Letter to US Magistrate DiBianco regarding NonViolent Action, April 2004

34 Franklin St.
Lyons, NY 14489
April 10, 2004

Honorable Gustav J. DiBianco
US Magistrate Judge
RE: United States v. Murtari
P.O. Box 7396
Syracuse, NY 13261-7396

Dear Judge DiBianco:

I am scheduled to appear in your court at 2pm on Thursday. I believe Mr. Southwick will be present and we will be able to move forwards. I was thankful to be arraigned by another Judge last Wednesday. Although that was the last planned activity on my part I had told my mother and the guys at work that I wouldn’t be coming back that night. I stopped because I am also pressed by a desire to have a peaceful summer together with my son and mother.

I write because I sensed growing frustration and anger on your part which I feel is unfounded. The tension of the recent weeks has caused me to do some soul searching. I hope all of us can try to find another path to resolution. I am not a criminal, but I find myself in the criminal justice system?

You know criminals. People who commit acts whose goal is to selfishly benefit themselves or to harm others. The punishments of our criminal system are meant to remind these people of the consequences of their actions and to bring change of heart. They want to avoid punishment and the system “works.” I am not a criminal.

As someone involved in NonViolent Action (and in a very small way trying to follow the example set by Gandhi and Martin Luther King), I am demonstrating my willingness to sacrifice to convert the attitudes of the good people who surround me. I know you find it hard to understand this struggle for the rights of parents to nurture their own children (I did before it happened to me). Fifty years ago GOOD people found it hard to understand why black people wanted to sit in the front of the bus. Why did they want to drink out of the same water fountain as a white person? It had gone on for so many years. I wish we could find ourselves in a Southern Courtroom in Mississippi.

Certainly Judge DiBianco and Mr. Southwick, you must have at times imagined yourselves back then. Called upon to prosecute and to judge a black man who violates a local ordinance (for the fifth time!) and continues to try and sit in the front of the bus (without anger or malice towards anyone). What type of response is required and who is “responsible?” I have imagined myself back then and I would not have had that much courage. The risk of jail would hurt, but the black man and his family would have also faced a visit from the Klan; the potential destruction of their home around them. One has to admire the faith they had to persevere!

The man is not a criminal. He accepts the risk of punishment as part of a willingness to sacrifice and help those around him better see the indignity he is subject to. If we seek to “blame” him I believe we must also find he is not responsible alone for those actions. Indeed, all the members of the community also share in this responsibility by being asleep to the great injustice that was being done. In some sense they all share the burden of the pain he will be forced to endure? Without going into theology, this example helped me to understand part of the Passion of Jesus of Nazareth – forced to the cross because of our collective inability to love others as we should. He bore the punishment for our indifference.

Judge, please understand I have no illusions of grandeur! I am content if no one ever notices my activity. We remember King and Gandhi, but there were thousands of others who died in those causes and history has forgotten their names. That is fine with me, because like those many others, I do know my Son, Domenic, will remember what his father did because of his love for him.

You show great concern over the time Federal Police require to respond to my actions. I’m sure I’m the least of their worries. I do not claim any absolute right, when they have told me they are busy – I have willingly left the building. If I was under arrest and a real emergency occurred, common sense lets them know this guy isn’t any trouble. I share your concern for the police that have to respond to domestic violence situations, of the tragic killings that occur. People in pain will do hopeless acts. I know by the letters I get in jail and email that this effort has touched people hearts and hopefully changed their actions. A mother called me after my last jail sentence and told me her son had committed suicide from despair after a family Court proceeding. That he felt helpless to see the children he loved. If there is even ONE less police call out there – I’m sure it would justify hundreds of these minor arrests.

I hope you can perceive a difference between my effort to petition Senator Clinton, a good person – and the efforts of “protesters” you have seen in your Court before? I hope that between you and the US Attorney’s office we can reach some ‘stay’ to these proceedings. You know I try to be honest with you and always take the witness stand. I am not a criminal. Part of the reason we are here is that I have been found “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” when no such proof was presented. The conduct of GSA and the Government in pursuing this over the past years has been almost fantastic. We drop charges, we allow him to continue, we arrest him, we allow him to continue. I believe justice calls for a stay in the proceedings and in the arrests.

My efforts to petition Senator Clinton will hopefully stop when we are able to arrange a meeting between her and parents and not before. Increasing jail sentences or additional orders should not modify my behavior. I am not a criminal. How can it be otherwise? I do not need a change of heart.

I must also apologize for my failure in leadership and planning. If I could get more people involved we would certainly get a meeting with Senator Clinton and this would not be happening. I regret that deeply and it is my responsibility. I am trying the best I can. As always, I and my family appreciate the kindness and forbearance you and Mr. Southwick have extended in this difficult situation.

Respectfully yours,

John Murtari 635-1968, x-211 http://www.AKidsRight.Org/