DES MOINES, Iowa -- Federal marshals today arrested at least 21 anti-draft registration protesters who blocked entrance to the courthouse where a draft registration resister is on trial.
About 125 placard-waving members of the Blockade Task Force, singing spirituals and chanting 'Stop the political trials,' marched from a downtown plaza across the Des Moines River to the federal courthouse where Gary Eklund, 22, of Davenport, was standing trial.
U.S. Marshal Warren Stump said 21 protesters were arrested when they sat down at the west entrance to the courthouse, formed a human chain by locking arms and quietly awaited their arrests.
'You'll have to drag me,' one protester told a federal marshal who asked whether he preferred to walk or to be dragged away.
Most of the arrests were peaceful.
Eklund, who has been granted permission to act in his own defense, is the first Iowan to be indicted for failure to register for the draft. A 10-woman two-man jury was selected.
The protesters arrested linked themselves with a black paper chain and each wore a sign reading 'Prisoner of conscience.'
Each was charged with obstructing the administration of justice. If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Eklund, a crowd of protesters cheering his appearance a short time later, walked quickly into the courthouse upon his arrival.