FREE SPEECH ZONE | The Wrong People Were On Trial


When Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill found four peace activists guilty (4/23/10) but assigned $1 fines, he was hailed as a nice guy who went as far as he could within the system. We need a judicial Daniel Ellsberg. As Kathy Kelly, of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, says: “Where’s the outrage?”

The four nonviolent, senior citizen, criminal trespass defendants were arrested during a peace commemoration of Gandhi’s birthday, on October 2 of 2009, in front of the corporate headquarters of Minnesota’s largest war profiteer, Alliant Techsystems. The four claimed the right to enter the corporation’s Eden Prairie property in order to warn employees that they were breaking international laws. They brought copies of treaties and agreements with them.

The four claimed the right to go into the building and warn people the way you would enter a burning building in order to save lives. The judge weighed the citizens’ claim of right against the right of the corporation. This judgment infers that the “claim” of right is an idea, it is air, whereas Alliant Techsystems had a concrete right to refuse admittance. 

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Judge Cahill held an “official court hearing in lieu of a trial” on Friday, April 23, 2010, and found the four guilty. Before sentencing, the judge said:

You may be right that depleted uranium munitions may violate international law. Cluster bombs might violate international law. But that’s not why we are here today. And to be honest, I think it is way above my pay grade as a State Trial Court Judge to decide those weighty issues of international law. I’m here because we have a trespass case. And this case demonstrates the tension that exists between property rights and what we hold to be the most sacred rights, the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.”

Judge Cahill argues that the case is a disputation of rights, namely the rights of private property and the “sacred” First Amendment right of freedom of expression. Personal rights are guaranteed under the First Amendment. Four amendments later, property rights are outlined in the Fifth Amendment’s “taking clause.”

Skipping back into the body of the Constitution, read Article VI, Section 2. This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

Depleted uranium munitions violate the United States Constitution because they violate international agreements that our nation has signed onto. In fact, U.S. led the development of post-World War 2 international law beginning with the Nuremberg NAZI war crimes trials.

Alliant Techsystems’ uranium-core bullets and shells aerosolize like spray net when fired. The resulting uranium dust can be taken into the body in the air or in food. This lethal dust can harm civilians and even our own soldiers and lasts beyond the duration of a battle. Those are the operative legal standards-injuries to noncombatants and danger long after the fight.

Judge Cahill pled ignorance of “those weighty issues of international law” while he picked among Constitutional rights to narrow the case for easy resolution. If the case requires expertise in international law, which the judge claimed is “above my pay grade,” then it should be referred to federal court where Constitutional matters may be judged by those with sufficient background to hear them.     

I am a member of the AlliantACTION group and a recidivist of numerous “criminal” trespasses since the 1980s before Honeywell spun off its profitable weapons division. Repeatedly we have been found not guilty, or guilty, by direction of various judges who frequently tell us, post-trial, how much they respect and admire us. After sentencing, one judge told us that we remind her of her Spanish-Communist parents.

Binary thinking has conditioned us to narrow our worldview to pro/con, guilty/innocent, black/white, win/lose, Democratic/Republican-or, equal time to the two sides. There are not just two sides-it’s a round world. A uranium “cloud” was reported over England nine days after President George W. Bush focused “shock and awe” over Iraq-just as Chernobyl went around the world. 

“The wrong people are on trial,” Sister Jane McDonald says at every peace-criminal trial. I weep for my country when I see authority figures padding down the road more-traveled. At some point that road will be overseen by objective guardians who will open their eyes to the whole of the law.

Bill Sorem’s video on the Alliant Action Trespasser’s case is at: