Press Herald Online

Tuesday, November 11, 1997

Three students charged after BIW ship trespass

By Susan Rayfield
Staff Writer
©Copyright 1997 Guy Gannett Communications
BATH - Three Maine college students were arrested Monday after breaking into Bath Iron Works, where they threw flowers and tried to spill blood on the deck of an Aegis destroyer.

The action came just two weeks after the federal sentencing of anti-war activist Philip Berrigan, 74, and five other Prince of Peace Plowshares, who threw blood and smashed consoles on another warship in February.

Jessica and Audrey Stewart, both 18, and Steve Cohen, 20, all of Yarmouth, entered the base at 3:30 a.m., after Cohen cut through two fences with a bolt cutter. They boarded the USS Mahan, carrying about 10 ounces of their own blood, they say, concealed in a soda bottle in a backpack.

Before Navy personnel grabbed them, they managed to spread red and white carnations and roses on the helopad, symbolizing flowers at a cemetery. They were unable to scrawl ''crime scene'' on the ship, and ''no'' on the missile hatches with orange spray paint, as planned.

The three were arrested by Bath police at 3:45 a.m., charged with criminal mischief and criminal trespassing, then released. They said they will be back.

A BIW spokeswoman said the ship was not damaged. Due to the lack of damage, federal charges will not be pursued, according to Bath Police Sgt. Joel Merry.

Instead, the three will face state charges on two misdemeanors. Each charge could result in a prison term of up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000.

This was the third such incident for Merry, the Bath officer who was on the scene in February and present for a 1991 Plowshares protest at the shipyard.

''It's hard for me to relate to this one,'' he said. ''I see these two girls and I think why don't you get on with your life.''

Cohen attends College of the Atlantic in Bar Barbor, along with Audrey Stewart. Jessica Stewart is at the University of Maine at Orono. The three helped to organize an anti-war demonstration at BIW on Oct. 24.

The Stewarts also were arrested twice during the Plowshares sentencings, for chaining themselves to the fence of BIW's Portland facility. This was Cohen's first arrest.

''We are teetering on the brink of military action against Iraq, and Monday was a good day to bring our action to light,'' Jessica Stuart said. ''We don't hold any illusion that we're going to change the world. Our hope is that if people keep acting like this, we can create a world where life is once again valued.''

The Stewarts will be arraigned at West Bath District Court on Dec. 3. Cohen's court date is Dec. 17.

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