Six Students Found Guilty of Telling the Truth Print
Six students stood trial from June 20 to June 22, 2001 in Washington DC for a nonviolent demonstration against the Sikorsky Corporation, manufacturer of the Black Hawk helicopter. The six students, all from Oberlin College, locked themselves around a pillar inside the Sikorsky Corporation’s conference at the National Guard Memorial Museum on April 2, 2001 to protest the $221 million profit Sikorsky is making off the "War on Drugs" in Colombia.

The six students are Jackie Downing, 21, Sarah Bania-Dobyns, 22, Kate Berrigan, 19, Rebecca Johnson, 21, Laurel Paget-Seekins, 21, and Sarah Saunders, 20. They defended themselves, arguing that they acted out of an international tradition of a nonviolent civil disobedience to raise public awareness and change policy. The students argued that they had a right and an obligation to speak the truth to the officials of the Sikorsky Corporation.

In the trial, two of the students, Sarah Saunders of Lake Orion, MI and Jackie Downing of Topsfield, MA, testified about the violence and poisoning of food crops in Colombia, both consequences of the U.S.-funded "War or Drugs" that they witnessed while visiting Colombia in January 2001.

The Sikorsky Corporation is supplying 30 Black Hawk helicopters to the Colombian military as part of Plan Colombia. In addition to accompanying fumigation planes, the helicopters are used to fly American and Colombian soldiers into direct combat. "These helicopters are not being used for peaceful purposes, as Sikorsky claims," said Kate Berrigan. "We believe that helicopters and military aid will not bring an end to the 40-year civil war or the drug trade in Colombia."

After an hour and a half of deliberations, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty. Judge Mitchell-Rankin subsequently dismissed the jury before proceeding to sentencing. The District Attorney asked the judge for a sentence of three days, insisting that the six women would clearly not comply with probation. Instead the judge sentenced them to a $75 fine.

"Although an acquittal would have been a great victory for us and for the movement, we win on either count," states Sarah Bania-Dobyns of Denver, CO. "The courtroom was filled with supporters and several major newspapers covered the trial. We raised a lot of awareness today about what the U.S. government and corporations are doing in Colombia and we will continue to do so."

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