Monday, December 13, 2010

Case Dismissed for Peace Activists Arrested at the Pentagon


Contacts – Joy First and Max Obuszewski

Case Dismissed for Peace Activists Arrested at the Pentagon

The case against Joy First, Monona, WI, and Max Obuszewski, Baltimore, MD, who were arrested and charged with failure to obey a lawful order at the Pentagon on August 9, 2010 has been dismissed.   The activists had been scheduled for trial in January in U.S., District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.

 The motion to dismiss was with prejudice, which indicates that the court has made adjudication on the merits of the case and a final disposition. However, in one place in the order, it states “without prejudice.”  The defendants brought this to the government’s attention, and it was agreed it was a typo.  The case has been adjudicated.

 First and Obuszewski are members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, and have participated in actions of nonviolent resistance to bring an end to the illegal and immoral wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They were arrested with Malachy Kilbride, Arlington, VA, and James Fanning from Vermont on Nagasaki Day, commemorating the 65th year since US atomic weapons destroyed the Japanese city and killed over 74,000 innocent people.  This was a meaningful day to attempt to deliver a letter to Secretary Robert Gates calling for an end to the wars and an end to the US military policies that are destroying our planet.  The activists had mailed the letter to Secretary Gates earlier in the summer, and when they did not get a response, they were compelled by their conscience to attempt to deliver the letter in person, seeking a meeting with Secretary Gates or a representative to discuss the matter. 

 As the citizen activists arrived at the Pentagon Reservation at the Metro entrance, they were stopped by several Pentagon police officers with large rifles.  A Pentagon police officer asked them what they were doing, and the activists explained they had sent a letter seeking a meeting.  They said they had grave concerns about what the Pentagon is doing as the biggest polluter/destroyer of Mother Earth on the planet and added their concern about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the innocent people who were suffering and dying as a result of these wars.  Since they did not receive a response to their letter, they came to the Pentagon because of the urgency of the matter.  An officer indicated a meeting would happen.

 Soon after, two special agents came to talk with the four citizen-activists.  However, it was soon apparent the topic of discussion was not a meeting with some Pentagon official.  The agents seemed to be investigating the temperament of the four.  Since the two criminal investigators from the Pentagon Police were not there to facilitate a meeting to discuss the Pentagon’s role in the destruction of the planet, there was no need to continue the discussion.  Soon thereafter, the activists were arrested and changed with failure to obey a lawful order.

 First, Kilbride and Obuszewski then appeared in federal court in Alexandria, VA on October 22.  The government dismissed the charges against Fanning and Kilbride because it was their first arrest at the Pentagon.  Obuszewski and First contended that they were falsely arrested.  They were standing peacefully in a public area.  They were not blocking anyone.  They made no attempt to move past a police line or to do anything illegal.  The government still intended to prosecute them.

Prior to the court appearance, the defendants filed a Motion to Compel Additional Discovery and asked the government to turn over all action plans, audiotapes, documents, emails, files, photographs, police reports, transcripts of electronic transmissions and videotapes.  This Motion sought a copy of the August 9, 2010 U.S. Intelligence Report for the Pentagon.  Also requested was all intelligence, including action plans, amassed on the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and the Jonah House and others involved in planning the August 9 visit to the Pentagon.   Finally, the defendants requested all communications between the Maryland State Police and the Pentagon Police relating to this visit.  

 In court, the government agreed to provide the activists with additional discovery. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan granted a continuance until January 2011.  However, the defendants did not receive any additional discovery.  And in early December, the government mailed out a Motion to Dismiss.  First and Obuszewski speculate that the reason for the dismissal may have been because the Pentagon Police did not want to provide them with the intelligence report or other material suggesting surveillance was taking place.  A similar case at the Pentagon in 2008 with First, Obuszewski and others arrested for violating a lawful order also resulted in dismissal.  At that time, as well, the defendants did file a Motion to Compel Additional Discovery.  Since 9/11, activists around the country engaged in nonviolent direct action have been placed in government databases.  It could be argued in this case that the police agencies have something to hide.

 Obuszewski, First, and Kilbride plan to continue following their obligations under Nuremberg and exercising their First Amendment rights as they speak out against the illegal and immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  According to First, “I believe it has become more important than ever that we continue to do this work of standing up to the empire and speaking truth to power.  I believe that it has become more important that more people are willing to risk arrest to uphold the law and preserve our constitution.”

 Obuszewski added, “It is a dire necessity to challenge the Pentagon’s role in the destruction of the planet.  We the people have a responsibility to preserve the Earth for those who will follow; otherwise future generations will try to survive on an uninhabitable planet.”

 The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance has put out a call to action and is working with other organizations to plan an action of nonviolent civil resistance at the Pentagon on April 8, 2011.  For more information or to get involved contact .


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