
The jury deliberated for thirty minutes before returning with the guilty verdict.
Block is part of the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars which holds monthly vigils outside the gates of this WI Air National Guard Base. Since 2009, Volk Field has been training operators of RQ-7 Shadow drones that are part of the US Program of drone warfare which Human Rights Organizations and the UN say are a violation of international law.
Bonnie Block’s Sentencing Statement
Your Honor, I asked for a jury trial in this matter so I could explain to the citizens of Juneau County my moral, constitutional, and legal reasons for opposing the drone training via handing out a leaflet at the Volk Field Open House. I also wanted to point out the absurdity of being arrested for trespassing at an event to which the public had been invited.
However, the Court’s pretrial orders based on the District Attorney’s 25 point Motion in Limine precluded me from explaining this to the jury because the pre-trial orders prohibited any mention to the Jury of the very issues that I believe constitute a defense for my nonviolent action.
These prohibitions also made it impossible for me to testify on my own behalf because I couldn’t honor the oath “to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” And to top it off, there was the unilateral refusal of Volk Field Commander Romauld to honor my third party subpoena to testify so he could explain the military rules and rationale that he considers the justification for my arrest. It puts the military brass above the law and I object.
For these reasons, I can’t in good conscience pay the fine. It would be giving consent to the outcome of a legal process I believe was unfair and which sets dangerous precedents for those of us engaged in nonviolent civil resistance and seeking justice for victims of US drone warfare. So I’ll “do the time instead of paying the fine.”
Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs