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Support the Troops; Jail a Veteran

The "trial" of Rosemarie Jackowski, a 67-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran and antiwar activist in Vermont
Earlier this month I was in Vermont where I noticed that many cars bore yellow ribbons with the slogan "Support our Troops." Being an ex-Marine, I want to believe that those yellow ribbons also signified respect for veterans, but perhaps that is not so.

I was disturbed to read in a local newspaper of a 67-year-old grandmother who faces two months in jail for civil disobedience during an antiwar protest in Bennington. The grandmother is an U.S. Air Force veteran, Rosemarie Jackowski. Unlike us menfolk, she'd been under no requirement to serve in the military, but had chosen to do so anyway. Clearly, Jackowski is a person who takes her American citizenship seriously -- and yet it took a jury only 15 minutes to find her "guilty."

It leaves me wondering, what do people really mean when they say "Support our Troops"?

Daniel Borgstrom
Oakland, California
(a letter in the Bennington Banner, 9/23/2004)

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ROSEMARIE JACKOWSKI is an advocacy journalist living in Vermont. She was arrested on March 20, 2003 while participating in a peaceful protest against the invasion of Iraq. She was tried on September 9, 2004; her essay "The Trial" is at  http://www.veteransforpeace.org/The_trial_rosemarie_091704.htm

Below is part of an email from Jackowski:


Most people do not know what I did, at the time of my arrest. I simply stood, in silence, with my head bowed. Those were the most solemn moments of my life. I was holding a sign. I, and a hundred others were in the road. I was charged with "Disorderly Conduct WITH INTENT TO HARASS AND ANNOY". The jury never heard the testimony that I wanted to give about what my intent really was and what was on my mind at the time. I had over 100 colored photos of the bombed Iraqi children in the Court room but the jury was not allowed to see any of them. There still remains a question, in many minds, about my real guilt or innocence but there is NO question about the fact that I did not have a fair trial.

I hope to file an Appeal. My Sentencing Hearing is coming up [on October 7]. I could be sentenced to prison and also have a fine imposed.

In spite of everything, I consider this a big victory. Hearing from people, such as you, restores my faith in humanity. Also WRGB, the CBS affiliate in Albany NY, filmed the whole trial. During breaks, I made it a point to work on the journalists so that they would show the photos of the bloody and dead Iraqi children...victims of U.S. bombing. That night on their news program, WRGB showed some of the photos.

Rosemarie Jackowski
September 16, 2004

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Below is an article from The Times Argus/Rutland Herald:


Grandmother guilty of blocking traffic in anti-war protest

September 10, 2004
by Peter Crabtree, Rutland Herald

BENNINGTON, [Vermont] -- A jury convicted a 67-year-old grandmother Thursday of disorderly conduct for blocking traffic during an anti-war demonstration.

Rose Marie Jackowski, a U.S. Air Force veteran, testified that she meant to draw attention to the deaths of Iraqi children when she protested early last year at the Four Corners, the town's main intersection.

It took the jury less than 15 minutes to find Jackowski guilty of the misdemeanor charge. She faces up to two months in jail and a $500 fine.

"I don't doubt that she had a good intent, but there are definitely better ways to get your point across," prosecutor Daniel McManus said after the verdict was announced.

More than 100 people took part in the demonstration without incident, but Jackowski was one of a dozen protesters who were arrested after they refused to leave the street. The other defendants went through the Court Diversion Program and performed community service.

Jackowski said in an interview that she welcomed the chance to go to trial, calling it an opportunity to discuss the thousands of civilians the United States has killed in Iraq.

"They have received capital punishment without a trial," Jackowski said, placing the number at 13,000 dead.

Her legal case hinged on the question of what she intended when she protested the beginning of the U.S. "Shock and Awe" campaign in March 2003.

The state was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jackowski was "practically certain" that blocking traffic would irritate or annoy those who were delayed.

"A person can act with more than one intention," Judge David Suntag instructed the jury.

Three officers from the Bennington Police Department described a chaotic scene in which the driver of a tractor trailer inched his rig dangerously close to protesters to get them to move, blasting his horn as he did so. The driver of a pickup truck, meanwhile, repeatedly banged his plow on the road.

