Small victory. Big heart.
A small victory was gained Monday when local veteran John Amidon was acquitted of attempt to trespass and loitering last April 28 at the Hancock Air National Guard Base where our killer drones are flown from — as much as it pained Judge Gideon to find him not guilty on the facts of the case. Many thanks to Kathy Manley, an Albany attorney who was also my attorney advisor when I was acquitted of disorderly conduct at the aforementioned facility last October.
As part of a national gathering to witness against the deaths of innocents caused by our drones, John had dressed up as the Grim Reaper as part of the street theater where people were carrying coffins draped in black. John was wearing a mask and black cloak. John chose the persona of the Grim Reaper because the both the Navy & the Air Force use that as their symbol for their drone programs. For those uninitiated, the grim reaper takes all souls, guilty and innocent alike — s/he does not care which — much like the drones themselves. At least the military is honest about this symbol; it is accurate, I''ll give them that much.
He processed to the base with the group where yellow plastic barricades had been placed to keep people at a distance from the fenced in facility. So that people could see him he stepped up on the top of the barricades and began to walk down them like one would on a balance beam. Very shortly after he ascended to the barricades and burly police officer pulled him off and then at least four other officers grabbed him and cuffed him.
The police claimed that he had jumped over the barricades.
As much as any of us cherish the opportunity to speak truth to power in court, even if we know we're going to jail, this case should have been dismissed by the District Attorney - he just didn't do his job. Even I was insulted at the waste of taxpayer money for this trial. A look at the video used as evidence by the prosecution clearly showed John being pulled off of the barricades. In the stop action of the film there was a still of John, mid air, two heads above the officer (when in fact they are about the same height), with the officer's arm encircling John's waist.
Three witnesses also testified to the fact that they saw John yanked off of the barricades by the officer.
The barricades were low enough that if John wanted to “jump” them he could have simply stepped over them.
Kathy did a splendid job, citing constitutional case law for freedom of speech, right assemble and peaceful protest — she sounded like she actually went to law school. I could not say as much for the Assistant DA McNamara, who was also the prosecutor in my case. He sounded like the third string of a high school debate team, relying not on law or fact, but innuendo and supposition. But then again he got handed a lousy case to try.
One of the highlights was when the prosecutor was speaking to the loitering charge during the officer's testimony. The officer commented that you have to sometimes move quickly in a situation. “For a loitering
John testified in his own defense, speaking so beautifully about the deaths of innocent children, the destruction of people's lives by the use of these drones. Children in the countries that we bomb with these things are actually fearful of nice days with blue skies because they know there is a good chance that death will rain down upon them and their families.
After saving two children from a burning car wreck a few years back, John can easily visualize the fate of the children who are unlucky enough to be underneath our bombs. He feels it acutely.
Once again, no mention by the prosecution, or judge, of the reality of the death and destruction caused by drone warfare, the lives already in struggle left wretched by the bombs. The naming of that reality — that is left to the people on trial — the one's classified as criminals.