FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Chris Ney 212/228-0450
August 9, 2000
Pacifists Admit Conspiracy, Accuse Philadelphia Police of Same
The War Resisters League today released the following statement about the recent protests and arrests in Philadelphia:
In the wake of the protests at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia last week, that city's police chief, John Timoney, has called for a federal investigation into what he has called a nationwide conspiracy. Since the great bulk of the protests consisted of nonviolent civil disobedience, we can only assume he refers to a conspiracy to commit such acts.
If there is such a conspiracy, the War Resisters League is part of it. We have been involved in such "conspiracies" for more than 75 years, organizing for—and training people for—nonviolent civil disobedience campaigns against, in the words of our pledge, "war and the causes of war." We are part of the long and honorable tradition of Gandhian nonviolence that, as adopted in the U.S. South by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others, helped end the shame of legal apartheid in this country. And we organized for, and trained people to participate in, the newest wave of such protests, the ones that happened in Seattle late last fall, in Washington this past spring—and in Philadelphia the week before last. In the last year, we have also offered nonviolence training for protesters opposed to the bombing of Vieques and those opposed to the sanctions and military actions against Iraq.
There need be no investigation. We admit it: We conspired to bring nonviolent civil disobedience to Philadelphia. Prosecute us, Chief Timoney.
In fact, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is prosecuting some of us. War Resisters League members are among the more 300 demonstrators who at this writing still sit in Philadelphia's jails, held there by unprecedentedly high bail: ,000 for those charged with misdemeanors (or even conspiracy to commit misdemeanors), up to ,000,000 for those charged as top organizers of the protests. Excessive bail is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but it is not the only civil liberties violations going on in Philadelphia. We are also particularly concerned about the reports of brutal police tactics, reports of abuse ranging from sleep deprivation to denial of food and water and bathroom access to denial of medication to beatings. Finally, the City of Brotherly Love used police powers to stop protests before they happened—besieging and then raiding a puppet-making space and arresting 75 people on charges of obstructing traffic while they were still indoors.
Indeed, the constitutional violations were so widespread and egregious as to raise the question: Did the Philadelphia police actually conspire to suppress the protests altogether, depriving thousands of protesters—and tens of thousands of their people across the nation for whom the protesters were speaking—of their most basic right to dissent?
How about it, Chief Timoney? We've confessed; will you? Or must we—as some human rights groups have urged—call for an independent investigation into Philadelphia's police practices?