Blackwater Protesters Challenge Conviction for North Carolina Demonstration
Democracy Now (2008-01-23)
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And in North Carolina, seven activists are in court today to appeal their conviction for protesting outside the headquarters of the private military company Blackwater. The protesters say they were denied their constitutional right to a public trial. Six of them were tried, convicted and sentenced behind close doors after the judge took the rare step of clearing the courtroom. They received jail terms ranging from ten to forty-five days. The seven were arrested in October when they reenacted what happened in Baghdad on September 16, when Blackwater forces opened fire and shot dead seventeen Iraqi civilians. As part of the demonstration, protesters drove a small station wagon covered with simulated bullet holes and smeared with red paint onto Blackwater’s property.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Mary Grace, one of the defendants in the Blackwater case. She is on the way to the courthouse on her cell phone in North Carolina. Welcome to Democracy Now!
MARY GRACE: Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us about this trial? What will happen today?
MARY GRACE: Well, hopefully, the judge will allow us to present evidence that we were upholding international law and necessity. However, that’s unlikely in our courts. We don’t seem to get justice here. So we’re just looking forward to a jury trial, so we are anticipating speaking directly to the jury about what we did and why we did it.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did you do it, Mary Grace?
MARY GRACE: Well, we really—not just to call attention to the Nisour Square massacre, which we reenacted, but to try to get people to pay attention to what Blackwater and other independent contractors are doing in Iraq and to stop the ongoing commission of illegal actions under international law.
AMY GOODMAN: And what did you do? What was your participation in this protest?
MARY GRACE: I actually was watching the reenactment of a small portion of the Nisour Square massacre as the demonstration was unfolding. They were doing this reenactment, and as I watched, I was just so strongly moved that I simply stepped over closer to where they were, knelt down and prayed.
AMY GOODMAN: This is an appeals court? This is the second trial?
MARY GRACE: Pardon me?
AMY GOODMAN: This is the second trial you’ll be facing today?
MARY GRACE: Yes, ma’am.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is the sentence that you face?
MARY GRACE: I only face twenty days. My charge is simple trespass. My co-defendants have up to three charges.
AMY GOODMAN: Would you do it again?
MARY GRACE: Absolutely.
Mary Grace, speaking to us on the road on her cell phone. She is part of a group of protesters who protested outside Blackwater Worldwide in North Carolina.