Court penalties won’t keep peace protesters away from Bath Iron Works

Posted March 09, 2017, at 4:01 p.m.

BATH, Maine — A Bath man sentenced Wednesday to community service for a June 2016 protest outside Bath Iron Works said Thursday that he would again protest outside the shipyard during a planned christening next month.

Bruce Gagnon was among 12 anti-war protesters arrested June 18, 2016, as they sat in the middle of Washington Street, just outside BIW, to protest the christening of the stealth destroyer the future USS Michael Monsoor.

Ten of the defendants pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of a public way, arguing their actions were not unreasonable as required by the law they were accused of violating.

In February, following a two-day trial, a 12-person jury found 10 of the protesters, including Gagnon, guilty of the misdemeanor. Two had previously accepted plea agreements due to illness and travel.

While nine protesters were each sentenced that day to 30 hours of community service, Gagnon’s sentencing was rescheduled after he was unable to attend the final day of the trial.

On Wednesday, Sagadahoc County Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings also sentenced Gagnon to 30 hours of community service, according to Gagnon.

Sagadahoc County Assistant District Attorney Alexander Willette, who prosecuted the case, argued that the sentence would not deter protests at future christenings like the April 1 event for the future USS Thomas Hudner.

Defendants in February told Billings before sentencing that if he sentenced them to pay fines, they would request jail time instead.

Willette’s request that the sentence act as a deterrent was “reasonable” under other circumstances, Billings said in February, but in this case, while the jury found the defendants guilty, “the line that was crossed here was in my view on the low end and, in particular, the manner in which the law was broken within the tradition of civil disobedience.”

On Thursday, Gagnon wrote, “We appreciated the tip from the DA’s office on the date of the next blessing of the destroyer by a resurrected Jesus Christ who I suppose comes back as a militarist — and a Navy man. Most of us in the peace movement can’t quite swallow the idea of Christ giving his blessing for a $1.5 billion instrument of war but I guess this is what happens when church and state are merged the way they are today in America.”

Groups including Maine Veterans For Peace and PeaceWorks are among seven groups that will “sponsor” the April 1 protest on Washington Street, according to Gagnon.

The Hudner is the second DDG 51 built at Bath Iron Works since the U.S. Navy restarted the class after a four-year break. The future USS Daniel Inouye (DDG 118) and the future USS Carl M. Levin (DDG 120) are under construction at the shipyard, along with the final two DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers, the future USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) and the future USS President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The April 1 protest will call for “the conversion of BIW to build mass transit systems, solar, wind and tidal power to help us deal with our real problem – climate change,” Gagnon wrote.

Neither Willette nor Bath Iron Works responded to requests for comment on Thursday.

 

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