Eleven protesters who knelt and prayed around a Ten Commandments monument in Idaho were convicted yesterday of obstructing and delaying the police in the removal of the item from a public park.
The Christian demonstrators were arrested March 29 as they prayed at the monument, which was donated to the city of Boise in 1965.
Dennis Mansfield, one of the 11 co-defendants called the conviction “heart-breaking,” according to a statement.
“I have truly seen foolishness up-front and very personal,” he said. “I have seen a judge and a jury find 11 Americans guilty of protesting the government-sponsored erosion of our history as Americans and our liberties as citizens – in Idaho of all places.”
Continued Mansfield: “Do not let anyone tell you that we are not in the fight of our lives, as believers in the U.S. We are. I was just convicted today in state court of following my beliefs and my faith. It is unbelievable. …”
According to NewsChannel 7 in Boise, none of the protesters have received jail time or fines. Eight were sentenced to 25 hours of community service, while the other three will be sentenced next month at their own request.
In all, 13 people were arrested for blocking the removal, but two pleaded guilty before trial.
The prosecutor in the case said the defendants were not charged because they were protesting.
“They were prosecuted for not following the lawful commands of the police department and the police officers that day – not protesting,” prosecuting attorney Steve Rutherford told the TV station.
Defense attorney Scott Summer, on the other hand, claims it is the city of Boise that committed a crime by ordering the monument’s removal, “and they are punishing these people for standing up against them committing that crime,” he said.