15 Line Crossers Go To Trial This Summer

On March 22, 2003, three Cornell College students participated in an act of civil disobedience against the war on Iraq at the STARC Armory, Camp Dodge, Iowa, which is the headquarters of the Iowa National Guard. A total of sixteen people "crossed the line" and were arrested for criminal trespassing. Included were a priest, a minister, Vietnam veterans, teachers, experienced civil rights activists, grandmothers and college students. They brought with them a message of resistance to the government's war against Iraq and asked for men and women in the military who think the war is unjustified to become conscientious objectors and refuse to fight.

Why civil disobedience?

Line crossers left to right:
Carolyn Uhlenhake Walker, Michael Schorsch, Jane Magers, Elton Davis, Rev. Gil Dawes, Sonya Thompson, Jeanne Firth, Steve Wieland, Marian Solomon, Fran Fuller, Bill Basinger, Fr. Frank Cordaro.
Not visible: Jim Johnson, Brian Terrell, Violet Blosser, and Carla Dawson.

"You may well ask: 'Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?' You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word 'tension.' I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr., from Letter from the Birmingham Jail

And this is why we openly defied the government by trespassing on governmental land. We believe that the government has made and is making grievous errors in its policies towards Iraq. As citizens, we believe that

Authorities had line-crossers sit on the ground
awaiting transport to Polk County Jail.

what Thoreau said is true: first and foremost, we have to stay true to our own conscience, our own morality. The government itself may be corrupted, but it is the people's duty to follow their conscience and resist that corruption. When Emerson came to visit Thoreau in jail for civil disobedience, Emerson asked Thoreau, "What are you doing in there?" Thoreau answered, "No, more importanty, what are you doing out THERE?"

My dad said it well: "We are not against troops: we are against policies." I happen to think that the peace activists are the most supportive of the troops of anyone: they want them to come home and not kill and be killed unjustly.

Des Moines Register March 23, 2003, article covering the March 22 Demo at Guard Headquarters:

At the rally at Camp Dodge, Buck Firth showed pride in his offspring. He drove from Kansas City to support his 18-year-old daughter, Jeanne, who was arrested along with 15 other protesters. Jeanne Firth is a freshman at Cornell College.

"This is her first act of [civil] disobedience," her smiling father said. "She's a pretty courageous young woman.

Buck Firth, 50, said war opponents oppose policies, not soldiers.

Sixteen of the 50 protesters crossed the street, walking hand-in-hand onto National Guard property. The Rev. Frank Cordaro, a veteran peace activist, led the group in saying an Our Father as sheriff's deputies ordered them to sit in the grass until they could be taken to jail. Cordaro had told church officials he would try not to be arrested again.

The Rev. Joseph Charron, bishop of the Des Moines Catholic Diocese, said he was aware of the possibility that Cordaro might get arrested again.

"He had talked to me ahead of time, so this is not a surprise to me," Charron said. "He was struggling with his conscience about protesting the war and keeping his promise. He promised, basically, that he would not go back to jail for the next two years."

Charron said he will evaluate the legal consequences of Cordaro's arrest before deciding how to handle the matter within the church.

The protesters were charged with trespassing and were to be released.