A year ago, four peace demonstrators who have since been dubbed the St. Patrick Four, poured their blood onto an army recruiting station in Lansing. On March 11, the four were indicted in federal court.
According to an Associated Press article, the four anti-war protesters will go on trial in federal court in early May. These latest legal proceedings are a result of a Tompkins County court’s jury being unable to reach a unanimous verdict last April.
Tompkins County District Attorney George Dentes ’76 decided to dismiss all state charges that were pending against the four demonstrators and instead turn the case over to federal prosecutors.
“We thought it was pretty straightforward,” said Dentes, concerning the case. What the four did, he added, was “simply illegal.”
Dentes said that the official charge was of felony criminal mischief. He said the protesters were acting illegally in intentionally damaging property without reasonable ground to do so. On this basis alone, he said, the protesters should have been prosecuted.
“They went into the case believing they had a divine human right to express their beliefs,” Dentes said.
He added that although there is nothing wrong with protesting, there are illegal and legal ways to do so.
Dentes drew parallels to this case with the 1960s era protesters.
“The difference between the Martin Luther King Jr. protesters and these protesters is that in the 60s era people protested and got arrested. They knew they were going to get arrested and they simply plead guilty,” Dentes said.
Dentes said that he finds it noteworthy that the protesters believe they should be acquitted “based on the political ideology behind their protest.”
“I don’t care if it is a conservative cause or a liberal cause, if it’s against the law there are going to be consequences,” Dentes said.
Dentes added that one of the main reasons he thought the jury came to a deadlock was because of the evidence that the Tompkins County judge permitted as admissible. Dentes noted that the defendants representing themselves cited “many far flung international treaties” as justification for their protests. He added that these are not “permissible legal theories.”
Claire Grady, 46, one of the four demonstrators, viewed her case differently.
“I would not characterize the event as a protest. Pouring blood is something that we did sacramentally. The four of us are Catholic, and we would never take somebody else’s life to do this,” she said.
She added that the four people in the group took four ounces of their own blood to hold the event.
“There is an absolute need to talk about blood and blood shed, there will be no justice if this fact is overlooked,” Grady said, explaining why they decided to use the blood. She mentioned that they picked the recruiting station as a place to “witness and seek to uphold life and not take it” because she couldn’t stand the fact of “sending innocent young people to do dirty work.”
“Dentes is painting a picture that doesn’t serve the truth,” Grady said.
She noted that the “far flung” treaties Dentes mentioned were laws that the United States introduced. Grady stated that under these laws, which were signed by the United States, it is a crime to “wage preemptive war.” She also said that it is a crime “to torture innocent civilians, and also to take a sovereign nation’s economy and divide it up like a pie.”
In regards to her last trial, Grady also said that the jury had been swaying towards acquittal.
“The jury voted nine to three to acquit, and the three that didn’t want us to be acquitted simply wanted us to be punished for our actions. They did not deliberate with their peers after a certain point,” she said.
Grady will be on trial along with the other members of the St. Patrick Four for their actions again later this year. Grady wanted to point out that “this is not some partisan politics.”
“Jesus calls us … to endure suffering and not to inflict it. We will stand on side of the victim,” she said.
She also said that she invited George Dentes to a Pacemnenterris (Peace on Earth) workshop in order to learn about the inhumanities of the war. She said that “it’s not me against you [in regards to Dentes], but instead let’s learn this together.”
Archived article by Stephanie Wickham
Sun Staff Writer