Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chicago Protesters Slapped With Felony Charges

Friday, April 18, 2008 By: John Beacham
Party For Socialism and Liberation

Criminal prosecution a pattern against anti-war protests

On March 23, six activists from Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War staged a die-in during Easter Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Ill. The protest was one of many direct actions that took place all across the country on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war.

Cardinal Francis George claimsanti-war protest with fake blood isan "act of violence."During the die-in, the activists spoke out against the war and spurted a packet of fake blood on themselves to dramatize the violent nature of the U.S. war on Iraq.

All six were arrested shortly after the anti-war action. They were later charged with felonies for criminal damage to property: Purportedly, some of the fake blood stained the carpet.
The outrageous charges against the six are a brazen attack against the anti-war movement meant to discourage protest.

At an impromptu press conference after the arrests, Cardinal Francis George suggested that the protesters were guilty of committing a violent act. George’s accusation is a preposterous stretch of reality. George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was conducting the Easter Mass at the time of the protest.

All major television news outlets in Chicago cover the holiday mass. The protest and arrests received widespread coverage in both the U.S. and world media.

The big-business media has completely vilified the young activists. But the six protesters are in no way criminals. They are right to take action against an unjust, murderous war based on lies—a war that is solely for profit and colonial domination.

The six protesters are Angela Haban, 20; Regan Maher, 25; Mercedes Phinaih, 18; Ephran Ramirez Jr., 22; Donte D. Smith, 21; and Ryane J. Ziemba, 25.

The felony charges leveled against the young activists are part of a pattern in the Chicago area.
On Jan. 7, four protesters were arrested during a demonstration against President Bush in Chicago. Their crime? Holding a banner in the street that read, “End the War and Occupation: Troops Home Now!” Three of the protesters were charged with disorderly conduct.

On Jan. 25, Andy Thayer, a well-known anti-war organizer in Chicago, was indicted by the Cook County Grand Jury on the felony charge of aggravated battery against a police officer. The charge carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

On May 26, 2007, two anti-war protesters, Jeff Zurawski and Sarah Hartfield, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct more than two weeks after they held a large sign on a bridge over the 335 Tollway in DuPage County, which borders Chicago. The sign read, “Impeach Bush and Cheney—Liars.”

The DuPage County prosecutor alleges that the two were throwing objects onto the tollway. Despite the utter falseness of the County’s claims, Zurawski and Hartfield have been fighting the charges for almost a year now. The trial is scheduled for June 9.

Unlike anti-war protesters who are being unjustly prosecuted in the Chicago area, President Bush, his appointees and the Pentagon generals are real-life criminals. Their war crimes against the Iraqi people would be quite easy to prosecute.

But Chicago-area officials and prosecutors are not concerned with justice. Their main intention is to preserve the status quo of war and class rule. With 80 percent of the U.S. population against the war and the current crisis deepening in all branches of the economy, the U.S. capitalist state is afraid that the anti-war movement might intensify.

Progressives and revolutionaries should demand that all charges against anti-war protesters in Chicago be immediately dropped.

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