A New York grandmother was sentenced to a year in jail for violating a protection order filed by an Air National Guard commander against anti-war protesters.
Mary Anne Grady-Flores violated the protection order filed by Col. Earl Evans, prosecutors said, when she stepped on the grounds of Hancock Air Base to photograph a peaceful protest against the use of drones.
The judge imposed the maximum sentence July 10 for criminal contempt of court because the 58-year-old Grady-Flores had failed to pay fines and surcharges imposed by the court in a prior case.
Grady-Flores and 11 other members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars were sentenced in February to 15 days in jail after they were found guilty of disorderly conduct in connection with an October 2012 protest outside the upstate base.
After that protest, Evans — the mission support group commander at the 174th Attack Wing of the New York Air National Guard — was granted an order of protection against Grady-Flores and other protesters that was valid for one year.
But the protesters – many of whom are elderly — aren’t sure what they did to be considered a threat to Evans, a man none of them had ever knowingly met.
“A lot of us were saying, ‘If he walked up to me in the street, I wouldn’t even know the man,’” said 64-year-old protester James Ricks.
An Onondaga County judge overturned the order of protection in the case of 73-year-old Daniel Finlay, ruling that the order was vague and violated habeas corpus, but the protection order stood against Grady-Flores when she was arrested again in February 2013.
Grady-Flores – the daughter of “Camden 28″ Vietnam War protester John Grady — knew she was under court order to stay off base property, so she stood on a nearby roadway to photograph about 20 activists at the Ash Wednesday protest.
Her sister admits Grady-Flores briefly stepped onto a driveway on base property so another protester could show her how to take photos with an iPhone.
“Yes, there is a moment where Mary Anne puts her foot over to say something, but she’s not there for minutes and minutes,” Ellen Grady said. “She was in the roadway where she thought it would be OK to be.”
But police arrested Grady-Flores and charged her with disorderly conduct for blocking the roadway.
Nine other demonstrators, including Grady-Flores’ sister, were also arrested at the protest.
Three of those protesters had their charges dropped on a technicality, and the other five – including Ellen Grady – were acquitted in October.
Grady-Flores plans to appeal her sentence, and she’s challenging the protection order issued by DeWitt Town Court on behalf of the base colonel.
“Such [protection] orders had been established to prevent domestic violence and victim abuse, but are now being used to quell dissent,” supporters of Grady-Flores said in a statement.
“We will continue challenging such orders for their blatant abuse of the First Amendment, for shutting down free speech and citizens’ right to protest government misdeeds, and for their inappropriate application of New York State law,” the statement added.
The night before her sentencing, Grady-Flores said she felt calm and believed jail would be “a really good retreat” for her.
“I am going to be fine in jail,” Grady-Flores said. “I’m going to find wonderful community in there, people of faith. I’m going to be with the poor, and that’s where Christ asks us to be, and so with 2 million people that are in prison in the United States, and with that number growing, I will be in solidarity with them.”
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