An Island off Korea Takes on the U.S. Military Machine

Jeju Islanders Steadfast in Eight-Year Fight Against U.S.-South Korean Navy Base

Veterans For Peace Delegation Joins the Struggle

By Ellen Davidson

A daily ritual begins early in Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island, South Korea, site of a joint U.S.-South Korean deepwater naval base.

Activists make "100 Bows" in the early morning at the Jeju Island naval base entrance, Photo by ELLEN DAVIDSON

Activists surrounded by police as they make “100 Bows” in the early morning at the Jeju Island naval base entrance. Photo by ELLEN DAVIDSON

At 7 am every morning, activists at the entrance to the military base, begin a “100 bows” prayer. Police are lined up around them to make sure they don’t block construction vehicles. On this particular morning, this spiritual presence is augmented by Catholic peace workers, some of whom spent the previous night here in the raw damp. A mattress lies by the side of the road, occupied by Father Mun, one of the most famous radical priests in Korea. When he gets up, he is surrounded by an entourage of police who move with him as he walks, blocking his way if he tries to go too close to the road into the base. At one point, he shakes his cane at them, shouting in Korean that he is not a contagious disease to be quarantined this way.


Father Mun on the mattress where he spent the night outside the U.S.-South Korean naval base. Photo by ELLEN DAVIDSON

Villagers have been protesting construction of the Gangjeong facility and the attendant destruction of the surrounding environment for eight years. Every day, no matter the weather, they are out at the base entrance with their placards and banners, plastic lawn chairs, flower arrangements and carved wooden signs, with which they attempt to block vehicles from entering or exiting the site.


Veterans For Peace delegation organizer Tarak Kauff is set down at the side of the base entrance by South Korean police. Photo by ELLEN DAVIDSON

After the 100 bows are completed, protesters move into the next phase: police step back and allow them to move their chairs into the middle of the gateway, where they sit while the traffic builds up on both sides of the entrance. Every 20 minutes or so, a policeman comes out with a microphone and announces that if they do not leave, they will be removed. When they fail to move, 20-30 police move out and pick up the chairs (with their occupants) and flowers. They carefully deposit the chairs (still containing their occupants) by the side of the entrance and surround them while traffic is allowed to pass through the gate. When the lines of waiting cars, trucks, and construction equipment have all moved in or out, the police withdraw to their shelter behind the fence, and the protesters resume their positions in the middle of the entrance.

At 11 am, Mass begins. The removals of the protesters take place less frequently, as it is no longer “rush hour” to get to the construction site, but there is brisk traffic in and out of the gate throughout the entire day. For an hour and a half, the Catholic Mass is broadcast via speakers across the street. The protesters also have a cordless mic, and they chime in from time to time with a song or a portion of the service.

Following the Mass, the protest gets a little rowdier, with Korean pop music and dancing. Usually, this ends the daily vigil, but today the protesters stay until all the vehicles exited the gate, well past dark. This is because they were especially motivated by the previous day’s events, when a protester had been hit by a construction truck. She was taken to the hospital, where she required surgery to reconstruct her foot, which was crushed, and two other demonstrators had been arrested and taken to Jeju City. Upset by this escalation, Father Mun and others stayed the night, and Father Mun has vowed to fast until the two are released.


Veterans For Peace delegation stands with banner while giant construction vehicles leave the site. Photo by ELLEN DAVIDSON

Another aspect that made this day different was the arrival of a delegation of members of Veterans For Peace. The group of 13 includes one Korean War veteran and two others who were stationed in Korea during their military service. They joined in the protest at the gate in late afternoon, unfurling a banner that said “VFP Supports Ganjeong Village! No Navy Base!” They met with a warm welcome as they took their place among those sitting in the chairs and were carried off to the side by police. “I am thrilled that a Veterans For Peace delegation is here in strength in Jeju ,” said Bruce Gagnon, who first visited Gangjeong six years ago and has been supporting the struggle ever since. “I felt proud while we were standing in front of the gate holding our banner.”


