Northampton’s Paki Wieland to begin trial for Senate panel arrest

  • Northampton activist Patricia “Paki” Wieland points and shouts at members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 1, 2017, in Washington D.C., after the committee voted along party lines to advance Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination to be the next U.S. attorney general to the full Senate. Wieland was arrested by Capitol Police and released.  —Photo courtesy of Crystal Zevon

  • Northampton activists Patricia “Paki” Wieland is escorted out of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing by Capitol Police Feb. 1, 2017.  —Photo courtesy of Crystal Zevon

@ecutts_HG
Published: 9/6/2017 7:44:03 PM

A Northampton social activist charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly disrupting a U.S. Senate hearing earlier this year will go to trial Thursday morning in the nation’s capital.

Patricia “Paki” Wieland was arrested Feb. 1 at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in which legislators sent the name of then Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to the full Senate as their nominee for U.S. attorney general. She was charged with disorderly and disruptive conduct on U.S. Capitol grounds.

Now, months after her arrest, Wieland will make her case before a judge as part of a bench trial.

Wieland said she chose not to bring her case before a jury after watching the case of fellow Code Pink member Desiree Fairooz.

Fairooz was found guilty in May on charges of parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds and disorderly conduct for laughing in a confirmation hearing for Sessions. She has appealed the convictions and a new trial is scheduled for November after Fairooz and her attorney, Samuel Bogash, rejected a plea deal earlier this month.

“The issue is not so much whether to have a jury or a judge but to really expose the use of one’s First Amendment right and how that is challenged when people are speaking out and are arrested and charged,” Wieland said Wednesday by phone from D.C.

At the February hearing, the 73-year-old activist wore a pink smock that read, “Say No to Islamaphobia” as she and other activists with Code Pink, watched the hearing. The nomination was approved on an 11-9 party-line vote, dashing Wieland’s and other protesters’ hopes that one or two Republican senators might change their minds. Code Pink is a network of primarily women anti-war activists advocating that tax dollars be redirected from the military to health care, the environment, education and other causes.

A clerk called the roll — first the Republicans, then the Democrats, then committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. The Republicans said “aye.” The Democrats said “no,” confirming that the full Senate would consider Sessions’ nomination.

Then, someone shouted “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

Grassley then banged his gavel and said, “Meeting over.” As senators left their seats, cameras focused in on Wieland. Capitol Police yanked her from her spot among the spectators. The votes were cast by the time Wieland started yelling, but Grassley had yet to bang his gavel and bring the hearing to a close, according to audio and video available at the time.

“In my case what I did was, I spoke out after the pronouncement was made by the chairman, by Senator Grassley, that the nomination of Jeff Sessions would be forwarded to the full Senate. It was at that point, I thought the proceedings had ended and stood up to say ‘shame.’”

“Shame,” Wieland recalled saying to the men who voted to further the nomination.

“I think what happened was, at the moment, I was shocked and appalled and subsequently stood up to denounce that vote,” she said.

Wieland will be representing herself in front of District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Thomas Motley. She is no stranger to being arrested. In D.C. alone, Wieland has been arrested seven times between 2006 and 2015, according to court records.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.


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