Statement for Federal Court - Philadelphia, PA
Katie Roberts
14 April 2004

I am guilty of blocking the entrance to the Federal building last year on March 20th. I am not used to such radical counter-cultural acts, this is my first time to commit civil disobedience. I am an educated, well-raised, middle class, “all American” white woman- what would make me do something so seemingly ridiculous, rebellious, and embarrassing in the eyes of onlookers?

I acted, admittedly selfishly, because it was the only way I could remain true to my relationship with my God, my patients, and my neighbors. My commitment to follow God would fall apart if I did not do something to disagree with the tremendous evil that was about to happen in my name as the US went to an unjustified war in Iraq. The alternative was to do what I see most of those around me doing, to continue in their comfortable lives and pretend it’s not happening, for fear their comfort may be taken. The values of our country promote a secluded, suburban lifestyle that takes us from home, to work, to stores, and then home again, all without seeing any sign of pain or poverty.

Our comfortable lifestyles, narrow view and lack of understanding of the reality of the lives of people around the world who suffer and live in abject poverty lead us to live in a trance that we don't realize. We nod hypnotically in agreement with the lie we are told by the government is the truth: We have to attack Iraq, it is for our safety, our national security. Through the mercy of God, I have been kept from living in this trance. I have the privilege of living with the poor in the Kensington section of Philadelphia; the people who are most deeply affected by the policies of this Government.

I share a home with families from war torn countries that have come to find refuge in ours. I also volunteer as a Physician Assistant in a free clinic there for homeless and uninsured patients. I remember a few nights before the war started last year, listening to one of the woman I live with share her terror that America, her place of peace, was instigating a war. She is a woman all too familar with war. Half of her family, including her parents have died from the violence in her country which led her to live a life of fleeing, and kidnaps for 7 years until she came her. In the first days of their life here, I would wake to her young daughter’s screams in the night because of her recurring nightmares of the torture she experienced in her own country.

I could not both love them deeply, and not act in some way to oppose the war. What else could I do in this so called “democracy” to voice my opposition? So, I sat ridiculously on the pavement, in the rain, and prayed with all my heart that the violence would end. I don’t think my aspirations are anything great, only normal, what anyone would do if they saw a little of the world’s pains and the effects of war. I challenge everyone of you to share a meal with a sick man from Kensington who has no healthcare and see how your cereal settles as you read the statistics of military spending in the morning news. I can’t truly care for my poor patients and watch billions of dollars be taken from life and wasted on destruction and death that is leading to this viscous cycle of more death and destruction.

In my opinion, two things are allowing our country to be led so foolishly, our lack of seeing, touching, and knowing the majority of the world that is poor and in pain and our obsessive fear of our safety that keeps us from looking. My reason for committing this civil disobedience is not profound, nor do I think my action of blocking a door to be heroic or a great help to those Iraqis who were simultaneously being bombed. But I know that it allowed my heart and mind to genuinely continue to love God, my friends, and patients.

Although unable to serve the time in prison, it ruins me to think that I am giving more money to a government that spends disproportionate amounts on military spending. For this, I commit to also giving 250 dollars to aid for families in Iraq.