Iraq War veteran Mike Hanes is carried out of the base entrance by South Korean police. Photo by ELLEN DAVIDSON

“I’m excited that two great post-911 veterans are with us,” said Tarak Kauff, one of the delegation organizers. “These younger veterans bring fresh energy and insight to our movement, and they are a critical part of building and strengthening the organization.”

The delegation will be on Jeju for a week, before traveling to Okinawa to join protests against expansion of U.S. military bases there. “We are here to learn more about and stand in solidarity with those feeling the direct ecological and human impact of U.S. base expansion as part of Obama’s pivot to surround and provocatively encircle China,” said Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.


Sung Hee Choi, a leader of the Gangjeong Peace Center. Photo by ELLEN DAVIDSON

And for the people of Gangjeong, a village of 1900 that depends on the ocean for its economic survival, the impact is already evident, as they see the destruction wrought by the base construction on their sacred rocky Gureombi coastline and the endangered coral forests off their shore.

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Veterans to Stand Firm as Afghan War Enters Year 12

By David Swanson

Dedicated and disciplined nonviolent activists, and in particular military veterans, are being openly invited to join members of Veterans For Peace in a peaceful vigil in New York City that will as likely as not result in their wrongful arrest and prosecution.

The time will be 6 p.m. on October 7, 2012, as the United States and NATO complete the eleventh year of the current occupation of Afghanistan and launch the 12fth. The crowd at the Republican National Convention cheered for complete immediate withdrawal, but the nominee’s plans don’t include it. The crowds at rallies for President Obama’s reelection cheer for both the continuation of the war and its supposed status as “ending,” even though the timetable for that “ending” is longer than most past wars, and a massive occupation is supposed to remain after the occupation “ends.”  Veterans For Peace, an organization dedicated to the abolition of war, is hoping to inject a discordant note into this happy discourse — something that the ongoing reports of deaths just don’t seem to manage.

The place will be Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, 55 Water Street, New York City.  It was there that some of the same veterans gathering this October were arrested last May First. The memorial is normally open around the clock, but on that day the New York Police Department decided to close it at 10 p.m. in order to evict the Occupy Movement’s nonviolent general assembly. Eight members of the Veterans Peace Team and two members of Occupy Faith were arrested for refusing to leave. Since that day, a small metal sign has been posted at the park stating that it closes at 10 p.m. This October 7, the veterans have a permit for sound equipment lasting until 10 p.m., but they intend to remain overnight.

Vietnam vet Paul Appell says, “War veterans, loved ones of the fallen, and certainly those living in war zones do not have the option of closing down their memories at 10 p.m. There is a good reason why suicide is an attractive option for many. It is truly the only sure way of ending the memories. For a memorial to shut down at some convenient time for the city is an insult to all those who do not have the luxury of shutting down their war memories at a specific time. I know that many want us war vets to go out of sight and not bother them, except when we are needed for some parade. Some of us are not going away at 10 p.m. or any other time. If they do not like it, maybe they should have thought of that before they sent us to war.

Tarak Kauff, U.S. Army, 1959-1962, and one of the organizers of VFP’s Veterans Peace Team, says, “We will be there standing together and getting arrested again if necessary for our right to remember the fallen, to oppose and ‘abolish war as an instrument of national policy’ and to affirm our right to do so in a public place of remembrance that has great meaning for all veterans.”

The plan is not for a mass demonstration. In fact, many are explicitly not invited.  Non-veterans are enthusiastically welcome, including associate members of Veterans For Peace and anyone else dedicated to ending violence in the world. But “diversity of tactics” is unapologetically rejected. Anyone inclined toward violence, provocation, or threats, including violence to inanimate objects, is kindly asked on this day, to respect the Memorial, the veterans, and the commitment to nonviolence. This event will involve hundreds of activists who intend to peacefully vigil all night, and who will not respond to police violence with any violence of their own.

