GREECE — Two Catholic anti-war activists are slated to be tried in Greece Town Court on charges related to their civil disobedience during President George W. Bush’s May 24 visit to Greece Athena High School.
Harry Murray, a Catholic Worker and professor at Nazareth College in Pittsford, is scheduled to be tried Dec. 23 on charges of resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct. Murray — who plans to represent himself in court — said he faces more than two years in prison if convicted on all three charges.
Meanwhile, Sister of Mercy Grace Miller is slated to be tried Feb. 6 on one charge of obstructing governmental administration. If convicted, she faces up to a year in prison, according to her attorney, James Gocker.
Police detained Murray and Sister Miller May 24 after the pair left and were ordered to return to an area designated for demonstrators. Carrying a sign that read, “The occupation of Iraq is a sin,” Murray knelt down in the road and refused to move. Sister Miller said she was arrested after walking across the road in which Murray had knelt.
Both Gocker and Murray have filed motions asking that charges be dismissed. Murray made his motion for dismissal “in the interests of justice” during a Sept. 13 appearance in Greece Town Court before Judge Gino M. Nitti, who said he would consider the motion, but nonetheless slated the trial date.
In his motion, a copy of which he provided to the Catholic Courier, Murray wrote that he wanted to enlarge “the zone of free speech in America” when he left the designated area and crossed the road May 24. “I carried the sign because I firmly believe that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was an unjust war according to the criteria laid down by the Roman Catholic Church and the majority of Christian churches,” his motion continued.
Sister Miller appeared before Judge Nitti Sept. 20 on charges of obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct. However, during the court proceedings, Loretta Courtney, assistant district attorney for Monroe County, said one of two sections of the disorderly conduct charge had been dropped. Judge Nitti, meanwhile, dismissed the balance of the charge.
The judge said that he would consider Gocker’s motion to dismiss the remaining charge against Sister Miller — that of obstructing governmental administration — but nevertheless set a trial date as he had done in Murray’s case.
Gocker said his motion asserts that although Sister Miller allegedly entered a secure area, she did not interfere with police activity, so her action would not constitute obstruction of governmental administration. He said he was also seeking dismissal in the interest of justice.
“Sister Miller didn’t harm anyone, there was no property damage and she has done good works in the community,” Gocker said.
Sister Miller, who operates the Rochester outreach ministry House of Mercy, said she protested the president’s appearance here because of the war in Iraq and because she feel’s Bush’s policies cripple the poor.
War, she said “is not God’s way.”
She said she will accept the consequences of her actions if she is convicted, but that she felt it was necessary for her to act.
“It was the only way we were going to get the president’s attention, to get the public’s attention,” she said.