Over the Years, Monadnock Quakers have participated in and supported numerous civil disobedience actions for peace, justice and in support of other Friends' Testimonies. Here is an account by a Monadnock Quaker of the trial of a group of peace activists who were arrested protesting the manufacture of weapons components at the Lockheed-Sanders plant in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1997.
A Call Against Arms (as written and experienced by Denise Ginzler)
On Monday, January 26, 1998, I went to a trial at the District Court in Nashua. It was one of the most inspiring afternoons I have ever spent. A group of twelve people had committed "criminal tresspass" after a demonstration on December 10 [International Human Rights Day] at the Sanders-Lockheed plant to protest the production of weapons there. They had allowed themselves to be arrested, and were in court today to argue that the need to stop weapons of mass destruction supersedes the city laws on trespassing.
Besides the eleven defendants (one was now in federal custody), there were about forty supporters in the courtroom. I had come with Bob Hillegass, Jim Glading and Allison Kaufhold of Monadnock Quaker Meeting. We recognized Friends from Concord (NH) and Mount Toby (MA) Meetings, Catholics from Worcester (MA), Ploughshares activists from Maine, Unitarians from Peterborough and many more. The defendants ranges from Buddhists to Catholics to Quakers, from Frances Crowe, who is 78, to Audrey Stewart, who is just 18 years old.
The trial began. Judge Martha Crocker explained that the court had to prove that the criminal trespass had in fact been committed, and would only accept relevant testimony; the intent of the defendants was not relevant. However, they were allowed to make statements including their reasons, as long as these were brief. A good part of the proceedings was the calling of witnesses, guards at Sanders and police officers, who swore that they did see THIS person at Sanders on December 10, did tell them to leave or be arrested, and did in fact arrest them. It was quite repetitive. We were sitting near the back of the room; Jim was taking notes, Allison was knitting, and Bob had moved forward three benches to hear better. I noticed the Sister of Mercy sitting beside me was praying.
Everone listened intently. Harriet Nestel explained the Buddhist prayer drum and said that all life is sacred. Frances Crowe corrected a policeman's statement, "I was not sitting on the ground; I had knelt down to pray." There was a ripple of laughter when one officer said expressively, "Mr. Chichester said he'd walk if we carried him to the sidewalk, so a few of us carried him..." (Guy Chichester is not small). After all the witnesses, the defendants made their statements. Each one had something particular to say, and, for me, it was a revelation of how, starting from different spiritual paths, their core beliefs were essentially the same.
Frances Crowe read a prepared statement starting, "As a Quaker, I am compelled by my faith in the Peace Testimony to try to live my life in the light that takes away the occasion of war..." Ruth MacKay of Nashua told of her weekly vigils since 1983 at Sanders, which has expanded its defense contracts and now manufactures many kinds of military devices. Audrey Stewart spoke of a nation "spending millions on weapons while children go hungry -- the blood of Iraqi children is on our hands, and of Indonesian children and of American children." Scott Schaefer-Duffy of the Catholic Worker showed us a banner with icons of Christ as Asian, African and Caucasian, saying, "..no matter where the weapons go, the victim is Christ." Harriet Nestel spoke of a visit to Iraq, where she saw people dying; Guy Chichester said, ".. as a father and grandfather, I come to protect my children and grandchildren; I have to assume that every weapon made here may be aimed at my family" Sean Donahue of New Hampshire Peace Action simply told us, "..the law of the Creator supersedes all other laws."
After a brief recess, Judge Crocker gave her summary: there is a right to free speech, but no right of civil disobedience, and her verdict was "Guilty."
The defendants were given fines of $100 plus costs, or five days in prison. They all chose to serve time over the fines, and most received fewer days, due to having been in jail overnight at the time of their arrest. At this point, the orderly court atmospher seemed to break; the defendants and some of the audience began to sing "Vine and Fig Tree." The officials hurried us all out, saying the building was closed, and we must leave immediately.
We went, but the feeling of that afternoon lasted a long time for me. In the days following I kept an elation and a vision, in spite of the buildup of war during February. I felt that I had witnessed a call against arms, a promise that the ocean of Light that George Fox spoke of exists, after all, right next to the ocean of darkness. As I stood in vigils, sat in Meeting, and prayed for peace, I could recall their joy. For them, prison meant freedom, and "Guilty" meant "Victory."