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On the cold, rainy night of October 7, 2012, I was arrested at New York City’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial along with two dozen other conscientious citizens, most of whom were fellow veterans who had, like me, taken an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

In 1789 the ratification of the Constitution of the United States was in doubt.?Many feared that the strong central government promoted by the Federalists might well abuse its powers, so they insisted that a Bill of Rights be attached to the proposed constitution, putting restrictions on that power. The first of these restrictive clauses reads in part, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech … or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

I chose to travel 2000 miles to stand with my fellow Veterans for Peace in the cold rain on the night of October 7, 2012, because the effectiveness of that “restrictive clause” is being chipped away at an increasing and alarming rate through the imposition of limits on the people’s exercise of their inalienable rights. We see coming to pass precisely the “abuse of its powers” that the states feared would result of a strong federal government unfettered by these necessary restrictions.

According to the Bill of Rights, the entire United States of America is a free speech zone, boundless in space and time. If we fail to maintain it as such, all our rights are in jeopardy.

Kenneth Mayers
Veterans for Peace, Santa Fe

* * *

Though it was the first time in my 40 some years of farming that I shut down the harvest for a couple of days, I flew to NYC to participate with fellow veterans and supporters at the Viet Nam memorial. ?Since attending court during the spring planting was not an option, I chose to go before a judge on Oct. 8.? When the court-appointed attorney asked me how I wanted to plead, I said that I wanted to plead guilty to being a Viet Nam veteran and plead guilty to honoring my fellow soldiers who had died in war.? Though the attorney said that was not possible and the judge would not allow me to make a one-minute statement to the court, it was in essence my crime.

My country may, through its various agencies, continue to betray us veterans, but I will not respond in kind.? I will continue to honor the oath that I took when I was commissioned at Ft. Benning to honor and protect the Constitution from enemies within and outside the US.? I make no apologies for honoring my fallen comrades on Oct. 7.? I will not and cannot do otherwise.? The bond that was forged in Viet Nam with my fellow soldiers–especially those who died–is too strong to just follow the pleasures of those in power.

I volunteered for and served in a Special Forces group so that I could at least more likely face those I might be forced to kill.? I am part of the Veterans Peace Team that organized the Oct. 7 action because I also felt I needed to face those who are committing injustice.? I do not want to participate from afar. I am willing to stand for peace and justice in honoring my fellow soldiers and the Constitution and am not willing to compromise that stand even if it upsets some.? My response to those who get upset is that they should have thought of that before they sent me to war.

Paul Appell
Viet Nam 1970-1971

* * *

Last October, I was arrested at the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial in New York City with 24 others, mostly veterans. The day was the 11thanniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and we held a ceremony to remember the human and environmental costs of war and to demonstrate that there is continued opposition to these wars.

I have three children who are fortunate. Two are in college and the youngest is looking at colleges, limited only by where he will be accepted. I grieve when I watch other mothers’ sons and daughters, friends of mine, forced into the military for socioeconomic reasons. I grieve when I know it serves our nation’s (corporations’) interests to have social policies that create an economic draft.

We were arrested while in the middle of reading the names of New Yorkers who died in Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan and placing flowers in 11 vases at the memorial.

We were arrested because the memorial closes at 10 pm, even though war memories don’t enjoy the luxury of a closing time, nor do the suffering of the wounded, the victims of night raids in Afghanistan or the destruction of the planet, and our ceremony continued past 10 pm.

We were arrested because we were exercising our First Amendment rights to assemble and redress the government for our grievances. The 10 pm curfew is selectively enforced. If we had been walking a dog, jogging or sitting quietly, there would have been no arrests. Arrests occur only when people exercise their constitutional rights.

And that is also why we were there that day–to see if our First Amendment rights would be honored or violated, rights that veterans allegedly fought to protect. We are watching our First Amendment rights recede into a deep darkness, to a place where those who speak out could be detained indefinitely without trial and tortured. We see the day when dissent becomes impossible and we know that the only way to keep our rights is to challenge the system while we still can.

