The Burlington 23


Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

Prof. Dietrich Fischer

Prof. Dietrich Fischer

During the Vietnam war, a group of citizens in Burlington, Vermont, USA, tried for a long time in vain to persuade their Congressman to hold hearings about the legality of the war. Finally, 23 of them sat down in his office in protest and refused to leave. The Congressman called the police to arrest them.

Richard Falk, who taught international law at Princeton University, spent his time teaching law and writing about it and had rarely been in a courtroom. But he volunteered to help defend those citizens when they were brought to trial for “breaking and entering”. He told the jury,

“If someone breaks a window to enter a house and steal something, that should be punished by the law. But if someone sees a house in flames and hears a baby cry inside, and breaks the window to enter the house and save the baby’s life, that person should not be punished for breaking and entering. These citizens did not enter the Congressman’s office for personal gain. They did so to uphold international law and save the lives of men, women and children in Vietnam, and our young soldiers who are being sent there to die.”

The Jury was persuaded and unanimously spoke them free.


Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. 1986-88 he was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University. He has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities and been a consultant to the United Nations.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 Nov 2015.

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