Wednesday, May 18, 2011
TUCSON: Honoring Martin Luther King: arrested protesting US depleted uranium and drones
By Jack Cohen-Joppa
TUCSON -- Jean Boucher, Dennis DuVall, and John Heid were convicted May 17 of trespassing onto Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.
Following Tucson's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march on January 17, the men honored Dr. King's legacy by bringing his message of justice and peace and method of nonviolent action to nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, twenty years after the United States began its war against Iraq.
They walked into the base with letters for base personnel opposing depleted uranium munitions and armed drones. Military police near the gatehouse refused to accept their letters and documents, or to summon commanders to discuss the allegations of war crimes brought by the men.
The three were arrested by Tucson police when they refused to leave, then taken to jail and released a few hours later.
They represented themselves before city court judge Eugene Hays. City Prosecutor Mr. Ruiz led two Air Force and one Tucson police witness through predictable testimony to establish the state's case. Dennis DuVall's cross-examination of the ranking Air Force witness revealed that the sergeant had refused to accept the written messages from the men because he did not feel safe handling the envelope.
"I didn't know their intention," he said, after testifying to a long and cordial conversation and recalling "they didn't like drones much."
(Words can be dangerous, I thought. Envelopes, more so!)
Judge Hays listened attentively as each man testified in his own defense, allowing much latitude as they spoke to their frame of mind and intention.
Jean Boucher, who left an engineering career a decade ago to work with migrants and refugees in Mexico and El Paso, came to Tucson fifteen months ago as a volunteer with No More Deaths. He'd never before lived in a city where warplanes fly low and loud over the city center, day in and day out, and where a major missile and bomb factory is the largest private employer. It set him to thinking, and then President Obama, speaking in Tucson after the mass shooting of January 8, prodded him to act. The President had said, "[w]e should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."
"I do not believe that constant war lives up to the expectations of our nation's children," Jean told the court.
Dennis DuVall submitted into evidence his letter that was refused on January 17. Addressed to the commander of an Air National Guard unit at the base that pilots armed Predator drones in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it called upon him to cease that targeted killing. Dennis described the effect of these attacks on the innocent on the ground, mostly women and children, and expressed his concern as a veteran for the blowback of revenge and retaliation sure to be visited on American soldiers as a result of these deadly bolts from the blue. I glanced down the row to the three Air Force witnesses, attentive in dress uniforms, their crisp postures notably marked by deep furrows across each of their brows.
John Heid's testimony deepened these creases. His calm, clear words drew moral depth from his Quaker faith and experience in Iraq on a humanitarian mission. His message for the commander of the base, which played a central pilot and crew training role in the use of depleted uranium munitions in Iraq, was that he help comply with the recent United Nations mandate to reveal the sites where the U.S. has fired depleted uranium shells, so the Iraqis can begin to clean it up.
Judge Hays found the men guilty as charged, and after some discussion sentenced each to time served, plus one year of unsupervised probation during which they may not return to the base, and $200 in jail costs or 20 hours of community service for any recognized nonprofit, including anti-war work. A request by the prosecutor that they stay at least 1,000 feet from the base was rejected by the judge.
--report by Jack Cohen-Joppa
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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008: www.earthcycles.net/
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