We need your support. When we go to trial on May 14th, we need you to be there in solidarity with us. We need to show those who represent the system that they will not strip us of our rights in secret and without protest, that people will watch what they do and tell others. Stand with us. Stand up for our rights today so that we can stand together in peaceful and just society tomorrow.

Margaret Flowers
Its Our Economy
Clearing the FOG (Forces of Greed) Radio Show

* * *

 

Why?
Why I chose to be arrested at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New York City on Water Street on October 7, 2012.

James T. Burns
Hector Luis Caraballo
Ronnie S. Catanzariti
Thomas Joseph Cullen
Reinaldo Luis Delgado
John Patrick Emerling
Clarence Harold Genau Jr.
Otis James Hampton
Julio Hernandez Jr.
Victor C. Hill
Michael Joseph Morrow
Jerry Mosby
Carmelo Navarro
Louis Fabian Peralez
David Quinones
Raymond Rodriguez
Arthur Welker Reinhardt
Leroy Robinson
Aristides Sosa
Loren Cleveland Surles

After the reading of 20 names, a gong was sounded, and a white carnation was placed in one of 11 vases on the ground, symbolizing the 11th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.
There were over 100 people gathered at the memorial in somber respect for those soldiers killed in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, who were from the state of New York.
All you heard were the names being read, the sound of the gong, a brief moment of silence, while white carnations were placed in glass vases. You could feel the honor and respect for the dead, no different than what you would feel at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or a military funeral.

Joseph Acevedo
Michael J. Pernaselli
Nicholas Wilson
Steven E. Auchman
Patrick Lee Griffin Jr.
James C. Matteson
David M. McKeever
Heath A. McMillin
James D. McNaughton
Cari A. Gasiewicz
Ramona M. Valdez
Denise A. Lannaman
Devin A. Snyder
John Baco
Peter Aviles
Richard Andrew Anderson
Michael Edward Berdy
Alan Lee Blair
Robert Lee Brown
Abraham Jackson

And on and on the names were read, as the glass vases began to fill with white carnations. The sound of the gong could be heard time and time again. And then … the New York City Police arrived at 10:15 pm, to announce that we would be arrested if we did not vacate the premises as soon as possible.

When we refused to leave, because of the nature of the ceremony, the police arrested and handcuffed 25 people and took them to jail for refusing to obey a lawful order– that the memorial had a curfew at 10:00 pm. There were absolutely no exceptions. The reading of the names of the dead soldiers did not make any difference. Absolutely no exceptions. That’s the law!

And so, I and 11 other people, mostly Vietnam veterans, were put into a paddy wagon and taken to jail to be processed like we were criminals. The same was true for all 25 arrested.
Photographs and fingerprints were taken as usual, because we broke the law. After we were individually questioned and searched, four people were put into individual cells.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was completely silent shortly after we were arrested and taken to jail. A friend, who chose not to be arrested because there were personal belongings to be removed from the site, reminded me later on what is anonymously engraved in large letters at the top of the memorial:

“One thing worries me, will people believe me? Will they want to hear about it, or will they want to forget the whole thing ever happened?”

It rained almost continuously during the time we were conducting the ceremony at the memorial. For many of us Vietnam veterans, it reminded us of our time in Vietnam.
Most Vietnam veterans came home to a country that shamed us for ever being there. Our government never took blame for anything, so we became the scapegoats.

More Vietnam veterans have committed suicide than were killed in Vietnam. Every day one active duty soldier commits suicide. 22 veterans of all ages commit suicide every day across America.

That’s why I chose to be arrested that night on October 7, 2012, because I wanted to remember the names of the dead, and bear witness that they gave their lives for a war that
violently divided this nation.

If you do not remember the names of the dead, they will be forgotten.

Forgotten forever.

On that night, October 7, 2012, the New York City Police Department forgot, because they were enforcing a 10:00 pm curfew law, that probably no other Vietnam Veterans Memorial across this country has. This country has reverence for its fallen heroes as they return to the United States, after dying in Iraq, or Afghanistan, but for some reason that did not apply on October 7, 2012, when 25 people were arrested for reading the names of
American soldiers killed in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Somehow, this did not matter as the New York City Police Department chose to arrest and handcuff American veterans and non-veterans, who were committed to memory.

