Protesters 'Not Guilty' after actions against 'Gene Busting' weapons giant
From: Nukewatch (Press Release)
The defendants, four from rural Luck, Wisconsin, and four from Minneapolis, Minnesota, were found not guilty of trespassing after they admitted that they had gone onto ATK?s property last July to deliver a written warning to company executives. The defendants argued that they had a right to demand a meeting with management to discuss ATK?s manufacture of armor-piercing uranium weapons -- the toxic, radioactive effects of which cause long-term damage to the environment and which cannot distinguish between combatants and civilians.
The defendants -- four who were acquitted Dec. 14 and four found not guilty in a separate trial Dec. 10 -- claimed that numerous treaties to which the United States is a party prohibit the production of poisonous, indiscriminate weapons. The activists also argued that these same treaties give individuals legal rights to take reasonable actions to prevent violations of humanitarian law.
In legal instructions given to the jury, Hennepin County District Judge Jack Nordby said that in Minnesota law, permission to be on the property of another can be granted by a statute, rule, regulation, or other law. Nordby went on to explain that 'other law' means "any law enacted by the federal or state government, any treaty to which the United States is a party, or any binding rule of international law." Minnesota's trespass statute provides that if an individual can show they have a 'claim of right' to be on private property, they can remain there without violating the law.
The jurors were able to acquit the four defendants because they were persuaded that the defendants established their 'claim of right' and had not acted with criminal intent.
Alliant has been at the center of anti-war protests for nine years because of its manufacture of land mines, cluster bombs and uranium munitions.
Critics contend that all these weapons indiscriminately attack civilian non-combatants. Often called depleted uranium or DU, the armor penetrators are made of waste uranium-238 left after uranium-235 has been separated from uranium ore. Depleted only of uranium-235, DU has a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years. DU is a heavy metal toxin that emits alpha radiation and can be inhaled or ingested after it hits a hard target and becomes pulverized. The 1991 Gulf War left over 340 tons of DU littering Iraq, and over 170 tons were used in the recent U.S. invasion and take-over.
"These aren't 'tank busters' like the company says, but gene busters that attack gene the pool with toxic, radioactive pollution during the war, and for eons afterwards," said defendant John LaForge, a staff member of the peace group Nukewatch.
Minnesota vs. John Heid, Jane Hosking, John LaForge, Mike Miles, Hennepin County District Court, Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA), Dec. 13, 2004. Jack Nordby presiding.
Closing argument by John LaForge, for the defendants
Thank you for your attention. We all appreciate the keenness with which you have observed the trial.
There are three elements to trespass and two have been granted in the stipulation. Only the third is in dispute: our claim that we had the right to be at Alliant on July 28.
Judge Nordby will give you instructions that define a 'claim of right' as: "A good faith claim by defendants that permission was given to them to be upon the premises by a statute, rule, regulation or other law."
And the judge will tell you that 'other law' means "any treaty to which the United State is a party, or any binding rule of international law."
I believe our testimony and exhibits have established our claim of right.
You've heard that depleted uranium weapons are made of toxic, radioactive waste uranium-238.
The shells and bullets, large and small, made from this waste turn to poisonous powder and dust when they burn through hard targets. The resulting pollution, which is extremely difficult to clean up, contaminates soil and water for eons. You've heard that ingestion or inhalation of the uranium dust can cause cancer, kidney damage and other sever illnesses. The United Nations Environment Program found that the uranium debris left there was not just toxic and radioactive on it own accord, but that it was contaminated with plutonium.
You've heard that depleted uranium weapons are toxic, radioactive waste uranium-238.
The shells and bullets, large and small, made from this waste turn to poisonous powder and dust when they burn through hard targets. The resulting pollution, which is extremely difficult to clean up, contaminates soil and water for eons. You've heard that ingestion or inhalation of the uranium dust can cause cancer, kidney damage and other severe illnesses like birth abnormalities.
You can review Alliant's web page publicity to confirm that it has produced millions of these weapons, and that it is pursuing future contracts. We know that Alliant once boasted of making 16 million small-caliber uranium rounds, and 2 million uranium tank rounds.
Three of the defendants, our husband-and-wife team, Jane and John, and Mike, have traveled to Iraq. They have seen the devastating consequences of war with their own eyes. The experience shocked and dismayed them -- as it would anyone. In particular, the impact of the children?s wards that the saw was nearly overwhelming.
You have heard testimony that the carcinogenic dusts left by Alliant's uranium shells and bullets. We know that there's been a drastic increase in the number of cancers and leukemias and other radiation-related illnesses since many tons of the waste was shot into Iraq in 1991
We know that Alliant once boasted of making 16 million small-caliber uranium rounds and 2 million uranium tank rounds. All were sold to the military.
The British Royal Society, the equivalent of our National Academy of Sciences, says 340 tons of DU was used by the U.S. and Britain in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
You have heard the testimony of the defendants, and can review the exhibits we have submitted, to help ascertain the reasonableness of our beliefs regarding the consequences of using Alliant's dirty weapons. That's the human-interest side of the story.
The legalistic and more technical side is not complicated either. Our claim of right, as the Judge will instruct you, must be founded on a reasonable or common sense reading of the law.
In a nut shell the law says this:
1) It is forbidden to use poison or poisoned weapons;
2) It is forbidden to use weapons that do severe, long-term damage to the environment;
3) It is forbidden to use weapons that cannot distinguish between civilians and soldiers, or to use materials or devices that are similar to gas;
4) The planning or preparation of wars that would violate other binding treaties is itself a crime;
5) Individuals are personally responsible for their participation in these crimes, which is to say that we must all avoid such participation;
6) Finally all these binding treaties and agreements are officially elevated to the position of 'the Supreme Law of the Land' by the Constitution of the United States.
Almost all of you answered that corporations and the government should be held to a legal standard as high or higher than private citizens. We, the defendants have put this principle into action, nonviolently.
In your deliberations please remember the warning given to the world at Nuremberg, that some war planning and preparation is illegal.
We believe such illegal war preparation is going on inside Alliant Tech. This belief provides the basis for our claim that the law allows us to remain on the premises in spite of requests to leave.
The state must prove that 'defendants acted with an unlawful intent.' We did not have unlawful intent. Our intention was, on the contrary, to obey and uphold the law and to see that flagrant and severe violations of it not go unnoticed, especially by the perpetrators; by demanding to be seen and heard.
All of us came to our action July 28, and to this courtroom, with a somber and even a grim analysis of the grave consequences of what Alliant and the government are doing with radioactive waste. Shooting it a people is a ghastly violation of rules the civilized world has promised to obey.
Alliant Tech officials may not want to hear such a warning. But our obligation to insist on giving it outweighs their reluctance to accept it. And our obligation to deliver our warning is based on our understanding of the Supreme Law of the Land.
I think you all know our belief is held in good faith. And I think you know that our reading of the law -- as it applies to illegal weapons -- is reasonable.
As the Judge will instruct you, "If defendants acted in good faith under claim of right, even if reasonably mistaken as to this right, you must find the defendants not guilty."
Thank you for taking this case seriously.
John LaForge, Defendant.