February 25, 2009

Vietnam Vet and Iraq War Protester Dies at Age 62

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On Feb. 19, Peter J. DeMott, a local peace activist, died from injuries he sustained after falling from a tree. DeMott, served in both the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Army and spent much of his life protesting war, most recently the Iraq War. He was 62.
DeMott was born in Washington D.C. in 1947, but, according to his autobiography, grew up in Minnesota and Nebraska. After serving in the Vietnam War, DeMott developed strong anti-war views.
In a personal biography, DeMott wrote, “My experience in the military convinced me of the futility of war and of the sad misallocation of resources which war-making requires … My faith in God prompts me to work for a world which unifies us all by ties of love and solidarity and mutual cooperation.”
DeMott was involved in several acts of protest during his life, including one incident in 1980 in which DeMott drove a van into a Trident submarine at General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Conn.
As a member of the Ithaca Catholic Worker community, DeMott spent much of his time working for peace and justice as well as trying to uncover the sources of poverty and homelessness. After traveling to Iraq in 2003 with a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation, DeMott devoted his time to speaking out against the U.S. sanctions placed on Iraq.
DeMott was widely recognized after he and three other war protesters poured their blood on an American flag and around the entrance of the Army Marine Recruiting Center in nearby Lansing, N.Y. During their trials in Binghamton, the four protesters were often referred to as the St. Patrick’s Four, since their act of non-violent civil disobedience took place on St. Patrick’s Day, just before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
All of the protesters, including DeMott, were eventually found guilty of misdemeanor charges for trespassing and vandalism, with each carrying a sentence of up to six months.
“The real crime, as we’ve always stated, is that our government conspired against the American people and led us into an illegal and immoral war,” DeMott said during his trial. “The task is now upon us all to better understand the criminality of our government’s aggression and, as citizens, to act accordingly to demand that our government adheres to international law.”
During his sentencing in Binghamton, DeMott held a moment of silence for the victims of the Iraq War, both American and Iraqi. DeMott was sentenced to four months in federal prison.
DeMott is survived by his wife, Ellen Grady, and four daughters.