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Consider the St. Patricks Four

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.

9 comments to Consider the St. Patricks Four

  • Was it an appropriate form of protest for the St. Patrick’s Four to pour their blood at the recruiting center?

    I think the answer is clearly no. Given the risk of blood-borne disease, spilling blood around somebody else’s workplace does not qualify as peaceful protest.

  • renee

    wow. i want to know who these people think they are, that they can just walk in and throw thier blood everywhere. that is just disgusting. and how would that stop the war in iraq? they didn’t think that a bunch of hippies that just throw thier blood all over a recruiting station will stop a war…

  • glenn

    This is such an innocuous protest; it is not as if blood was thrown at people. Instead, a potent point about the very sacrament that over 50% of US citizens apparently believe in was alluded to, about the spilling of the blood of innocents. Perhaps that is why the US authorities are so offended. They clearly hate the truth and thrive on lies. But does that mean that the rest of the nation has to lower itself to a similary abysmal standard?

    This protest should not even be indictable, it should be an issue of free speech, but then it appears that most people in the USA have apparently forgetten what freedom of speech was. Pity. Short memory there chaps.

    I take my hat off to those who protest against this illegal war that was started on false pretences for completely unrelated reasons to those claimed when going to war.
    Thank God for people of conscience. Put them in charge of the country, not the complete wally’s who are now burning EU aid to the victims of Katrina.

    I really think that the entire USA has gone stark raving bonkers. Funny thing is, so does most of the rest of the world.

  • Annette

    I think the human blood was a little much, but I am in support of the fours reason for protest. However I did like the point that was raised “blood was spilled in protest of spilling blood”. Also, has anyone read the article written directly by the four? My English Professor asked us to do a rhetorical analysis of the piece. Unfortunately, I have strayed away from the questions assigned and have let myself fall into the politics of the matter.

  • Way to go Catholics! Jesus was a protester and a peace advocate…these actions by the StP4 are just like His. And He got into trouble, too. Their getting into this much trouble is a real sacrifice and I respect it. Real courage!

  • wtf

    In my opinion, they are crazy and it’s too bad that they didn’t bleed to death…
    I was calmly browsing information about this and I noticed that most of the information that was coming up was very liberal and very pro-4. This was the only site in probably 50 that has even remotely opposing remarks. Of course, it seems like the weakest and most irrational of people are the loudest.

    These four people walked in and poured out their blood. I don’t care why. Maybe I should go into their houses and take a shit on their floors to protest what they’ve done. It’s frustrating to see how blinded people are by there zealously that they do such stupid things or, for the more spineless zealots, support people that do stupid things. Honestly, it’s people like these four that destroy the credibility of everyone that may agree with their cause. This, consequently, pushes undecided people to the opposite side of the fence because they figure if they’re dumb enough to do this then none of their ideas are probably very valid and/or they don’t want to be grouped together with these people.
    Oh, and last but not least, Jenny, I think you might want to shoot yourself.

  • Ferrah

    You know, wtf, you seem to exhibit the very extremism you complain about – with your comments wishing that they had bled to death and telling Jenny she might want to shoot herself.

    I might listen to you, wtf, if it weren’t for that.

  • wtf

    Ferrah, I understand where your coming from. I used to think that everyone had a point to make and that everyone tried to understand each other. As much as I wish it to be true–it’s not. Most people are stupid. Stupid people do stupid things (like throwing blood around, etc). Now, I realize that people like Jenny, the “StP4″, and anyone else on the terrorism scale would really be doing the world a favor if they all jumped off a cliff in the name of [place cause here].

    I really hope that these people are actually stupid, because if they’re not, then they’re crazy and we’re in more trouble than I thought.

  • veteran

    I am shocked and saddened that these people have actually been given jail time for having the courage to stand up and protest for thier beliefs. I serve my country and am willing to give my life in order to protect rights such as these! These people chose a non-violent protest and were just exercising thier 1st Ammendment rights! What a sad state our Nation has fallen to when such things are considered criminal!

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