Speakers at the vigil will oppose a single additional day of U.S. warmaking in Afghanistan.  Speakers will include Leah Bolger, Margaret Flowers, Glen Ford, Mike Hastie, Chris Hedges, George Packard, Donna Schaper, Kevin Zeese, and Michael Zweig. Dr. Cornel West has also been invited. At 9:30 p.m. participants will lay flowers for the fallen.

The purpose of this action, which will succeed whether the police interfere or not, is well expressed by several vets planning to take part. Mike Ferner, Navy Corpsman, 1969-1973, and past president of Veterans For Peace, says, “I’m coming to NYC October 7 because I need to do more for myself and the world than just get angry at the misery and suffering.  Being with my comrades again and standing up for peace uplifts my spirit.”

Rev. George E. Packard, Retired, Bishop for the Armed Forces of the Episcopal Church, asks, “How can we, as Americans and compassionate human beings, tolerate even one more day creating a toxic battle environment in that southwest Asian country? We increase the lethality of our weaponry–more drones, more firepower–so we can protect our troops and not face the bad news of casualties at home. But it is a useless scheme and one that sacrifices the lives primarily of Afghan women and children, the real collateral damage. Also, this destruction becomes latent in our culture as the postponed agony of PTSD in thousands of troops extends to their immediate families in the United States.Entire segments of our population are sentenced to living addicted or arrested lives because we weren’t wise enough to figure out a more humane and effective foreign policy.”

Ellen Barfield, Heavy Equipment Mechanic Sergeant, U.S. Army, 1977-1981, adds, “I will mourn the New York U.S. soldiers dead from Vietnam whose names are there on that wall, and the thousands of U.S. and other soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in these more recent wars, and the millions of civilians who were killed in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan. But I will also express our right to visit memorials and speak out against wars at any time of the day or night. Sadly, war trauma does not sleep, so setting arbitrary curfews at war memorials is cruel and unjust. We will object with our bodies to the repression of mourning and dissent.”

Erik Lobo, Navy veteran, remarks, “I will be at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial because the oath I took–both in the Navy and during 28 years in law enforcement–to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, does not have an expiration date.”

David Ross, Vietnam veteran, explains, “Once again I will be honored to stand with my sisters and brothers and our friends regardless of the inconvenience. I owe this and, looking back over 40 years of veteran organizing, the need to take a stand has never been greater.”

William P. Homans, a.k.a. Watermelon Slim, Vietnam veteran, says, “I will be returning to the New York Vietnam Memorial to play Taps. … I will also be there because the American right to dissent from ‘business as usual’ is at risk. I was in the anti-Vietnam War movement back in the early ’70s when I returned from Vietnam, and I never considered the absolute right to speak and dissent to be threatened. … But mostly I will be there to mourn.”

John Spitzberg of Ashville VFP, puts it this way: “I speak for those who have died and for those who are so infirm that they are unable to come to New York on October 7. We are the living and able who rally for you so that your voices are heard and are not in vain. We come to say ‘Enough of this travesty of mindless war, mindless mayhem and devastation.'”

Finally, Kauff, who is doing a lot to organize this event, says, “I have a fury inside me against war and those rich fat cats who perpetrate wars and militarism. Yes, I take it personally.  These wars are not about defending freedom or democracy. They have nothing to do with that–just the opposite. The top-down leaders, the corporate warlords, the politicians, the Masters of War don’t give a damn about freedom and democracy, about the lives and money going from the poor and middle class to fight and pay for these wars. They and their kids don’t fight, die and come home wounded in body and soul. No, they make fortunes selling weapons while destroying the world. It pains and angers me deeply, and I want to stop it.  On October 7, while grieving for, remembering and respecting the fallen, I will take a stand for my and others’ right to peacefully and nonviolently affirm this whenever and wherever we want to, especially at this hallowed place, where memories and reminders of the futility of war never cease, not at 10 p.m., not at any time.”

