Just two days before Bush officially began his unprovoked invasion of Iraq, four Catholic anti-war protesters entered an Army and Marine recruiting center, and poured their own blood around the entrance to the center. Before doing so, they read a statement that included the following justification of their action:
“As our nation prepares to escalate the war on the people of Iraq by sending hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers to invade, we pour our blood on the walls of this military recruiting center. We mark this recruiting office with our own blood to remind ourselves and others of the cost in human life of our government’s war making. Killing is wrong. Preparations for killing are wrong. The work done by the Pentagon with the connivance of this military recruiting station ends with the shedding of blood, and God tells us to turn away from it. Blood is the symbol of life. All life is holy.”
This was an act packed with a lot of ideas, some of which seem to twist and turn around each other in unpredictable ways. Blood was spilled in protest of spilling blood. A secular government agency was protested in the name of God, with elements of religious ritual, in response to policies that were also instituted in the name of God.
The four protesters, who call themselves the St. Patrick’s Four, were put on trial for their action, charged with criminal mischief. The case was heard by a jury in a courthouse of the Supreme Court of New York State in Ithaca, but the jury could not come to a unanimous decision on the protesters’ guilt, and so the case was dismissed.
This year, the four protesters were indicted on new charges that they conspired to interfere with and do injury to agents of the federal government. Their trial begins in ten days, September 19, in federal court in the much more conservative city of Binghampton, New York.
The Ithaca Catholic Worker is taking financial donations in the name of helping the four protesters, and supporters have created a web site dedicated to advocating for the acquital of the protesters.
There are a number of ethical questions related to this case that merit discussion:
1. Were the St. Patrick’s Four justified in their protest?
2. Was it an appropriate form of protest for the St. Patrick’s Four to pour their blood at the recruiting center?
3. Was it ethical for the St. Patrick’s Four to request the federal government to comply with their religious beliefs about war?
4. Is it appropriate for the federal government to bring charges against the St. Patrick’s Four after a state supreme court failed to find them guilty?
5. Should the St. Patrick’s Four seek acquital, or should they accept the punishment delivered to them as a consequence of their civil disobedience?
6. Why do so many protesters insist on identifying themselves by a combination of the number of their group, and the place or time of their arrest – as in the Boston Eight, the North Little Rock Six, or the East St. Regis Twenty-Two?
We are in the process of arranging an interview with the St. Patrick’s Four sometime next week, and will be providing coverage of the trial as it progresses. So, if you’ve got suggestions for questions that we should ask, leave them here in the comments section and we’ll give them consideration.