Tuesday March 21, 2023
| Last update: Tuesday at 12:01 AM

Anti-war activist proudly pleads guilty to ‘disturbing’ U.S. war criminal General Petraeus

By Tom Burke |
April 16, 2014
Read more articles in

Grand Rapids, MI - Anti-war activist Deb Van Poolen appeared in the 61st District Court here, April 15, with a group of supporters. Van Poolen pled guilty to the charge of creating a disturbance on Jan. 31 at the DeVos Place Convention Center.

With great interest, Judge Kim Schaefer asked the defendant if she had created a disturbance that day. Van Poolen proudly said, “Yes, I stood up and spoke in front of several hundred people, and I said, ‘General David Petraeus you are a war criminal responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children. I am a graduate of Calvin College and a follower of Jesus Christ and I am here to speak out.’”

Judge Schaefer interrupted and asked what the effect was. Van Poolen responded, “Petraeus stopped speaking and then two men brought me outside.”

Next Van Poolen’s lawyer David LeGrande spoke in her defense, saying, “It was an intentional act of civil disobedience. The tradition sees it as appropriate to break laws and deal with the consequences…to right injustice.” Defense attorney LeGrande continued, “She performed a public service by challenging militarism and the often unchallenged acts of aggression by the U.S. She is a full-time ideologue and I mean that in the best sense of the word. She has the support of local activists in court today and the support of communities in other parts of our country and the world.”

Judge Schaefer, appreciating this exceptional plea in her court. asked if Van Poolen had any final comments.

Van Poolen responded, “I was practicing free speech in a non-violent way. I did so with the sincere belief that, to call attention to the outrageous and immoral acts of U.S. leaders, civil disobedience is required. I hope my actions followed in the footsteps of other great and inspiring leaders.”

Van Poolen is required to pay $160 in restitution as requested by the prosecution and about $300 in court costs and fees for a total near $460. She plans to enter a work program with other low-income women doing physical labor to pay off their debts to the justice system. Anti-war activists in Grand Rapids are also raising funds in solidarity with her bold action.