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 CNS Story:

OMAHA-ARRESTS Oct-10-2008 (530 words) xxxn

Eight with Catholic Worker ties arrested at strategic space meeting

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For longtime peace activist Peg Gallagher, "dying" Oct. 8 at an international gathering of space and defense professionals in her hometown of Omaha, Neb., was no big deal.

Gallagher said her participation in a "die-in" to protest the militarization of space during the Strategic Space and Defense 2008 conference at Omaha's Qwest Center was her way of witnessing her Catholic faith.

"I think we should all be there making a fuss about what we're allowing our country to do," Gallagher, 89, a member of St. Cecilia Cathedral Parish, told Catholic News Service Oct. 10. "We claim to be Christians. What kind of Catholics are we?"

"I feel I have to protest for my own character, my own being honest and true to my religion," she said.

Gallagher was one of eight people with ties to Midwest Catholic Worker houses arrested during the protest.

She and the others laid down on a plaza outside the convention center and then took their message inside the center, which was hosting one of the country's largest annual gatherings of defense contractors and military personnel focusing on space weapons and worldwide strategic communications.

The small demonstration -- 20 people were present -- was one of several across the country during the nationwide observance of Keep Space for Peace Week organized by activists seeking an end to the militarization of space.

Gallagher and three other Omahans were cited and released shortly after their arrest. The others were Jerry Ebner, 58, Mark Kenney, 51, and Kathy J. Patterson, 54, all part of the Omaha Catholic Worker. They are scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 12 in the 4th Judicial District Court of Nebraska in Douglas County.

Gallagher and Ebner were arrested during a similar protest in 2007.

Other Catholic Workers charged and being held in a Douglas County jail were Frank Cordaro, 57, a former Catholic priest, of Des Moines, Iowa; Steve Jacobs, 53, of Columbia, Mo.; and Gregory Boertje, 53, and Michael Walli, 60, both of Duluth, Minn. Because they are not from Omaha, they were held overnight for arraignment.

Cordaro and Jacobs pleaded no contest. Cordaro was sentenced to four days in jail while Jacobs received a three-day sentence. Boertje and Walli entered not guilty pleas and were being held pending a bond hearing.

In statement read by Jacobs, the group said their action recalled the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s admonition that " a nation which spends more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

"We are here to expose the lie of legitimacy given by the city of Omaha and the Qwest Convention Center to the 2008 Strategic Space and Defense conference and we name this an unholy alliance which can only end in global death and destruction," the statement said.

The participants said they "refuse to surrender the land, sea, air and the heavens above to those who have given their allegiance to the gods of war and greed." They also urged the city to discontinue its sponsorship of the convention in the future.

Conference sponsors were unavailable for comment.


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