Charges dropped against Vermont Peace Activist
The last round of a four-year ordeal
by Daniel Borgström
April 2007, Volume 20 Number 4
BENNINGTON, VERMONT Rosemarie Jackowski is a 69-year-old grandmother, former schoolteacher and Air Force veteran who was arrested at a peace demonstration in March 2003. A year and a half later she was finally tried and convicted. She faced two months in jail and a $500 fine.
When the conviction was eventually overturned by the Vermont Supreme Court in the fall of 2006, it looked like she'd won. However, the prosecuting attorney announced plans to try her yet once again. That put her back to square one.
Quite undaunted, Rosemarie took up that next challenge. "I'm very willing and ready to go to trial again," Rosemarie told the Bennington Banner. "It will be much more easy for me this time. I will have experience at being a defendant in a criminal trial," she said.
"I don't believe that I am guilty of anything," she said. Her supposed "crime" was taking part in a peaceful demonstration that blocked traffic for 15 minutes in downtown Bennington, Vermont. Her act of resistance consisted of standing in silence while bowing her head and holding a protest sign. That was on the first day of the Shock and Awe bombing in Iraq that initiated the present war and has cost so many lives. Rosemarie had warned of the dangers. "I am most concerned about the loss of civilian life," she said at the time. She was a messenger with an unwelcome message.
There's got to be some irony in the fact that she was an Air Force veteran, opposing a war that was promoted and run mostly by people who'd avoided military service. The Commander-in-Chief himself was a military deserter. Meanwhile, many of Rosemarie's supporters were veterans. Rosemarie is an active member of Veterans for Peace.
Rosemarie's ordeal by trial dragged on for nearly four years. During that time she continued her efforts as a peace activist and advocate journalist. She spoke to groups and wrote for websites; her articles can be found at selvesandothers.org., PressAction, and many other Internet sites. She also ran for Vermont Attorney General on a third-party ticket and received 10,299 votes.
One result of all this was an ongoing series of articles in Vermont newspapers as well as letters to the editors. Her story was also written by supporters and posted on independent media sites, especially on the MickeyZ blog site. The publicity itself generated more publicity. "Meet the anti-war movement's newest folk hero," read an Associated Press article which was published in over eighty newspapers across the country and around the world last December.
It's hard to say what the verdict would've been, had her case gone to trial a second time. Rosemarie might've won an acquittal. Or, she might've gone to jail for a couple of months, but, since she was resolved to do whatever was necessary, that could hardly have silenced her and her cause. On the other hand, there might've been a hung jury. What then? Keep trying her over and over and over?
William D. Wright, the Bennington County State's Attorney, had clearly gotten himself into a no-win situation, but he insisted on going ahead with the retrial. "Stay the course" must've been his motto. Perhaps he couldn't see his mistake, but others did. A letter in the Rutland Herald read, "if it hadn't been for these trials, most of us would never have heard of Rosemarie Jackowski. So maybe in a perverse sort of way the state's attorney is doing a good service."
Meanwhile, the prosecutor's colleagues apparently felt they could find better things to spend their time on, and, when Wright retired at the end of January, the new prosecutor, seeing the perils involved in promoting more publicity for Rosemarie, immediately dropped the charges.
In an editorial titled "Good Move," the conservative Bennington Banner called the new prosecutor's decision "both expected and welcome." The newspaper was no supporter of Rosemarie; it was just extremely relieved to see the end of "what was threatening to become a long-running soap opera that essentially would waste the court's time."
Antiwar activist Rosemarie Jackowski hung in there for nearly four years, and she won. She graciously thanked her many supporters, some from as far away as China. She should also thank former prosecutor William Wright, who so unwittingly added the final chapter to her victory.
for earlier story on Rosemarie Jackowski, please see
Support the Troops; Jail a Veteran