London (CNSNews.com) - A British anti-nuclear campaigner has been cleared of disorderly behavior arising from a protest outside an American military base, during which she was accused of forcing a U.S. citizen to drive over an American flag.
Lindis Percy, a 59-year old midwife from northern England, said afterwards the outcome was significant as the charge had held serious implications for "civil liberties and peaceful protest."
Earlier, the prosecutor, Gregor Purcell, told the Harrogate Magistrate's Court Percy and co-accused Anni Rainbow had delayed U.S. personnel leaving and entering the Menwith Hill base in Yorkshire.
Percy had also caused an American to drive over a U.S. flag after she placed it under the wheels of his car, he said.
"He was quite visibly distressed to drive over his national emblem, which he holds particularly dear," he said. "It's quite clear that Lindis Percy intended this behavior to be abusive and insulting."
District Judge Peter Nuttall cleared Percy, saying she had a right to protest peacefully.
Nuttall also found Percy and Rainbow not guilty of another charge of willfully obstructing the public highway, ruling that the protest was held on private land.
Earlier the prosecution dropped an alternate public order charge which added a racial element to the allegation.
It said Percy's action with the flag had been wholly or partly motivated by hostility towards "members of a racial group, namely citizens of the United States of America based on their membership of that racial group."
Menwith Hill and another U.S. base in England may become part of a proposed National Missile Defense system - sometimes nicknamed "Son of Star Wars" - favored by President Bush.
Percy had used a flag daubed with the slogan "Stop Star Wars," and the protest was held on the day Bush's election victory was belatedly confirmed last December.
The women's organization, the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases, said in a statement late Friday that it intended to continue its protests outside U.S. bases.
"We will rigorously oppose the American Missile Defense system and the probable involvement of NSA Menwith Hill, Fylingdales or any other UK base," it said.
"[Prime Minister] Tony Blair is expected to give formal consent to the U.S. government for use of these bases for the American Missile Defense system. We with others are determined to stop it."
Blair has declined to commit his government publicly to agreeing to any U.S. request concerning NMD, saying it was premature to do so when it was not even clear whether the Americans will go ahead with the plan.
Blair faces opposition to the move from some Labor Party lawmakers as well as from within his own cabinet.
Britain's European Union allies are also unhappy about the missile defense proposal, fearing it may re-ignite a global nuclear arms race by undermining existing arms control treaties.
See Earlier Story:
UK Protestor Who Dragged U.S. Flag Charged With Racial Abuse (21 Feb 2001)