Anti-war in my hometown

I grew up in rural upstate New York, in an agri-industrial town called Binghamton, home to one of the university centers of the State University of New York. It's also the Carousel Capital of the World, the guy who invited flight simulators was from here, and Rod Serling grew up here. I remember it to be a pretty conservative place when I was growing up there, especially where I lived -- in a suburb on the edge of farmland, where the diversity level was one African-American kid and one Asian-American kid in my high school. IBM's defense contracting was headquartered in the Triple Cities until the late '80s or early '90s, which I imagine contributed to the political makeup of the area.

Imagine my surprise when I found out about an important federal anti-war protesters' trial happening next month there, right before the big anti-war mobilization in DC on September 24. Four protesters, called the St. Patrick's Four, went into a recruitment center near Ithaca just before the war started in 2003 and performed acts of civil disobedience. When they went to trial, the jury was hung -- nine jurors voted to acquit the people, and they were dismissed. The DA announced he would retry them, and the federal government is stepping in: "They are now charged with federal conspiracy 'by force, intimidation, and threat' to impede an officer of the United States -- a felony charge that carries punishment of up to six years in prison and a $250,000 fine. They are also charged with criminal damage to property and two counts of trespass, charges punishable by up to an additional 2 years in prison."

A five-night tribunal is being organized in Binghamton "to articulate the legal, moral, and historical defense for civil resistance to this illegal war," and progressive figures such as Ray McGovern, Medea Benjamin, Camilo Mejia, Kathy Kelly, Jon Bonifaz, Cindy Sheehan, Jimmy Massey, Liz McAllister, and U.S. Rep. Hinchey will be participating. This will clearly be the most progressive action my hometown has ever seen, and I'm going to be headed up there to check it out before going down to DC on the weekend. Anyone in Central New York can get involved in organizing logistics and the like (it looks like they just had a meeting) by signing up at the St. Patrick's Four website.

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