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Blackwater protesters sentenced.

CURRITUCK COUNTY, N.C. -- After admonishing them for not respecting the law or his authority, a North Carolina Superior Court judge had mercy on seven men and women who protested outside the headquarters of private security contractor Blackwater Worldwide. He opted not to sentence them to prison or to impose fines or court costs.

The seven, collectively parents to 19 children, were convicted by a jury Jan. 23 for trespass stemming from an Oct. 20 demonstration at the Blackwater headquarters in Moyock, N.C.

Six of the activists were convicted of resisting arrest after refusing to walk to police cars. Blackwater has been under intense scrutiny since Sept. 16 when one of its security details fired on civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square, killing 17 civilians, an attack witnesses claim was unprovoked.

The Oct. 20 demonstration drew many Catholic supporters from Virginia and North Carolina. At its center was a reenactment of the Nisour Square shootings. After driving to Blackwater's gate, the activists, who were splattered with red paint, slumped out of the car and lay on the ground pretending to be dead. A seventh person, Mary Grace, was convicted of trespass only after she knelt in prayer near the others.

Addressing the seven defendants, Judge Russell Duke noted that they claimed to be Christians, but the apostle Paul "admonishes us to obey the law, even the arbitrary law of Rome." He also quoted from the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter: "The rule of law is all that we have standing between us and the tyranny of mere will and the cruelty of unbridled feelings."

In his sentencing statement, Steve Baggarly, the primary organizer of the Oct. 20 protest, asked Duke: "What are we to do when the laws of the land are murderous? Laws everywhere that protect militarism in all its guises are a scourge upon the earth and its people.... We all participate in such atrocities through our votes, our dutiful payment of taxes and our silence. We must repent, disarm, and redistribute the planet's wealth."

Convicted with Grace and Baggarly were Mark Colville, Beth Brockman, Peter DeMott, Laura Marks and Bill Streit.
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Title Annotation:U.S. BRIEFS
Author:O'Neill, Patrick
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1U5NC
Date:Feb 8, 2008
Words:357
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