Berrigan sentenced to 30 days for Columbia protest

September 02, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Longtime peace activist Philip F. Berrigan yesterday was sentenced to 30 days in jail for a protest at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Columbia.

Howard Circuit Judge Louis Becker found Mr. Berrigan, 69, guilty of trespassing at the Feb. 24 protest. Trespassing, a misdemeanor, carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail.

The former Josephite priest from Baltimore is to begin his sentence Monday at the county Detention Center.

Michele Naar-Obed, 37, of Baltimore also was given a 30-day sentence following her trespassing conviction by Judge Becker yesterday. She is to begin her sentence on Thanksgiving.

"We understand there may be some noble intentions involved here," Judge Becker said of the activists. "Good intentions by themselves don't constitute a legal defense."

Mr. Berrigan and Ms. Naar-Obed,members of the Baltimore Emergency Response Network (BERN), were among seven activists arrested following a demonstration at laboratory's 365-acre site.

The activists spread ashes, held posters, distributed leaflets and lay face down to force employees to walk around them as they entered the facility, prosecutors say.

The demonstrators were twice asked to leave the grounds by laboratory officials, and police were called to arrest them after they refused, prosecutors say.

Mr. Berrigan and Ms. Naar-Obed told Judge Becker that the group was protesting the laboratory's research into nuclear weapons. Mr. Berrigan called the lab the "Auschwitz of Baltimore."

"It's a place where expedient ways of killing are researched," he said. "We compare it with the Nazi death camps."

BERN has conducted protests at the laboratory for several years. Mr. Berrigan was sentenced to one day in jail for a July 16, 1990, protest at the facility.

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