5 Peace Activists Arraigned in Dover following Gaza War Sit-In

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The Mother's Day 5 before arraignment Monday in Dover District Court.

Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert spent decades as a community organizer/educator in NH movements for social justice and peace.  Officially retired since 2020, he keeps his hands (and feet) in the activist world while writing about past and present social movements.

By Arnie Alpert, Active with the Activists

DOVER—Five New Hampshire peace activists arrested a month ago at the Dover office of Congressman Chris Pappas pleaded not guilty to criminal trespass charges Monday morning at Dover District Court and were scheduled for a trial on Oct. 29.

The peaceful sit-in followed several months of regular vigils outside the Congressman’s office by constituents pleading for him to support an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, an end to U.S. military support for Israel’s attacks in Gaza, the provision of humanitarian aid, and for the congressman to break ties with the powerful pro-Israel lobby.  

“Despite the dozens of times we have contacted Representative Pappas, he has not provided a response to our concerns about both international and our own national laws being violated by our country providing military aid to be used in mass casualties of civilians,” said Em Friedrichs of Durham, one of the five defendants.

“As citizens, it’s our duty to influence our representatives,” added Amy Antonucci of Barrington.  “And it’s our representatives’ duty to take our concerns seriously. The New Hampshire Coalition for Peace with Justice in the Middle East has been visiting the office of Chris Pappas since October.  We’re now up to 15 times and we have yet to receive a meaningful response from him.”

“We are pro-human rights, pro-democracy. And we are pro-equality and non-violence. And we are anti- war-crimes,” said Janet Zeller, a Concord resident who chairs the NH United Church of Christ Peace with Justice Advocates. “Our call is for the immediate and permanent end to the US-funded Israeli assaults on the civilians in Gaza.”

“We are committed to using the court system to call for justice in the face of crimes against humanity and violations of human rights,” Friedrichs said before the hearing.  “If we can’t do it there, then where can we?”

The others expecting to stand trial are the Rev. David Grishaw-Jones of Portsmouth and Janet Simmon of Laconia.

The “Mother’s Day Five,” as they call themselves because of their arrest on Mother’s Day weekend, were joined by nearly 50 supporters who held a short prayer vigil outside the courthouse prior to the hearing and joined the defendants in the courtroom. 

Prior to the hearing, each of them met with a prosecutor who went over their plans to plead not guilty and the likely bail conditions.  All five refused the prosecutor’s offer to have them plead guilty and pay a fine of $310. 

“We’re going to do five of these in a row,” said Judge Bradley Lown, “so it might get a little tedious. But this is an arraignment.  It’s a chance for me to explain the charges against you.”  For each defendant, he asked if they understood the ramifications of pleading not guilty and went over the bail conditions, including a prohibition on entering the Congressman’s office on Central Street. 

After each defendant affirmed that they understood, a court officer presented them with a document listing their bail conditions and the trial date and time.

Following the hearing, each of the five defendants gave a short statement outside the courthouse.  “I was born before World War Two,” said Simmon.  “Since then there have been multiple cases of mass destruction of people and cultures.  Each time in the aftermath there is a hue and cry of ‘It would not have happened if more people had stood up in opposition.’  We are calling on the world to stop this devastation and starvation.”

“We were arrested for insisting that the Congressman answer our concern that he and his colleagues are flaunting and breaking international law in arming Israel against the Palestinian people in Gaza and perpetuating occupation and apartheid,” said the Rev. Grishaw-Jones.  “We’ll keep pushing on to make that case, that we can do better as a country.”

The next vigil at the Congressman’s office will be Wednesday, June 19.  The Mother’s Day Five would face jail if they go inside, but as the prosecutor Chelsea Driscoll said, “Outside is fine.”  

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