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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Blackwater protesters sentenced after judge clears courtroom

Subject: Blackwater protesters sentenced after judge clears courtroom

This requires “letters to the editor” of the Virginian-Pilot from all over the country; these people who have stood up in an area where the military (Hampton Naval Yards) has a huge presence need our support. I would encourage everyone to distribute this article widely, post it on blogs and bulletin boards, make sure every peace organization is aware of this and takes appropriate solidarity actions.

Please forward this to everyone on your e-mail lists.

Please submit for publication in all newspapers and newsletters.

On-line comments can be posted here:

Letters to the Editor can be submitted via this link:

I sent the following Letter to the Editor to the Virginian-Pilot the main daily for the area:

I am outraged that a Judge in North Carolina would close a court-room to the public and the media concerning the Blackwater protest arrests. This continuing war in Iraq is not only squandering away the resources we require for things like a national single-payer universal health care system; it is destroying our democracy. Thomas Jefferson must be rolling in his grave.

A former Virginia Beach resident.

Alan L. Maki
Warroad, Minnesota

Note: original material obtained via a link from an excellent blog in the Hampton Roads area:

Blackwater protesters sentenced after judge clears courtroom

By BILL SIZEMORE, The Virginian-Pilot

© December 6, 2007 | Last updated 11:07 PM Dec. 5


In a courtroom closed to the press and public, protesters were sentenced to jail Wednesday for re-enacting a Baghdad shooting incident at the front entrance of Blackwater .

They said they will appeal the verdicts, partly on the grounds that they were denied their constitutional right to a public trial.

Currituck County District Judge Edgar Barnes took the rare step of clearing the courtroom after trying one of the protesters, Steve Baggarly of Norfolk, in public.

The remaining six were then tried, convicted and sentenced behind closed doors.
The judge gave no reason for his action.

The seven received jail terms ranging from 10 to 45 days and were fined $100 each. They said they will not pay the fines. One was ordered to pay $450 restitution to Blackwater for damage to its property.

All were released pending their appeals.

After the trials, Baggarly speculated that the judge closed the courtroom to silence the group’s anti-war rhetoric.

“He didn’t want people influenced by our message,” Baggarly said. “There have been hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq. If we’re going to speak about that, nobody is allowed to hear it. Obviously the system feels threatened by that. It loves darkness.”

Katy Parker, legal director of the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she had never before heard of a similar action being taken by a North Carolina judge.

“It’s a clear violation of constitutional rights, not only of the defendants but the press and public,” she said. “They have a right to a public trial, so any trial that goes on behind closed doors is a farce.”

In the Oct. 20 demonstration at Blackwater’s Moyock headquarters, the protesters drove a small station wagon, covered with simulated bullet holes and smeared with red paint, onto Blackwater’s property.

They also smeared red handprints on two Blackwater signs.

The scene was intended to mimic that in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, when an Iraqi doctor and her son died in a fusillade of gunfire as their car approached a Blackwater diplomatic convoy.

They were among 17 Iraqis killed in the incident, which prompted a federal grand jury investigation and a demand from the Iraqi government that Blackwater’s security contractors be banned from the country.

The seven protesters were convicted of second-degree trespassing. Six were also convicted of resisting arrest, and one of injury to real property. Several went limp when they were arrested and had to be dragged from the scene.

During Baggarly’s trial, he was repeatedly cut short by the judge when he tried to discuss the morality of the Iraq war and Blackwater’s role in it. The only issue up for discussion was trespassing and the related charges, the judge said.

“We feel like Blackwater is trespassing in Iraq,” Baggarly told the judge. “And as for injuring property, they injure men, women and children every day.”

The others convicted were Beth Brockman of Durham, N.C.; Mark Colville of New Haven, Conn.; Peter DeMott of Ithaca, N.Y.; Mary Grace of Madison County, Va.; Laura Marks of Ayden, N.C.; and Bill Streit of Louisa County, Va.

