Language professor jailed for civil disobedience

John C. Landreau, associate professor of Modern Languages and professor of women’s and gender studies at the College, spent Thursday, March 20, blocking the doors to the Federal Building in Philadelphia with 106 other protestors, and then was arrested.

Landreau committed this act of civil disobedience as a part of what is called the Iraq Peace Pledge.

Members of the group signed the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, promising to “join with others to engage in acts of non-violent civil disobedience in order to prevent or halt the death and destruction such U.S. military action causes the people of Iraq.”

Over 70,000 members of the Internet-organized anti-war group, at 21 different locations, participated in non-violent civil disobedience acts nationwide the day the war started. Some 1,000 were arrested in San Francisco alone.

“Non-violent civil disobedience is done in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Landreau said. “The purpose of it is to bring attention to an issue of justice.”

The group of 107 received the attention they desired, from both the U.S. Marshalls and the press. “It’s scary to be arrested, with people snapping photographs there and press all around as they handcuff you,” Landreau said.

The group, Landreau said, was diverse.

“There were men and women, black and white, young and old, from 18-year-old college students to one 90-year-old woman in a wheelchair,” he said.

The protesters were charged with blocking an entrance. “We were allowed out with just a $250 fine for the crime,” Landreau said.

“It was especially scary because the maximum sentence we could have gotten could have been 30 days in jail,” he added.

“It was definitely worthwhile for a cause like this,” Landreau said. “I felt the war was gone into too hastily and not in agreement with the United Nations.

This is not the first time Landreau has been arrested for a nonviolent act of civil disobedience.

“He told us about how he was arrested for protesting war in the 60’s,” Daniela Flores, freshman journalism major and one of Landreau’s students, said.

Landreau e-mailed his students early March 20 to let them know what he was to be involved in that day.

“Many students were very supportive of me and happy that I did it,” Landreau said.

“He explained himself well in the e-mail, saying that he could not just stand by and watch what was going on,” Flores said.

Alan Dawley, history professor at the College, stood in the street outside the Federal Building, amongst about 300 other supporters who carried banners and chanted.

“In paying respect to the bravery of soldiers, I believe we should also pay homage to those antiwar (protestors) because they are willing to suffer the burden of arrest, imprisonment and fines for the sake of their beliefs,” Dawley said.

Dawley said that the protest was effective in shutting down the building and “made the point that as long as the war goes on, business as usual should not.”

– Information from