The Nashua NH Telegraph

Peace Activists Pick Jail in Protest

Tuesday, January 27, 1998

Telegraph Staff

Ten at weapons protest outside Sanders plant are convicted of trespassing, chose jail over $100 fine.

NASHUA - Smiling, clapping and singing a hymn, 10 peace activists headed off Monday to serve three to five days in jail for trespassing charges stemming from a protest outside a Sanders plant last month. The activists and a dozen or so supporters rallied outside Nashua District Court for an hour before their trial, holding signs with slogans and Biblical verses.

Two woman banged tambourines and sang a vowel-heavy, atonal chant that they said meant "All life is sacred."

Twelve activists were arrested and charged with trespassing while praying outside Sanders' Canal Street plant on Dec. 10, following a rally at the Civil War monument on Library Hill. About 75 people gathered for the protest. Two activists also poured ashes on the Lockheed Martin sign outside the plant.

Organizers said they targeted Sanders because its parent company, Lockheed Martin, is one of the nation's leading arms makers, and Sanders itself makes military electronic surveillance devices. Weapons sold to other nations, such as Lockheed's F-16 fighter planes, sometimes may be used to slaughter civilians and squash political protest, the activists claim.

Besides the obvious harm weapons can do, the activists argue military spending and production use up financial and intellectual resources that could be put to other purposes. They urged Sanders to move the company into new lines of work, such as alternative energy technologies.

"We are spending millions to support the weapons industry while children in this country go hungry. I think that's unconscionable," said Audrey Stewart of Maine, one of the 12 activist-defendants.

"We don't need more weapons; we don't. The planet doesn't have that much to blow up," said a supporter of the defendants, Barry Kort of Bedford, Mass.

Speaking at the time of the protest, a Sanders spokesman said the local company's defensive electronic systems "have saved the lives of American air crew members around the world." Sanders sells very little of its products overseas, he added.

Of the 12 persons arrested last month, 10 were convicted at trial Monday. Each of them was fined $100, and all 10 chose to serve time in jail rather than pay the fine. One of the activists, Scott Scheffer- Duffy of Worcester, Mass., a Pelham native, said he and several others will fast while they are jailed.

"Unmerited suffering is always redemptive, always," Scheffer-Duffy said. "Every major social event in the U.S. has been catapulted forward by civil disobedience. Even if I had it (money to pay the fine), I wouldn't pay it, with all due respect (to the court)."

One defendant, Jessica Stewart of Maine, was unable to appear in court because she was arrested by U.S. marshals for praying in front of the White House, her lawyer, Joshua Gordon, of Concord, told the court.

Judge Martha Crocker dismissed a trespassing charge against Brian Kavanagh of Worcester, Mass., finding that although police identified him as one of the people they'd arrested, they had neglected to testify as to exactly what he had done to deserve it.

Kavanagh objected, saying, "I stand with my compatriots. I don't want to weasel out of it on the basis of any technicality."

Crocker assured him it was no technicality; the state had failed to prove it's case, and she had no choice but to dismiss the charge.

Sanders' security manager Leo Gagnon Jr. met with several of the organizers about two weeks prior to the protest, he testified. They assured him "it would be a peaceful and prayerful protest," and said they expected about 25 people.

Crocker declined to let the activists question Gagnon about his knowledge of how Lockheed Martin products are used throughout the world.

"The degree of their (Lockheed Martin's) complicity is not relevant to this court," Crocker said.

"Weaponry, war machinery create havoc, they create harm, they create mayhem. That is a given," she said.

Crocker gave the activists some leeway, however, allowing each to make brief statements in their own defense concerning the reasons and motives behind their civil disobedience.

"I am here to plead for a revolution in moral conscience," Frances Crowe of Northampton, Mass., said, urging Americans to wrest political control of the country from corporate conglomerates.

Veteran activists Guy Chichester of Rye and Ruth McKay of Concord are expected to serve five days, because they were released shortly after their arrests. The other activists remained jailed overnight, and got credit for two days served. McKay staged weekly vigils outside Sanders for 10 years starting in 1983.

"Our culture is a culture of violence, and, somehow, we have to turn it around," Chichester said.

Repririnted with permission. This article is copyrighted by The Telegraph and may not be used without credit.

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