Bill Sizemore, (757) 446-2276,

The Judge can be contacted here:

The Honorable Edgar L. Barnes

159 Fearing Place North
Manteo, N. C. 27954

Phone and Fax:

(252)-331-4814 (FAX)

An additional news report from:

The DailyAdvance

Judge finds all 7 Blackwater protesters guilty

By From Staff Reports

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

CURRITUCK - A District Court judge on Wednesday found seven protesters guilty of trespassing on Blackwater USA's property in Moyock in October.

Judge Edgar Barnes, who held part of the proceedings behind closed doors, handed down jail sentences ranging from between 10 and 45 days to the seven defendants. None of the sentences were active, however. All were suspended on the condition the protesters not violate any laws for one year and pay fines ranging from $100 to $450.

None of the defendants said they planned to pay their fines. However, none were expected to go to jail - at least not immediately - because all said they planned to appeal Barnes' rulings.

Only one of the cases was heard in open court.

Barnes found Steven John Baggarly, of 1321 West 38th St., Norfolk, Va. guilty of trespassing and resisting arrest in connection with the Oct. 20 protest on Blackwater's property in Currituck County. The judge dismissed a charge of damaging property.

Barnes sentenced Baggarly to 20 days in jail, suspended on the conditions he not violate any laws for a year and pay a $100 fine. He also sentenced Baggarly to one year of supervised probation.

Following the verdict, one of Baggarly's fellow defendants, Elizabeth Velkey Brockman, 45, of 1407 Pennsylvania Ave., Durham, urged Barnes to allow the remaining defendants to be tried as a group.

The judge agreed, but after Brockman stood up and declared her opposition to the Iraq war, Barnes suddenly ordered sheriff's deputies to clear the courtroom. Everyone except the defendants, prosecutors, sheriff's witnesses and a Blackwater official were immediately barred from the courtroom.

Barnes did not give a reason for clearing the courtroom.

According to the defendants, Barnes then proceeded to try their cases. The other defendants included:

• William Mathias Streight, 53, of 16560 Louisa Road, Trevilians, Va.

• Laura Lee Marks, 40, of 4261 Norris Store Road, Ayden;

• Mark Peter Colville, 46, of 203 Rosette St., New Haven, Conn.;

• Peter Johns DeMott, 60, of 133 Sheffield Road, Ithaca, N.Y.; and

• Mary Terese Grace, 51, of P.O. Drawer 189 Wolftown, Va.

With the exception of Grace, who was charged with second-degree trespassing, all four of the other defendants were charged with second-degree trespassing, resisting arrest and destruction of property.

Prior to Wednesday's court proceedings, a group of approximately 40-50 protesters, including the defendants, stood outside the Currituck Courthouse. Many held signs protesting Blackwater USA, the Moyock-based security company.

The original demonstration outside the entrance to Blackwater's Moyock compound on Oct. 20 involved approximately 40 protesters. The demonstration, organized by the Norfolk, Va.-based Catholic Worker group and Blackwater Watch, was held to protest the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians by Blackwater guards in Baghdad on Sept. 16.

Six of the seven demonstrators arrested were in fact re-enacting the events of the deadly shooting as a protest against Blackwater.

According to a press release from Currituck Sheriff Susan Johnson, the protesters drove a station wagon covered with simulated bullet holes and smeared with red paint onto Blackwater?s property. They then laid on the ground, as if they had been shot.

The scene was intended to mimic that in Baghdad's Nisour Square, where an Iraqi doctor and her son died in gunfire as their car approached a Blackwater diplomatic convoy.

The protesters also smeared red handprints on two Blackwater signs, illustrating blood.

"Upon arrival (of sheriff's deputies) about 40 protesters, some splashed in red paint, began painting the signs belonging to Blackwater and blocking the roadway," Johnson said.

Deputies ordered the protestors to disperse and get out of the roadway in front of Blackwater, Johnson said. When six refused, they were arrested, she said.

Defendants said following Barnes' verdicts that the judge used a YouTube video of the demonstration as evidence against the protesters.

Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541

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