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Veterans Peace Team, face to face with police on May Day

Veterans Peace Team and Occupy Faith, May Day 2012

May 1: Members of the Veterans Peace Team and Occupy Faith at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New York City. Photo by ELLEN DAVIDSON

By Nathan Schneider

This article originally appeared on the Waging Nonviolence website.

Unlike some of Occupy Wall Street’s iconic actions in recent months, May Day did not include a scene of mass arrest. Several dozen arrests were scattered throughout the day and night during various marches and actions. But, as never before in the movement’s short history, arrests of military veterans in particular featured prominently.

The day’s first arrest was of OWS regular Bill Steyert, who momentarily blocked the intersection at 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, waving a yellow flag, just as the morning “99 Pickets” actions were beginning. Among the last and most dramatic arrests were of members of the newly-formed Veterans Peace Team, at a memorial dedicated to Vietnam veterans.

As night fell and tens of thousands of marchers arrived at New York’s Financial District, police blockades thwarted Occupiers’ plans to hold an after-party in Battery Park. Those who remained gathered instead at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza on Water Street. A drum circle played, while others formed a large assembly in the round, amplifying each other’s voices with the “people’s mic.” There, Tarak Kauff, a founder of Veterans Peace Team and a longtime Veterans for Peace member, announced that his group would stand on the front lines before the police, who were already surrounding the area by the hundreds. Referring to the environmental crisis and the prolonged wars on behalf of powerful interests, he told the crowd, “We are in a fight for survival.”

Kauff and seven other Veterans Peace Team members, along with two clergymen, would be arrested within the hour, holding their ground at the memorial.

Veterans Peace Team began organizing and training late last year, as a wave of evictions and violent repression against the Occupy movement spread across the United States. Their first mission, however, was abroad — in support of those resisting the construction of a military base on South Korea’s Jeju Island. The South Korean government deemed these American veterans enough of a threat to warrant deporting them from the country upon arrival.

In late March, Veterans Peace Team took part in an OWS march against police brutality, and its members have been in ongoing discussions with the OWS Direct Action Working Group before that and since. Symbolic arrests like what Veterans Peace Team practiced on May Day, along with the recent “Cardboard Roses” civil disobedience actions on Wall Street, have been part of OWS’ ongoing search for the means, post-encampment, to make its message heard and resonate.

After his release from police custody, I spoke with Tarak Kauff about the action.

What led Veterans Peace Team to join Occupy Wall Street on May Day?

A number of us have been involved in the Occupy movement since, well, before the beginning, and we had been following the organizing leading up to May Day. We say in our statement of purpose, “As veterans, we stand with the Occupy movement as members of the 99 percent and oppose any and all use of force by police against peaceful protesters exercising their right to peaceably assemble to seek redress of grievances.” We were aware of the potential for police violence and wanted to be on the scene both as people participating in May Day and also as U.S. military veterans and allies to stand, if needed and requested, as a front line facing the police.

Did you know that you’d be arrested that day? Did you have an idea of what the circumstances would be?

We were aware of the possibility of arrest but were not specifically looking to be arrested. We actually did not have any idea how this would play out but were on call in case of a situation where police repression seemed imminent. I don’t think anyone knew how this would eventually evolve, as the police were calling the shots, erecting barricades and directing the march where they wanted it to go. It wound up at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, an appropriate place for us to take a stand.

You spoke to a large assembly there as people were discussing whether or not to stay past the 10 p.m. closure of the memorial. What did you think when others didn’t seem to be staying? What did you do?

At the assembly it initially looked like the crowd was determined to stay, so we made the decision to stand as a front-line buffer between the police and the Occupiers. We had already lined up with two of the clergy from Occupy Faith, one of whom was a Vietnam veteran, and at that point we were committed. But, just a few moments before the police moved in, we were told that the crowd was leaving. Though we probably had time to change our minds, we felt it would not be appropriate at that point to leave. We had every right to be where we were and stand there. I could understand the Occupiers leaving; the police presence was massive and there was a possibility of arrests and violence from the police. A lot of these kids have been roughed up before and the prospect of a day or two in the Tombs is not appealing. I think it would have been great if they stayed, but I don’t blame them for leaving.

