Blood Wrath

Talking with Clare Grady, one of the first Iraq war protesters to face federal conspiracy charges

Last year, Clare Grady, along with her sister and two others, were charged in county court with misdemeanors for their actions in a March 2003 anti-war protest outside Ithaca, New York. More than a year later, that trial ended with a hung jury. The federal government then brought its own case against the activists, now known as the "St. Patrick's Four." On Monday, they were found not guilty of the federal charges for conspiracy, which carry a maximum six years in jail and $250,000 fine, but convicted of misdemeanor-level trespassing and damaging government property. In January, they will be sentenced, with a maximum possible term of 18 months behind bars.


How did you feel when you found out that the U.S. government was going to pursue this case? Well, speaking for myself personally—after the first 10 minutes of being quite rattled—I had a deep sense of gratitude. One, that our lives would be interrupted in a time of war felt really appropriate, and, two, that we would have a chance again to testify to everything we know about this illegal war, about the death of innocents, the slaughter of innocents, at our hands.

"We went into the vestibule of the army recruiting center . . . I poured my blood on the flag, on the ground, and I stepped outside of the door and poured the remainder of the blood on the sidewalk in front of the door."
photo: Joshua Hersh
"We went into the vestibule of the army recruiting center . . . I poured my blood on the flag, on the ground, and I stepped outside of the door and poured the remainder of the blood on the sidewalk in front of the door."

Details

What was it, exactly, that you allegedly "conspired" to do? We went into the vestibule of the army recruiting center, and each of us went to a spot—I personally went to the wall directly opposite to the door, and an American flag happened to be on that wall and I poured my blood on the flag, on the ground, and I stepped outside of the door and poured the remainder of the blood on the sidewalk in front of the door. And then I knelt right next to the blood and said a prayer and read a statement and stayed there for an hour.

Blood? How did you get the blood? From a nurse—a professional. Two days before.

Why? Blood cuts through the levels beyond intellect. It brings things down to gut level, which is very helpful as we consider where we're going in the conversation of the war, and the killing of innocents. If you don't go to that place, then you haven't had a full and honest conversation about it. And we do that for ourselves, first and foremost.

It sounds like your action was as much personal as it was about actually preventing the war, say. I remember going to the first Plowshares trial of Dan and Phil Berrigan in 1981, and my reaction at the time was, "Oh my God, that's dangerous what they did!" [Editor's Note: The Berrigans had broken into a GE nuclear weapons plant and hammered on the nose cones of two missiles.] And my second was, "That's really a futile attempt—if they think this government's going to disarm, that's like asking it to decapitate itself." And it took a few months, but then I realized, "Oh, they're not asking anyone else to disarm—they're disarming." Sure, it's inviting anyone else that wants to do it, but it's you, doing it now—me, here, now, boom! Its so Gospel—as Phil Berrigan says, "The Gospel is a manifesto of the now." And that has powerful implications.

As in the last trial, the four of you are representing yourselves. Why? Defending yourself makes it more possible to speak to the heart of it for you, and lawyers are obliged, unless they want to risk contempt, to following—well, the judges can silence lawyers more.

Still, the federal judge has ruled that you cannot speak about international law, your views on the illegality of the Iraq War, or even the outcome of your first trial. Are you hoping the jury will look beyond the plain facts and acquit you anyway? It would be great for world peace if the jury can be empowered to do that. But even if they're not, it isn't our loss at all. The action's been done. The symbol is there. And our lives are changed by it.

 
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