When I was personally arrested that night, I truly believe most of the arresting officers did not want to be there. I could see it in their faces and body language. But, for some reason, the powers that be chose to make a power statement against its fellow citizens for defying and disobeying a lawful order, that in most states would have been seen as absurd.

 

scan0003Included in this written statement is a photograph I took of a medevac helicopter in my military unit in Vietnam. On the nose of the helicopter, the flight crew painted in large white letters the word, “Why.” By 1970-71, most of the soldiers in Vietnam were questioning why we were ever in Vietnam. I certainly was asking the same questions. Even though I was questioning the cause of why we were in Vietnam, I continued to perform my duties as an Army medic.

Part of those duties were taking dead and wounded soldiers off of helicopters. Treating soldiers who were occasionally wounded or killed on base. Responding to soldiers who attempted or committed suicide. Treating many soldiers who were addicted to heroin, or who came down with malaria. Or, being emotionally there for fellow soldiers who were simply falling apart. I did exactly what most American soldiers did in a war zone, we helped each other survive. We did it every day, because we were loyal to each other, because we could see ourselves in each other. We did this for the same reasons that New York City firemen and police officers did for each other on September 11, 2001, and long afterwords.

I lost three very close buddies from Vietnam. They did not die in Vietnam, but as a result of being there. The last one hung himself in a motel room. Like countless veterans, they suffered from severe Post-Traumatic-Stress, just like most of the veterans who were arrested on October 7, 2012. When I was at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New York City that night, I was there not only to remember the dead, but to gain strength from the
brotherhood and sisterhood of the people who were gathered there as a community of veterans showing respect for their perished comrades.
We did this because we were morally obeying our humanity. We simply spoke for those who can no longer speak. There is no rest for the messenger until the message has been delivered.

Norman Robert Mayer
Peter Mitchell
Donald William Bruck
Eric John Jednat
Angelo Andrew Petraglia
Heinz Kurt Roesch
Samuel Lee Dash Jr.
Jose Anton Robles-Miranda
John Joseph Vennard
Andrew Gilbert Zissu
Daniel Tirado
Willie George Turner
Hilario Pizarro Villanueva
Andrew Kung Young
Rafael Olivo
William Gerard Kane Jr.
Robert Thomas Manning
Clifford George Labombard
Melvin Wood
Henry York

Mike Hastie
Army Medic Vietnam
May 8, 2013

* * *

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, New York, Oct. 7, 2012,?eleven years of war and destruction in Afghanistan.?The VFP Veterans Peace Team along with allies spoke truth to power, exposing the same sets of slightly changed lies and betrayal that resulted in 55,000 American deaths and over 5 million Vietnamese killed during that war?and over 7,000 more needless American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, including estimates of more than 1 million Iraqis and Afghanis killed.?

We also spoke truth to power with our bodies, challenging the NYPD’s arbitrary imposition of a 10 pm curfew at the memorial–an enforced curfew whose only purpose is to restrict and diminish once again our right to assemble in a public place, especially this place–to honor and remember the fallen by reading their names and placing white carnations at the wall.??

We gave the NYPD leadership an opportunity to protect and honor the First Amendment.?Instead, they arrested 25 of us as we peacefully and respectfully read the names of the fallen and laid flowers in their memory, the police acting as they often do as agents and enforcers of the ruling oligarchy.?

Individual police, to their credit, obviously did not enjoy carrying out these orders. When we were marched into the precinct in handcuffs, the desk sergeant berated the arresting officers, “What the F— you doing arresting veterans?” We all smiled, but the underlying story of the continued suppression of our First Amendment right to assemble peacefully in a public place wasn’t at all funny. We had a purpose on that rainy, cold night in October: ?Call for an end to the brutal 11-year war in Afghanistan and to all U.S. wars of aggression; remember and honor all the killed and wounded in those wars, and last but not least, stand up for our right and duty to peaceably assemble and address grievances in a public place.?

The NYPD shut us down, not for any legitimate reason of keeping the peace or protecting the public, but by putting us in handcuffs and taking us away. The first man arrested was Vietnam Army medic Mike Hastie, who was there, as were others, to remember those killed and maimed on both sides and to stand for his right to be at that sanctified place of memories at any hour. As he was being arrested he screamed out, “Why are you doing this? I saved lives in Vietnam. Why are you arresting us?” The police were silenced by that plaintive cry. I think it shamed them, following their orders.?

