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NDSP arrests, cites ROTC protesters

Marcela Berrios | Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Notre Dame Security/Police (NDSP) officers arrested a man and handed arrest citations and trespass notices to 12 of his companions Monday after the group – which included approximately 20 members of the Catholic Worker movement from different Midwestern cities – organized an unauthorized demonstration outside the Main Building, protesting the presence of the armed forces in the Catholic University.

Associate Vice President for News and Information Don Wycliff said George Artiaga, a Catholic Worker from St. Louis, was arrested for disorderly conduct, while nine of his fellow campaigners received arrest citations and 3 more were given trespass notices.

Earlier Monday, the group sent University President Father John Jenkins a letter urging him to discontinue Notre Dame’s support of ROTC programs on campus, as these condone and advance warfare, the letter said.

Father Jim Murphy from the diocese of Madison, Wis., read the letter aloud before NDSP officers escorted him away.

“ROTC institutionalizes the scientific study and practice of warfare,” Murphy said. “ROTC glorifies war … and good Christians follow only the Prince of Peace.”

Wycliff said Monday he had not spoken to Jenkins about the letter and could not comment on Jenkins’ reaction to it.

Before their demonstration at Notre Dame, Murphy and a group of Catholic Workers spent the weekend in South Bend convening for a conference and a retreat. On Sunday, the group decided to stage at Notre Dame a re-enactment of the trial of St. Marcellus, a Roman centurion who refused to take up arms in 298 A.D. after he converted to Christianity, Murphy said.

Since many of the retreat participants were only in South Bend for the weekend retreat, the group did not have the luxury of time when it planned Monday’s demonstration, said Larry O’Toole, a Catholic Worker from Marseilles, Ill., and a 1984 Notre Dame graduate.

“It was a timeframe thing,” O’Toole said in a telephone interview Monday. “By the time we decided what we wanted to do, it was late Sunday evening and we didn’t have enough time to get the University’s permission to do the re-enactment before all the conference participants had to leave town.”

Senior Casey Stanton, one of the conference participants, said the group did not request a permit from the University to stage the re-enactment because the Catholic Workers are not a part of “Notre Dame’s bureaucratic processes.”

The University, however, reserves the right to restrict to members of the Notre Dame community the use of the University grounds for demonstrations, Wycliff said.

Outside groups, he said, can organize rallies on campus “only by invitation” – something Monday’s demonstrators did not have.

Instead, the Catholic Workers proceeded to re-enact the trial, read the letter and hand out flyers that said Notre Dame’s support of ROTC programs “reverses the message of Jesus to love our enemies” without authorization from the University.

“As Midwest Catholic Workers, we call on Notre Dame to stop sponsoring ROTC,” the handout said. “Students shouldn’t have to compromise the Catholic value of nonviolence in order to fund their education.”

The Army ROTC Battalion declined to comment Monday.

The demonstrators also hung flags and banners from the Pasquerilla Center and the Clarke Memorial Fountain, a monument in memory of Notre Dame graduates who gave their lives in World War II. The banners were shortly taken down by NDSP officers.

Joe Mueller, a Catholic Worker from Cleveland, said he received a trespass notice from NDSP after he hung from the Clarke Fountain a banner that said “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Mueller said the demonstration was intended to call Notre Dame back to its commitment toward the rejection of warfare in the tradition of Marcellus. But he and fellow demonstrator Father Ben Jimenez from Cleveland said they expected the University’s reaction.

“If you cross the warmakers, they will immediately try to stop you – but it saddens us because in this case it’s Notre Dame we’re talking about,” Jimenez said. “It saddens us to see one of the most preeminent Catholic institutions in the country silence like this the true Gospel of Christ.”

Freshman Alicia Quiros said she was also saddened by the University’s handling of the situation.

“I was really disappointed because Notre Dame claims to be a socially conscious Catholic institution, but by not allowing people to express their opinions on such a dividing issue it is ignoring its stated mission,” Quiros said.

Other members of the Notre Dame community, such as 1966 graduate Fred Nelson, thought the administration and NDSP reacted correctly.

As someone who lost his father to World War II, Nelson said he has stood against the war in Iraq since the day it began four years ago – but he didn’t sanction the Catholic Workers’ behavior Monday.

He said the group’s intention to march up the stairs of the Main Building and into Jenkins’ office was disrespectful. The group, Nelson said, should have instead approached the Center for Social Concerns if it wanted to organize a movement against the ROTC presence at Notre Dame or the war in Iraq.

The demonstrators intended to take two black coffins to Jenkins’ office as symbols of the blood splattered in Iraq. One casket was covered with an American flag and the other one with an Iraqi flag.

The Catholic Workers were also holding signs reading “Who would Jesus bomb?” and “Christians cannot love their enemies and kill them too.” NDSP officers carried away both.

Nelson, who was on campus for an MBA leadership conference when he caught sight of the demonstration, said he disagreed with the group’s position against ROTC programs at Notre Dame.

“ROTC has been a part of this University for a very long time and I wouldn’t want Notre Dame to discontinue that relationship,” Nelson said. “Why wouldn’t I want the people who serve in the military to have Notre Dame’s Catholic values and education? That’s exactly the kind of people you should want to see in the military.”

Stanton said the demonstration should not be interpreted as a campaign against ROTC students, but rather the University’s endorsement of the armed forces, and consequently, the armed courses of action.

“The protest was not meant to be a personal attack against ROTC students but rather a call to question the larger relationship between Notre Dame and the military,” Stanton said. “This should wake us up to the implications of training our students militarily and how that relates to our University’s Catholic character.”

Stanton and Quiros said the demonstration was neither a right- nor a left-wing movement but rather a reminder of the Gospel’s choice of peace and nonviolence over warfare.

The Catholic Worker movement began in 1933 with Dorothy Day, who urged followers to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ, including nonviolence, hospitality towards strangers and voluntary poverty, the movement’s Web site said.