Statement before Sentencing
Sister Carol Gilbert, O.P.
In front of the Federal District Court House on July 25, 2003
For many months I have pondered what to say, if anything at all. St. Francis once said, "Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words." It seems that today a few words are necessary. For the past ten months we have tried to cooperate with these courts. We have been asking since day one - what are the charges? What is Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2155, if not sabotage? We are not saboteurs.
Today, we ask no more questions. We know something is very wrong with a system that can incarcerate us for years in prison for inspecting, exposing and symbolically disarming America's Weapons of Mass Destruction.
We know we should be acquitted for upholding the United States Constitution that declares all laws and treaties to be the supreme laws of the country. Article 6, Section 2 of the United States Constitution "declares this constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof, and all Treaties made, or which shall be made under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."
We should be acquitted for upholding International laws which this court has deemed unnecessary but which is bound to enforce under Article 6, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. It hurts to hear the prosecutor continue to call Frances Boyle a "self-professed international law guru."
We should be acquitted for upholding the highest law - God's Law. Judge Blackburn talked a lot about law. He didn't want this to be a political trial but a case about law. So did we. That was our deepest hope.
But, we were not the ones that turned this into a political trial nor will we make of ourselves political prisoners - that will be the prosecutor and judge.
We have read in the press and in our pre-sentencing reports that the lengthy sentence is for deterrence - both for ourselves and others. But, what the government fails to recognize is that long prison sentences will only energize the movement. As a tee shirt in upstate New York reads, "You can jail the resister but not the resistance." We will not be silenced. During our seven months in the Clear Creek County Jail we received thousands of letters from the United States and international community, over a thousand signatures from people who stand in solidarity with us and more than 650 letters were sent to the judge asking for compassion and justice. There have been four plowshares actions since ours - one of them in the United States.
This Memorial Day, four plowshares activists enfleshed the Isaiah and Micah prophecies on the USS Philippine Sea in New York harbor during fleet week naming themselves Riverside Ploughshares. No charges were filed.
No, Judge Blackburn needs no more words from us. Judge Blackburn needs no character witnesses this morning. What Judge Blackburn needs is to listen to his God. He needs to heed these words from one of my church's social justice documents, Guadium et Spes. # 16.
Deep within their consciences men and women discover a law which they have not laid upon themselves and which they must obey. Its voice, ever calling them to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells them inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For they have in their hearts a law inscribed by God. Their dignity rests, in observing the law, and by it they will be judged. Their conscience is people's most secret core and their sanctuary. There they are alone with God whose voice echoes in their depths.
Tomorrow, non-violent citizens in Colorado will inspect and expose America's weapons of mass destruction, the Minuteman 111, with others joining in solidarity in other states and others exposing other weapons systems at other sites. Resistance will not be deterred. You cannot silence truth. Truth will be spoken. Law will be upheld.
Judge Blackburn and the prosecutor need to reflect on the story in the Acts of the Apostles of Gamaliel - Chapter 5 vv. 17-42. Gamaliel was a Pharisee, a member of the Council, and a teacher of the Law. He was highly respected by all the people. As Peter and the other apostles were taken to the Council and the high priest, Gamaliel cautioned the council not to take any action against the men. He said, "if what they have planned and done is of human origin it will disappear, but if it comes from God, you cannot possibly defeat them."
Someday history will prove what we did on the early morning of October 6, 2002 - inspecting, exposing and symbolically disarming a Minuteman 111, a weapon of mass destruction was legal. Until that day I will continue being led where I would rather not go. I will continue to resist with every fiber of my being so that not one child will ever ask, "Why were you complicit?"
Lastly, a few words about fear. I don't fear going to prison. I don't fear loss of freedom to move about. I don't even fear death. The fear that fills me is not having lived hard enough, deep enough and sweet enough with whatever gifts God has given me.
The demons are banished by light and like the prophet Micah, this is what God asks of us, only this - " To act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God."
There is a story told of Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest, prophet and friend that he was once asked to give the commencement address at a prestigious university. He stood up, walked to the podium and said, "Know where you stand and stand there" and then he sat down. My friends "know where you stand and stand there."