Conservative Judge Stands By Constitution And Dismisses Civil Resistance Case
Above Photo: Note Bruce Gagnon is the author of this article (SEE YouTube to include below). Embed this video of the judge’s decision
It was an amazing day yesterday that began at 7:30 am as we vigiled in the cold and snow in front of the Sagadahoc County Courthouse in Bath for an hour before we had to go inside for the start of our Aegis 9 trial.
One of the defendants, Mike Tork from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, could not make it as he had medical issues which did not allow him to travel. Mike is a Vietnam War veteran and and very active member of Veterans For Peace.
Pro bono attorney Logan Perkins, from Belfast, Maine, represented three in our group with the rest of us defending ourselves. The state opened the trail by claiming to the jury that it was a simple case of the defendants illegally attempting to “enter the event” which was a ‘christening’ ceremony for a new Aegis destroyer built at Bath Iron Works, owned by General Dynamics.
After the state finished its opening I was the first to offer an opening statement. It had been arranged that we’d show a short video made by local filmmaker Eric Herter (Vietnam veteran and former AP reporter). The video clearly revealed to the court that the Aegis 9 did not attempt to enter the BIW shipyard but instead stopped about 12 feet before the gate, turned and held their signs facing the oncoming crowd who were entering the ceremony.
The trial ended when the judge dismissed the charges against all nine peaceful defendants after the state prosecutor finished his opening case.
Justice Dan Billings, Superior Court Judge, granted the defendants’ motion for judgment of acquittal saying, “The Bath Police Department was outsourced to Bath Iron Works [owned by General Dynamics]. This is not how it is supposed to work. The city has to consider the bigger picture [of constitutional rights to assemble].” Billings maintained that the Bath Police Department had used “unfettered discretion” in their arrests of the Aegis 9.
During the trial the head of BIW security testified the weapons corporation had the right to decide in advance who they will let into a public event. He stated that if one of their own workers walked past a peaceful protest and spoke to those assembled they would not allow that worker inside the ceremony. The judge remarked that by using that logic – if he “walked past a protest and shook Bruce Gagnon’s hand and had a friendly word with him”, that even he would be denied entry to a ‘christening’ ceremony.
The state’s two key witnesses also could not conclusively identify the BIW property line.
John Branson, an activist attorney from Portland, commented on the dismissal saying: “I might also add that it is not uncommon for a conservative Republican judge to be protective of civil liberties in a case such as this. (Judge Billings formerly chief counsel to Governor Paul LePage as you likely know). With respect to lawsuits challenging the expanded surveillance program during the Obama administration – which were filed after Snowden’s revelations came to light – conservative judges were more likely than their liberal counterparts to find all or part of the programs to be unconstitutional.”
Local activists in Bath have put out a call for volunteers to risk arrest at BIW during the next destroyer ‘christening’. So far 47 people from Maine and several other states have put their names on the list. The date of the next destroyer ‘christening’ at BIW is not yet known.
The Aegis destroyers built in Bath are outfitted with so-called ‘missile defense’ systems that are actually key elements in Pentagon first-strike attack planning. The ships are currently being used to help encircle China and Russia with sea-based and land-based MD systems.
The evening ended with a victory party at the Addams-Melman House in Bath including good food, music and speeches by those assembled. Everyone was urged to go home and write letters to local newspapers challenging the request by General Dynamics for $60 million in corporate welfare from the poor state of Maine.