Local war protester lands in Federal Court Friday
Phil Runkel will be a long way from his Waukesha home when he walks into a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Va., Friday to be tried for failing to obey a lawful order.
But he realizes he will not be as far away as the conflict in Iraq that he opposes.
In an interview with WisPolitics, Runkel said he could face a maximum of six months in jail and a fine of $5,000 for his war protest last March. But he believes he needed to make a statement.
Runkel, 59, who works at Marquette University, was one of about 51 war protesters who were arrested outside the Pentagon, out of a group of about 200, he said. They were seeking a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
They carried with them a coffin, marking all those who had been killed or wounded in the battles so far. Also among the group was Cindy Sheehan, who became known nationally for her anti-war protests outside President George W. Bush's vacation retreat in Crawford, Texas. Other state residents were also involved. All will be tried.
The group violated the law when they went over a temporary fence that had been placed there to stop such protests.
Runkel understands it will be difficult to refute the charges. But he hopes the consequences will not be too severe. "In similar situations, some people have been let off on a technicality," said Runkel, who added he does not want to escape punishment in that way.
He mainly hopes for a brief opportunity to explain to the court why he was there and what he hoped to accomplish. "Compared with what some people have undergone, this is not too much," Runkel said of his possible punishment. But he admitted to having received several hate letters.
Runkel said he became active in similar protests during the 1980s in protest of American activity in Central America. Yet even though he is old enough, he was not a protestor during the Vietnam War while a graduate student at Carroll College in Waukesha.
Runkel has also participated in the past in the weekly public protests against the war on Sundays in Waukesha's downtown Cutler Park. "I think that next month there will be a lot more protests everywhere to mark the anniversary of the war," Runkel offered.
Boatlauch said: Why couldn't the protestors just follow the rules and stay on their side of the fence? But nooooo...they have to go and cause a bunch of hoopla and then wonder why they got arrested. Ah- duh! RSW: One party? I wish. As fas as I am concerned the Republicans haven't done enough since they have been in office. They are Republicans, but certainly not conservative enough. Oh how I long for the Ronald Reagan days.
rsw said: It seems that we are leaning more and more to a one party government where that one party seems to be able to make the laws and enforce them with out question from its constituents. What really were these protesters arrested for? walking over a "temporary fence" and protesting near the Pentagon? Were they throwing stuff at the Pentagon? Were they impeding employees from performing their duties? Were they interupting the flow of commerce? 6 months and a $5,000 fine? PUHLEEZ! They were arrested for voicing any sort of dissent what-so-ever to the ruling party policies. If they were holding a rally in favor of the war in the exact same spot they would have been hailed as great patriots in a breaking news update on Fox news channel. On second thought,I disagree with everything I have just said. Big Brother maybe reading this.
Jon D. said: If we only had more informed voters, then protesters would not be needed. I'm not sure what was accomplished by this stunt. 2008 will roll around, the Republicans will still vote Republican, the Democrats will still vote Democrat. A republican president will be elected because that is how the states shake out between red and blue. The code to winning has been cracked. Sorry Dems.
Harold said: I wonder how embarrassed we are all going to be (the American electorate) in 10 yrs for electing this clown. The rest of the world already has second hand embarrassment for us....
Lazy said: Thank goodness for protestors - without them none of us would be here. Who do you think started this country????
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