“Raytheon Six² Defendants Get Community Service; Four of Five
by Jack and Felice Cohen-Joppa
Four Tucson residents were each sentenced November 2 to eight
hours of community service for their part in a nonviolent protest at
the Raytheon Missile Systems Plant south of Tucson last March 20, the
third anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Pima
County Justice Court judge Maria Felix accepted their pleas of no
contest to a charge of obstructing a highway, a class 3 misdemeanor.
Two co-defendants who could not be in court today will be sentenced
at a later date.
The sentences came as a result of a plea agreement that
included dismissal of four of the five original charges laid against
each the anti-war activists: unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct,
being a public nuisance and being a pedestrian on a roadway.
Before the formal hearing, the court invited Tucson¹s Raging
Grannies to sing. The Grannies were among nearly two dozen
supporters who had rallied outside the court house prior to the
hearing, and now filled the small courtroom. They obliged with one
of their trademark anti-war parodies, ³God Help America.²
The four sentenced today were Gretchen Nielson, age 73,
Bill Moeller, age 52, Pat Birnie, age 76, and Jack McPherson, age 61.
Before pronouncing sentence, Judge Felix invited the defendants to
address the court. The statements of Pat Birnie and Jack McPherson
follow, along with a poem by Gretchen Nielsen that concluded her own
brief statement. Bill Moeller chose not to address the court.
Poem read as part of sentencing statement of Gretchen Nielsen
HELL’S GETTING READY
to be lit with missiles
built by robots
programmed with misconceptions
(while ridiculed into silence
the wise watch wordless)
bombs are bought and sold
still not knowing what they’re doing
’til the children they have nurtured
scream in fiery beds
Hell’s getting ready
to be lit by leaders
proud and vengeful
still not knowing what they’re doing
’til they’re judged as they’ve been judging
watch their children’s children burn
(while the merciful moan in madness
anguished with compassion)
wealthy preachers mock the truth
the pope parades in a funny hat:
(wise and ridiculed
merciful and mad)
Where is the leader of the meek?
Gretchen Nielsen (1980)
Sentencing statement of Pat Birnie
I strongly oppose the U.S. invasion and continuing violent occupation
of Iraq, a sovereign country that threatened no provocation to our
Because I consider the U.S. military actions in Iraq to be immoral
and illegal by U.S. law as well as International law, I am ashamed
and distraught that a local business, Raytheon Missiles Systems, is
participating in and profiting from the human suffering their
products cause in Iraq.
I have tried to communicate my angst via direct correspondence with
Raytheon management, letters and phone calls to our elected
officials, letters to the editor (unpublished!) of our local
newspapers, and regular legal protests at Raytheon Missiles Systems
Because these efforts have failed, I had to resort to my least
-favored form of free-speech, to put my body on the line.
I will not willingly allow, by my silence, these atrocities to continue.
Sentencing statement of Jack McPherson
My participation in the blockade of the Raytheon munitions plant was
done to express solidarity with the tens of thousand innocent
civilian victims in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I do believe it is my moral obligation:
To speak out against – war crimes
To speak out against – war profiteering
And to speak out against – weapon contracts emanating from huge
Raytheon is not as they would have you believe a defender of freedom
and democracy, but rather are in the business of killing for profit.