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Home About Us Prisoners of Conscience Court Statements Rachel Montgomery
Rachel Montgomery PDF Print E-mail
I was priviledged to be raised in a home where my parents taught me about
the democratic process. In fact, while I was in high school, my dad -who
is here with me today- worked for U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, and I had the
opportunity to be exposed to the democratic process in a way that many
never get a chance to experience. My parents taught me about the
democratic process, but they also taught me that even within a democratic
system, sometimes it becomes necessary to stand up for what you know is
right, even if that means you need to dissent. Despite what you may
believe about me and my co-defendants, I believe that by dissenting and
making our voices heard, we are participating in a truly American tradition
which has been a part of our history since its inception. As my friend and
hero, Charlie Liteky has said, there can be no democracy without dissent.

In your position as U.S. Magistrate overseeing these and past SOA trials, I
feel you are only adding your name to the long list of people who continue
over and over again to disappear the poor, the marginalized, the
indigenous, the people of Latin America, and the hundreds of thousands of
victims of the SOA/WHISC, dead or alive, past, present and future. But this
issue is much bigger than you and me, and the struggle for justice and
freedom will continue long after you and I face each other in this
courtroom. You may wish to continue to punish us with sentences which go
far beyond any so-called crime we may have committed. You may wish to pick
apart our arguments against the SOA. You may wish to patronize us for our
convictions. You may wish to "teach us a lesson". But please know that by
doing all of these things, you only make us stronger and draw more
attention to the injustice not only in Latin America, but in the so-called
justice system of the United States of America.

And I would also like to remind you that we are not alone. Each of us who
has appeared before you has communities back home- whether large or small-
who would be here standing by our sides if they were able. And we are not
alone in history. Our country has a long and rich history of nonviolent
action. With that, I would like to share a quote from Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. that I feel is still relevant to this time in our country. This
is part of a speech from the Vietnam War years, but you may easily apply it
to the events in Latin America, Afghanistan, Iraq. In this quote, he is
listing his reasons for opposing the War in Vietnam.

"My third reason grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North
over the last three years-especially the last three summers. As I have
walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them
that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have
tried to offer them my deepest compassion while I was maintaining my
conviction that social change
comes most meaningfullly through nonviolent action. But, they asked, what
about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of
violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted.
Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my
voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettoes without having
first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world
today- my own government."

You have asked several of my co-defendants whether they thought the U.S.
was the cause of all the violence in Latin America, and you have asked why
we don't focus on Latin American militaries. My answer to that is that as
a U.S. citizen, I feel it is not within my power, nor is it my place to
effect change in another country's government. As a concerned U.S.
citizen, it IS within my power, and it is my DUTY to effect change in my
own government and hold my government accountable for what it does. Though
you won't allow it in our case, international law is the supreme law of the
land, just like any other law created by legislation. I feel I would most
likely be acquitted - as well as my co-defendants- if I were able to use
international law as a defense, because under international law, a citizen
has a right to attempt to stop their government from committing crimes
against humanity, even if that entails breaking a domestic law, and the
harm being committed by the government is
greater than the so-called harm of breaking a domestic law.

In closing, I would like to say two things. First of all, I would like to
thank you for helping us to get the word out about the injustice of the SOA
and our government's actions. Thank you for helping our movement grow.
Thank you for giving us this suffering which will only serve to strengthen

The last thing I'd like to share today is a reading from the Tao Te Ching.
In it, I have substituted the word nonviolence for Tao,

"When a country obtains great power,
it becomes like the sea;
all streams run downward into it.
the more powerful it grows,
the greater the need for humility.
Humility means trusting nonviolence
thus never needing to be defensive.

A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy
as the shadow that he himself casts.

If a nation is centered in nonviolence,
if it nourishes its own people
and doesn't meddle in the affairs of others,
it will be a light to all nations in the world."


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