On St.Patrick’s Day nearly two hundred people gathered at the gates of the Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines to protest the use of drones by our country. Seven crossed the line and were arrested. Each was charged with trespass, a simple misdemeanor. A trial has been scheduled for June 23 at the Polk County Courthouse. If convicted, they could be sentenced to thirty days in jail or be fined $100.
We have seen these trials before. They are expensive. Thousands of dollars will be spent. The trial could last as long as a week. Jury selection will be time consuming. Each defendant has the right to exercise “four strikes”. A large pool of jurors will be needed so six can be chosen to serve. There will be a judge, a prosecutor, a court reporter, a court attendant, and expert witnesses. And there could be as many as seven lawyers retained to protect the defendants’ rights
and advocate for their cause.
We ask, what is the point? These defendants – “The St. Pat’s 7” – did nothing more than exercise their consciences. No property was damaged and no one was injured. They acted peacefully and submitted themselves to the authorities.
It is a fact that these dissenters, and others like them, know they will be arrested. They stage their “actions” before reporters and cameras, hoping the brief news coverage will somehow influence public opinion. They believe that by telling their story to a jury their truth will be heard and others will take up the cause.
Perhaps this is the way it should be – that our criminal justice system with its police, prosecutors, judges and jurors should be used in the service of public discourse on issues important to all of us. But perhaps there is a better way.
What if a Peacemaking Circle were held? What if the seven defendants, and an equal number of National Guard personnel, sat in a Circle with a skilled neutral who would facilitate the conversation? What if a talking piece were used so each could speak without interruption? And what if, like a trial, the process were open to the public? Anyone
could attend, sit outside the Circle, and listen to everything said.
There would be truth telling – by the defendants and by the National Guard. There would be no attempt to reach consensus. It wouldn’t be possible. The protestors abhor the use of drones. The Guard personnel, while perhaps sympathetic to the protestors, have chosen to join the Guard and have a job to do. Each side has a truth.
While a jury trial would result in a determination of guilt or innocence, the Circle process would honor each person’s truth no matter the chasm between.
And wouldn’t a great service be rendered by the sharing of these truths in the presence of the community at large?
We support such an effort and call upon those in authority to give it deep consideration. The National Guard, the seven defendants, and the community deserve it.
- Rev. Alejandro Alfareo-Santia, Pastor, D.M. Trinity UMC
- Rev. Ryan Arnold, Sr. Pastor, First Christian Church
- Bob Brammer, Iowa Attorney General staff retired
- Rev. Brian Carter, UMC Iowa Legislature lobbyist
- Rev. Kathleen Clark, Retired UMC minister
- Rev. Denny Coon, Sr. Pastor, Walnut Hill United Methodist Church
- Patricia A. Coon
- Eloise M. Cranke, Methodist Federation for Social Action Iowa Coordinator
- Charles Day, Ph.D Therapist
- Fr. Tom DeCarlo, Des Moines Diocese
- Catherine Dietz-Kilen, Attorney
- Cathy Dodds
- Laura Douglas, Educator
- Dr. David Drake, Psychiatrist
- Kathleen Ferguson
- Rev. Eric Guy, Sr. Pastor, First United Methodist Church
- Dennis Groenenboom, Executive Director, Iowa Legal Aid
- Dave Hurd, Retired President of Principle Financial Group
- Trudy Hurd
- Carmen Lamp-Zeitler, CFUM Director
- Grace W. Liddon
- Diane Krell
- Dr. Keith Krell, Endodontics Specialist
- Mike W. McCarthy
- Matt McCoy, Iowa State Senator
- Rev. Brian K. Milford, United Methodist District Superintendent
- Kathleen McQuillen, Des Moines AFSC Coordinator
- Rev. Russell J. A. Melby, ELCA, Retired Director of Iowa Church World Service
- Rev. Steve Melby, Retired UMC minister
- Elsie P. Naylor, UCC
- Fr. David Polich, Des Moines Diocese
- Rev. Sarai Rice, Presbyterian minister
- The Right Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop Episcopal Diocese of Iowa
- Mark Smith, Retired Union Labor leader
- Rev. William Steward, Retired Sr. Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church
- Rev. Mark Stringer, Sr. Pastor, First Unitarian Church of Des Moines
- Susie Tierney, Des Moines Just Faith
- Julius C. Trimble, Bishop, Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church
- Virginia Varce, Lay church leader
- Jerry Wiener, Jewish Community
- And of course, META PEACE TEAM!