"There was an uneasy feeling," said Lt. Paul Doucette, who wore a red, white and blue tie printed with stars and stripes in court.

Jackowski testified that she hadn't considered the effect her protest would have on traffic when she stood at the intersection of Routes 7 and 9.

"I was thinking about the Iraqi children that were being slaughtered at that very moment," Jackowski said, her face reddening as she seemed to struggle with her emotions.

Defense attorney Stephen Saltonstall showed the jury a sign that Jackowski was carrying when she was arrested. It included a newspaper photograph of an Iraqi child injured in a bombing raid.

Jackowski testified that she acted out of political and spiritual conviction, saying she was devoted to the "Polish pope," John Paul II, and the doctrine that all life is sacred.

A tiny woman with carefully applied makeup and a well-tended blond hairdo, Jackowski demonstrated to the jury how she gave a raised fist salute as she was led away by the police.

Both Jackowski and the officers complimented each other as being unfailingly polite.

"When I placed wrist restraints on Mrs. Jackowski, she apologized," Doucette said.

Jackowski told the jury that she had grown up in Pennsylvania's coal mining region and began working at the age of 10 in a garment "sweatshop."

After going to night school and graduating from college, she served in the Air Force, receiving an honorable discharge with the rank of second lieutenant. She was also employed as a teacher and social worker.

About a dozen of Jackowski's supporters attended the trial, which took all of the morning and part of the afternoon.

"She's a true patriot," said John Amidon, a member of the Albany, N.Y., chapter of Veterans for Peace.

Jackowski said she expected she would appeal her conviction. But she emphasized that her legal troubles were minor, especially compared to the suffering in Iraq.
"Support our Troops" 27.Sep.2004 15:46

Tony Blair's dog

Litterary means "Don't question why our troops are being sent off to kill foreigners, in a foreign land."

Update 29.Sep.2004 11:18

update

Reposted from the Bennington Banner (9/28/2004), a commercial newspaper in Vermont ********:

BENNINGTON -- With just more than a week until she is sentenced for disorderly conduct, Rose Marie Jackowski is finding support and a bit of local fame in being a convicted criminal.

Since a jury found her guilty on Sept. 9, Jackowski has been a guest speaker at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, been asked to take part in a documentary and been given a vote of confidence by the Green Party.

This in the wake of an 18-month legal saga that began March 20, 2003, when Jackowski was arrested for blocking traffic during a war protest at the intersection of Main and North streets.

Jackowski has a sentencing hearing scheduled for Oct. 7 in Bennington District Court. She faces up to two months in jail and a $500 fine for her crime. Deputy State's Attorney Daniel McManus, who prosecuted Jackowski, has said that he will probably ask that she be sentenced to community service.

Regardless of the sentence, Jackowski plans to appeal the conviction to the Vermont Supreme Court.

"I think an appeal is important," she said Monday, "because I think that an appeal ties up the legal end of things and also sends a message because I think it's important for the community to know that acts of conscience have a wonderful history in our country."

Stephen Saltonstall, the attorney handling Jackowski's case for free, said on Friday that he plans to file an appeal directly after sentencing. One element of the appeal will concern instructions to the jury from Judge David Suntag, Saltonstall said. There will be more to the appeal, he added, but said he would prefer to reveal his arguments in court.

Meanwhile, Jackowski is finding friends in new places. Her guest speaking slot at RPI, a Troy, N.Y. college, was "one of the most fun things I've done in a very long time. I talked about the trial, but I also talked about international law and U.S. foreign policy," she said about her two-hour chat at what she called a "right-wing school" that associates itself with the U.S. military.

"All of the students were really wonderful," she said. Jackowski, despite her quibbles with recent use of the armed forces, is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

Then there was the invite from Jay Craven, director of "Where the Rivers Flow North," to appear in a new documentary. Jackowski said she will probably have to turn that down because of a lack of free time.

Free time, that is, eaten up by writing and international correspondence. Jackowski credits Internet Web log sites like Press Action, which she writes for, with spreading the word of her trial.

She has received e-mail, she said, from as far away as Great Britain, Brazil, China and Australia. The Green Party has sent her a petition of support. A peace group in Addison County has asked her to visit as a guest speaker. "I have gotten so much support that I literally cannot believe it," she said.