How did the police treat you? Do you think they treated you any differently for being veterans?

They treated us generally with respect. I think there were a few factors — firstly, that we were veterans, secondly, that we obviously were not resisting and, thirdly, that our attitude was not confrontational or angry, just determined. We recognize that they are human beings. We understand fully that the police protect the interests of the ruling elite or the 1 percent, but we treat them as individuals, not as enemies. I often see that many of them have considerable anger, fear and the capacity to be brutal, but there are also many who are good, decent people who sympathize with the Occupy movement. You can see it in their faces and in how they act. We were lucky; the cops who made the arrests were all pretty decent, and a few of them even expressed considerable sympathy for the Occupy movement during the booking process.

Why is it so important to have a group composed mainly of veterans? Is it more a matter of who veterans are, or of how they tend to operate?

For whatever strange reason, veterans of military service get a certain amount of respect and credibility from the public. Often, even the police will say, “Thank you for your service.” Many police officers are vets and identify with us, so our presence could discourage violence on their part. If not, then the world will see the system using violence on its own military veterans. Of course, we realize that while in the military we were actually serving the 1 percent, who profit off of war and exploitation. Because of that, when we now denounce war and its many attendant evils, people tend to realize that many of us are speaking and acting from experience. So it’s more a matter of who we are than anything else. I think that anyone can operate with discipline, purpose and integrity. You don’t have to be a vet. Some of our best members are non-veteran allies.

Do you have plans for future actions?

Yes. We will be in Chicago at the NATO protests, and we have a letter for NATO which we intend to deliver in person. If we are stopped at the barricades, we will stay there without anger or hatred, face to face with the police state.

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Veterans Peace Team is too dangerous for South Korea’s Jeju Island

by  | March 16, 2012, 1:44 pm

Graffiti on Jeju Island, via

Graffiti on Jeju Island, via

Graffiti on Jeju Island, via

These guys are no joke. Tarak Kauff was a paratrooper in U.S. Army. Elliott Adams was in the infantry as a paratrooper in Vietnam, Japan, Korea and Alaska. Mike Hastie was an Army medic in Vietnam. Now they are all members of Veterans for Peace, and they just got kicked out of Jeju Island in South Korea.

The issue is no joke either. The United States and South Korea have teamed up to build a huge naval base on the beautiful, pristine island of Jeju — a bio-region so unique that UNESCO has identified nine different geological sites there as “Global Geoparks.” In the midst of this natural wonderland, the two military powerhouses want a deep-water harbor for the nuclear-armed Aegis destroyer and other ships that can menace China and protect Washington and Seoul’s strategic interests in the region.

As Tarak Kauff, one of the Vets, wrote in a reflection en route to Jeju last week:

The base will be part of the ever expanding U.S. military/economic global hegemonic plans to have a potent strike force directly off the coast of China. The U.S. has been an occupying force in South Korea since WWII, consequently imposing it’s political/economic/cultural and military will on the Korean people, this being just one more example of that. To get an idea of how violent and aggressive this is, imagine China or Russia building a naval base complete with missile carrying destroyers, say in Bermuda or Puerto Rico.

The resistance has been strong for seven years, ever since local people learned of the plans to build a port large enough for 20 battleships in their backyard. But international attention has been focused on the village of Ganjeong recently because, on March 7, 2012, the South Korean navy and Samsung started blasting out rock foundations along the coastline. This work is expected to last for the next five months and use 43 tons of explosives. Jeju Governor Woo Keun-min issued an official request to the South Korean navy to halt the blast of the sacred Gureombi volcanic coastline on Jeju Island, but he has been ignored.

The day after the blasting started, hundreds of people arrived on the island to engage in nonviolent resistance against the navy’s blasting. Activists have been lying in the road to stop construction vehicles, protesting peacefully and pressing their local and national legislators. There have been many arrests and activists have been handed heavy fines.

