|L to R: John Heid, Mike Miles, (Court
Clerk), John LaForge and Jane Hosking
Photo by TOM BOTTOLENE
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.-- For the second time in less than a week, a jury in Hennepin
County District Court found four weapons protesters ‘not guilty’ of
trespass at Alliant Tech Systems (ATK) in Edina, Minnesota. ATK is the largest
military contractor in the state of Minnesota, and a supplier to the U.S. military
of what many consider to be weapons of indiscriminate destruction.
John Heid, 49, Jane Hosking, 36, John LaForge, 48, and Mike Miles, 51, all of rural Luck, Wisconsin, were found not guilty of trespass Tues. Dec. 14, after the four admitted that they had, in fact, gone onto ATK’s property last July to deliver a written warning to ATK executives. The defendants argued that they had a right to meet with management to discuss ATK’s tacit admission that the company manufactures weapons that cannot distinguish between combatants and civilians, and cause long-term, irreparable damage to the environment.
The four defendants claim that various provisions in treaties to which the United States is a party, such as The Hague Regulations, Geneva Conventions, and the Nuremberg Charter, prohibit ATK from producing poisonous, indiscriminate weapons. They went on to argue that these same treaties give individuals legal rights to take reasonable actions to prevent war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity.
The Minnesota State trespass statute contains a provision that if an individual
can prove they have a “claim of right” to be on private property,
they can remain there without violating the law. In legal instructions given
to the jury, Henne-pin County Judge Jack Nordby informed them that permission
to be on the property of another can be granted by “a statute, rule,
regulation, or other law.” Judge Nordby went on to explain that this
meant “any law enacted by the federal or state government, any treaty
to which the United States is a party, or any binding rule of international
The jury was able to acquit the four defendants because they were persuaded that the defendants had not acted with criminal intent. In a similar trial, four protesters from Minneapolis were also acquitted by a jury last Friday.
ATK has been at the center of controversy for more than a decade because they manufacture land mines, cluster bombs, and “depleted” uranium munitions (DU), all weapons that blur the line between attacking military combatants and innocent civilians. “Depleted” uranium is waste uranium-238 left after uranium-235 has been separated from uranium ore for use in nuclear reactor fuel and hydrogen bombs. DU weapons -- with a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years -- are controversial around the world because of their heavy metal toxicity and their emission of alpha radiation. The 1991 Gulf War left over 340 tons of DU littering Iraq, and over 170 tons were used in the current war.
In 1997, seventy nine people were found not guilty of trespass at ATK when they claimed landmines manufactured by the company also violated international law.
The recent acquittals in Hennepin County court bring to 27, the number of consecutive “not guilty” verdicts reached by juries in similar cases. Four more trials involving over a dozen defendants are currently scheduled in Hennepin County. A campaign by ATK critics, AlliantACTION, is now in its ninth year.
" These aren't 'tank busters' like the company says, but gene busters that attack children with toxic and radioactive pollution during the war, and for eons afterwards," said defendant and Nukewatch staff member John LaForge.
“ This is definitely a chink in the armor of Alliant Tech hiding their manufacturing of weapons of indiscriminate destruction behind state statutes,” said Mike Miles, one of the recently vindicated defendants. “We are hoping to persuade corporate executives at Alliant that they must stop producing certain weapons or they may be in danger of joining employees of I.G. Farben as convicted war criminals,” said Miles. [I.G. Farben was a German company that produced the gas used in Nazi concentration camps to kill millions of civilians. Farben executives claimed they were just filling government contracts but the tribunal at Nuremberg convicted them as participants in war crimes.]