Sunday, February 10, 2008

Polar Bears and First Amendment: Two Endangered Species on Thin Ice

Day 6 of "Polar Bear 7" Trial Continues Monday Feb 11,12:00 Noon in Room 211 at Washington DC Superior Court, 500 Indiana Avenue

WASHINGTON, DC – It is not looking good for polar bears. The ice is disappearing in the Arctic. In Washington, DC, the US Congress just delayed designating polar bears an endangered species. Now people dressed as polar bears who lobbied Congress are battling in court for their first amendment rights.

On Monday Oct. 22, 2007, during the "No War, No Warming" demonstration, people dressed up as polar bears sang and danced their way on sidewalks outside of the Cannon House Office building to remind Congress of the connection between war and global warming. Instead of being greeted with open ears, the US Capitol police insisted they disperse, but members of the group that has come to be known as the "Polar Bear 7" were seized as they attempted to leave, less than 30 seconds after the first warning to disperse.

“Our right of lawful assembly is at stake when citizens who do not engage in acts of civil disobedience are held liable to the same penalties as those who do,” said “Polar Bear 7” co-defendant Paul “zool” Zulkowitz (who was not dressed in a polar bear costume).

Mr. Zulkowitz is being tried with co-defendants Alexis Baden-Mayer, Adam Eidinger, Robert Levitt and Cesar Maxit. Journalist William Jordan and fellow global warming activist Anna Duncun had their charges dropped at the being of the trial. Ann Wilcox is an attorney in the case. Adam Eidinger and Robert Levitt are pro-se defendants.

“The assault on our constitutional rights is snowballing,” said "Polar Bear 7" arrestee Ariel Vegosen (whose charges were dropped ahead of trial). “We did not do anything illegal and I spent a night in jail. We have a right to attest what is happening in the Arctic to polar bears dressed as polar bears. All we were trying to do is make it clear that Congress needs to stop this war and take action on global warming.”

Adding insult to injury, the prosecuting attorney for the government, Jeffrey Shapiro, is also a conservative, pro-war journalist. He has a history of prosecuting peaceful protesters and organizers. In his most recent case, on January 17, Shapiro prosecuted 31 peace activists who were found guilty of unlawful assembly. Mr. Shapiro pushed for lengthy prison sentences. Co-defendants asked the Court to recuse Mr. Shapiro, however, the self proclaimed “Protestor Prosecutor” was allowed to proceed.

Fellow activists, alarmed by the threat to their right of lawful assembly in the nation’s capital, are expected to attend the trial on Monday, February 11 at 12:00 Noon, in Room 211 at Washington DC Superior Court before Judge Raphael Diaz, in support of the "Polar Bear 7".
A verdict could come as early as Monday afternoon.

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