Their arrest had been reported in the September 28, 2006 Catholic Herald.
The article says they
were found guilty of a misdemeanor charge of obstructing traffic
This was in Milwaukee Municipal Court (case no. 06108591) so it's not a misdemeanor, a crime; rather, it was a traffic citation.
As their defense in front of the judge, Peters argued from the standpoint of Wisconsin Statute 939 which states that people may sometimes be forced to break the law in order to prevent catastrophe or death to themselves or others.
I assume he was citing section 939.48 of the Wisconsin Statutes, though that deals with the use of force in self-defense or defense of others.
The arrest had been a harrowing experience for one of Peters' co-defendants.
Although the piercing snorts and clip-clop of the hooves of the horses belonging to the Milwaukee Police Department were within inches of the four who blocked the intersection, [Dianne] Henke remembers closing her eyes and centering herself on her goal so as not to become frightened.
Peters held up better.
"There was a feeling of freedom in resisting the system that tells us we can't protest such immorality, and in going wherever that leads," he said.
He didn't cite any section of the statutes making protests illegal.
"Although in this case, I knew the price would be fairly tiny. Despite that, I was surprised by the professionalism and humanity shown by the police who treated us with great gentleness and respect."
He's surprised that that the police acted professionally and humanely. He's surprised that the police treated them gently and respectfully. I'm not surprised that Peters held such preconceptions.
I have said that between articles, op-eds, and letters to the editor, the Herald might as well give Peters a weekly feature. His organization, Catholics for Peace and Justice, had been working along those lines. Its February newsletter [7 pp. pdf] says
The Death Penalty Committee then met on January 19th and discussed our inquiry to The Catholic Herald regarding if members of our committee, who are very qualified, could write a series of articles during Lent on the death penalty and prison issues. The Catholic Herald said that they are not interested in a series of articles, but would consider "Guest Opinions."
"Guest Opinions", though, are carried only in the Herald's print edition.