Trial and Truth in a Georgian Courtroom

By Clare Hanrahan

May 29, 2001

Sometime in the next month I must report to prison, by order of a courteous and well-mannered Georgia Judge. For three days in a Columbus, Ga. courtroom twenty six citizens of the United States attempted to break through government deceit to speak the truth: that the U.S. Army School of Americas, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is the sinister source of horrendous violence. It is a place where Latin American soldiers are trained in the murderous techniques of counterinsurgency. Graduates of the school have participated time and again in documented torture, massacre, and disappearance of thousands and thousands of Latin American people who were seeking only to assert basic human rights and to live cooperatively and peacefully in their native land.

U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Mallon Faircloth, a self-described art critic and an erudite man of pleasant demeanor, listened carefully to the testimony of each defendant-from a 19 year old Michigan student to an 88 year old Franciscan nun from Iowa. He was meticulous in his adherence to due process of law. Then came the sentencing. He found each defendant guilty of a Class B Misdemeanor and, with odd reasoning, he issued a variety of fines and sentences - from three years probation to one year in a federal penitentiary.

I received a sentence of six months imprisonment and a $500 fine. I admitted to crossing and re-crossing that white line painted across the road into the Fort Benning Military Reservation. It is ironic that this military base, where the expression of democratic dissent is prohibited, harbors an Institute that claims to teach democracy - an Institute whose deadly fruit is not just "a few bad apples," as they claim, but brutal killers trained in terror and torture. This Institute is a systemic poison that attempts to cover murder with a shroud of lies. As a citizen I withdraw my consent from these crimes against humanity.

The judge offered each of us the "privilege" of self surrender. He then ordered a $250 cash surrender bond to assure compliance and to cover any costs the Federal Marshall might incur tracking down any who fail to surrender on the appointed date.

Appalachian Spring

Now I am back home with my friends and my garden awaiting the summons. The peas swell in the pods as they climb the fence and the strawberries offer a sweet burst of flavor as a morning gift. The fullness of this Appalachian spring time surrounds and embraces me, and the brave and powerful company of my codefendants, who spoke with such clarity and integrity, stays with me as I attempt to absorb this new reality.

Sometime in the next month, I will join the growing numbers of United States citizens imprisoned for nonviolent actions. I will be a political prisoner in country increasingly dominated by a dangerous corporate-military alliance that has put precious democracy in grave peril. My herbal garden companions, like the fragrant lemon balm, uplift my spirits. The evergreen Rosemary keeps me mindful of those whose oppression I cannot ignore. That is the reason why I chose this path of determined resistance. I am uplifted also by the many hundreds of supporters who were with us in that Georgia courtroom, and the ten thousand and more others who gather at Fort Benning each year to answer a law more sacred and compelling than the directive of the Commanding General. I disregarded a restriction that attempts to suppress democratic dissent and to protect this sinister institute, by whatever name they call it, from the scrutiny of the American people. The United States of America is a daunting adversary in a court of law, but the power of Truth is invincible.

I will write from prison, and endure this brief disruption from my comfortable life as a contribution to this ongoing experiment in revolutionary nonviolence. I invite every person with eyes to see, ears to hear, and a conscience not blunted or subdued, to weave into this fabric of resistance your own shining thread so that the banner we raise will be durable and bright and our sisters and brothers in Latin America will know that we stand with them on the side of truth and that in the name of all who have suffered, we say together, presente!

Hanrahan is an Asheville writer and gardener. She is a conscientioius objector to paying for war and serves on the national committee of the War Resisters League. Contact her at P.O. Box 7641, Asheville, NC 28802, or <hanrahan@buncombe.main.nc.us>.

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2001

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2001, page 10. Some rights reserved.

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