Later one of the officers privately apologized to me, saying he and many of his fellow officers agreed with us, but they had to follow orders, their jobs were at stake. I understood and was sympathetic but could not condone in any way our being arrested. There was no question that our civil rights were violated, a increasingly common occurrence all over this country–all the more reason for us to take a stand. In the face of injustice it was our sacred duty as citizens and veterans to refuse to be silent, to use our bodies nonviolently as barricades against the continued lying and betrayal by our so called leaders.

I told the officer, “The day may come when your conscience won’t allow you to follow orders.”?

Tarak Kauff
Board of Directors, Veterans For Peace

?* * *

At the age of 18, I fought the Nazis to protect what I believed to be the beauty of America, including our Constitution. As an Infantry Combat Veteran, I’m dedicated to the memory of brothers who died at my side, and that the veterans of every war are to be honored, without any hindrance. This also is what I fought for. I went to the War Memorial on Water Street to participate in a ceremony honoring our veterans. There was no Constitution there that evening to protect my responsibility to honor my brothers who were killed protecting that Constitution. Why was that so?

I don’t believe that whoever rescinded the First Amendment ever had to face enemy fire, but if he or she did, then they’ve turned their back on those of us who didn’t run from the enemy. Whoever gave the order to prevent our memorial is a coward and a traitor to the most crucial values we celebrate here. Was my participation in war in vain? After that night of October 7 on Water Street, I know it was desecrated.

Jay Wenk
Woodstock, NY, Veterans For Peace

* * *

On October 7, 2012, I was arrested along with my Brother and Sister Veterans For Peace and peace friends at the NYC Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a public place, an almost sacred site for so many of us and other citizens. ?Why did we choose to commit civil disobedience as we stayed some ten minutes beyond the 10 pm curfew time?

As veterans, we all took an oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” that we would “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” ?Based on our arrests on October 7, it would appear that New York City’s government disregarded, probably, the most important?part of the Constitution, the First Amendment that guarantees citizens the right to assemble and to exercise their power of speech.

As Veterans For Peace, we posed no threat to nearby banks or businesses as we went to the memorial to honor and to show respect for our fallen. ?I sincerely believe that all of the arrested were actually defending our Constitution and Bill of Rights when we chose to continue to speak aloud the names of Americans and Afghans who were killed in war, to recite poems, to listen to singer David Rovics play his music, to listen to speakers such as Chris Hedges and Vietnam veterans, Paul Appell and Mike Hastie, to strike a bell after every ten names read. I know that what we did was true and noble and validating.

Free speech, the right to assemble, is inviolable in our system of government. It seems, however, that Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City police chief have other ideas about when and where free speech is permissible. Our action on October 7, 2012, is in the highest tradition of what America is supposed to represent and symbolize.

Please, let’s all honor our nation’s Constitution and Bill of Rights and especially, citizens’ right to dissent, which historian Howard Zinn called “the highest form of patriotism.”

Will Thomas, USN, 1961-1963, USS Okinawa (LPH-3)
New Hampshire Veterans For Peace

* * *

Where else could I be on the gruesome 11th anniversary of the U.S. war on the people, animals, air, water and land of Afghanistan? Gratefully, I join the Veterans For Peace in a day of profound reflection and mourning at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in NYC.? In the freezing rain, we share? deeply moving testimony and beautiful songs expressing our grief and rage. Then, the reading of the names of so many, many dead. The gong. The placing of flowers.

I look within.? I’m a nurse. I mean to bring healing to the world. My tax dollars fuel the wars, militarization, catastrophe, heartache. So many young people with great courage, noble ideals, generous spirit, choose to join the military. Tragically, their intentions, so twisted and abused by the war machine. Many don’t survive mentally or physically. Bradley Manning saw how war distorted his fellow soldiers, creating callous killing machines. He brought us the truth, hoping to inspire us to action; now he faces charges that may destroy his life. The parents, the families the friends of all these being named … how do they stand these dreadful, senseless losses?

