Pre-sentencing statement

Pre-Sentencing Statement of Steve Clemens for the “Other RNC 8” Trial. Sept. 17, 2009

I stand convicted of a crime. Everyone here knows that this case was not about simple trespass. There would have been not arrest had this not been about war, torture, and other gross violations of human and civil rights.

Our real crime is in challenging the dying empire, pointing out that the “emperor has no clothes”. I have chosen to say “No!” with my body and spirit - to all the war-making, the domineering swagger of greed, the priorities so out of whack that we spend $50 million on “security” for the RNC - to protect what Dorothy Day has called “this filthy, rotten system.”

I do not pride myself as a lawbreaker but rather one who has chosen to understand that there is a hierarchy of laws –some are clearly more important than others and must be given more weight and consideration.

The Court tells us it is the arbitrator of the law. It decides what can be spoken or not. Ultimately, for me, our laws should be contracts among ourselves, to allow for the human spirit to flourish rather than to squelch conscience and creativity.

I stand before you today as a naive optimist. I always come to trial with the hope that we might turn away from a course of domineering and instead look for a course of mutuality and compassion. Much of our society is caught up in fear. I choose to act in hope –hoping that we can choose a new way.

When I did the crime, I was willing to “do the time”. I still am. I ask you to sentence me to jail for my act of resistance to war. To pay a fine is a tax on my conscience. I’ve done my “community service” by raising my voice and nonviolently acted to stop war and torture. If you feel the need to hide behind an insignificant law when a crime that is described as “the supreme war crime” continues to be committed, then please send me to join those others who have been marginalized by this system.

Martin Luther King reminded us one year before his martyrdom,
“Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours. “ …

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

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