It is getting later, darker, colder, wetter … the ocean of names continues. I notice our numbers are decreasing … people are being handcuffed and taken away by? police! How can this be? Veterans arrested at the Vietnam Memorial, a public space, for mourning the dead???? Who has more of a right to be here than our Veterans????? The woman placing the flowers is handcuffed. I continue the flower placement. An officer asks me if I am going to leave or if I want to get arrested. Amazed, I explain I am here to mourn the dead. I am immediately handcuffed and arrested. So many names left unread….

Alice Sutter
New York City

***

I consider that what I did on the night of October 7, 2012, was morally and politically the correct thing to do. Namely, I came to New York to uphold my civil rights to read the names of those who gave their lives in wars promoted by politicians so that the rich could become richer at the expense of the military men and women who sacrificed the ultimate–their lives. The New City Police Department violated my rights to finish what I came to do by arresting me on some phony ordinance which closed the Viet Nam memorial before we could read the entire list of the dead.

This is tantamount to criminalizing and targeting the voice of dissent. Non-violence gave me no alternative to voicing my displeasure by making my voice my only instrument of frustration with the former and current administrations, which use violence as a means of achieving their aims. I stand with my brothers and sisters of the Veterans For Peace who feel the same and acted to honor the fallen in?Viet Nam, Iraq and??Afghanistan. I shall continue to voice my dissent wherever I see totalitarian and dictatorship action, wherever it may rear its ugly head.

John Spitzberg
Ashville, NC, Veterans For Peace

* * *

I am a Vietnam Veteran. In 1971, I was a 21 year-old-draftee, in an infantry unit in the mountains north of DaNang. On Oct. 7, I was in a public park in Manhattan dedicated to Viet Nam veterans, with about 40 other veterans and friends. We were a peaceful group, reading from a list of names of U.S. military killed in action, and sounding a small gong after every tenth name.

At 10 pm, the police announced that I would be arrested if I didn’t leave.

There were a lot of U.S. military who didn’t come home alive from Viet Nam. Also from Iraq and Afghanistan. And a lot who came home changed, and continue to come home changed, haunted by images that at the very least deny sleep. In more severe PTSD they come home to alcoholism, drug use, homelessness, suicide.

I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, which guarantees me the right to peaceably assemble. That oath has no expiration date.

To abandon my post would have been a disservice to all those I knew, and all those I don’t know, who have borne the burden of their country’s involvement in these wars. Getting arrested and going to jail was a price I was willing to pay.

Sam Adams
Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Philadelphia

* * *

An Evening’s Constitutional

It’s said that muscles not exercised will atrophy.? No less so than with the Body Politic.? When we take a “constitutional” and exercise our rights we may find they are not nearly as strong as we imagine.? This became clear to me in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Public) Plaza on the southern tip of Manhattan on the evening of October 7, 2012,where some of us gathered to commemorate the war dead by reading their names aloud on the 11thanniversary of the War in Afghanistan.? Our arrests for staying 10 minutes past the park’s 10 pm selectively enforced “closing” made it apparent to me how limited are our rights to free speech and assembly under the Constitution.? There was no justification for closing the memorial; we presented no danger to the public.? As long as we do not stray too far from our couch, we may not notice or imagine these restrictions on our activity to be in place.? It is a comforting illusion.

Certain rights are so basic to a person’s liberty that it would seem unnecessary to codify them into law; such as the simple act of walking to the sea to pick up and use salt found along the shore of one’s country rather than obey a foreign country’s claim on this common substance, the right to sit where you want on a public bus, or the right of veterans to assemble in a public place named for them.? For veterans that are supposedly honored by this country, their arrest in the shadow of Wall Street is striking and clarifying: veterans are trespassing in their own public park while the denizens of Wall Street escape responsibility for their high crimes and war profiteering.

A judge may ultimately choose to rule that we are guilty of “not obeying a lawful order” by police to leave the park, but such rulings ignore the higher law of the Constitution, and render it meaningless.? Constitutionally guaranteed rights will not survive if they suffer the death of a thousand such cuts. And so we resist.

Steven Chrismer
Veterans For Peace