Tarak and the other Veterans for Peace did not get even that far. Immigration officials met the three of them on their plane when it landed on Jeju from Shanghai, China. They were detained, told they could not enter Jeju and put back on a plane to China.

“I am disappointed,” Tarak admitted. “The activists on Jeju were expecting us and looking forward to us coming. They have a high level of nonviolent resistance and I was really eager to be a part of it. I felt like my heart was already there.”

While activist military veterans like Colonel Ann Wright and Bruce Gagnon have been to Jeju before, this March delegation of Veterans for Peace marked the beginning of a new concerted effort by U.S. veterans to work in active and nonviolent solidarity. “This was to be the first project of our newly formed Veterans Peace Team,” said Tarak, “which we are organizing to bring veterans to confront and expose state and police violence domestically and around the world.” The mission statement for Veterans Peace Team reads, in part:

[We] stand in solidarity with … all peoples worldwide, who are standing up courageously, leading and often dying in the struggle for equality and justice as they are exposed to massive state run police and military violence.

In fact, the Peace Team is so new that their first training took place just a week before in Woodstock, NY. Longtime nonviolence trainer Joanne Sheehan, who heads the War Resisters League’s New England office (and is my mother-in-law) helped develop and facilitate the training, which will be used as a model for similar trainings around the country. This is a new kind of training, according to Joanne:

What touched me as a trainer was how aware the veterans were of stepping into harm’s way. We use that rhetoric in training and we role play hassle lines and other confrontations as a way of preparing people for the possibility of nonviolently encountering violence. But this was a room full of people planning to stand in front of police batons and say, “No, this is wrong,” and to use their position in society as veterans to absorb and expose the brutality of the state.

The show of force that the Peace Team was up against in Jeju has been extreme. In preparation for blasting to begin, South Korea sent hundreds of extra police to the island. Local activists estimate that between the indigenous police force and the mainland forces, there are now about 1,500 heavily equipped police in the village of Ganjeong — making a ratio of one officer for every villager.

Elliott Adams, former president of Veterans for Peace, was struck by the irony of the situation. “This is gratitude? I served in Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division defending the people from North Korea; I come back to again defend the people and I am pushed off into no-man’s-land.”

Reached by phone on Thursday morning, back in New York, Tarak Kauff told me about what it was like getting on the plane back to China:

The Chinese people on the plane were hostile and disrespectful towards us. They had been kept waiting for three Americans, they thought we were spies or something. It went on for a while and finally one guy was just totally offensive. I turned and explained to him that we were American military veterans, trying to get to Jeju to protest the U.S. and South Korean Naval Base being constructed there — abase that will be a threat to China. Well, everything changed and they were respectful and nice to us the rest of the way.

Back in the Shanghai airport, immigration officials held on to their passports and got them on an American Airlines flight back to Los Angeles. In the course of all of this it became clear that American was going to charge them $280 each to change their tickets. “Well, this would have added insult to injury,” Tarak says. “I explained to the supervisor — a Chinese woman — why we were forced to change our flight, and she waived the fees.” They did not get where the wanted to go, but they were able to reach out to lots of ordinary Chinese people with this message of international solidarity. It was likely the first time the Chinese had encountered U.S. peace activists.

The three Americans were not alone. The day before the veterans made their forced U-turn, Angie Zelter of the United Kingdom and Benjamin Monnet of France were deported from South Korea. Adams wrote in an email that Monnet “was forcefully dragged by about 10 immigration officers and left for the Hwaseong Immigration office that has a foreigners’ prison, in front of my and lawyer’s eyes.” According to theYonhap News Agency:

Angie Zelter is accused of breaking into the construction site in Gangjeong Village on the southern tip of the resort island Friday evening after cutting down barbed-wire fences. … Meanwhile, French activist Benjamin Monnet allegedly trespassed onto the site and climbed a crane on the same day.

The South Korean military and police forces went to great lengths and considerable expense to prevent U.S. veterans from standing side-by-side with priests and nuns, villagers, students, monks and other international activists on Jeju. “U.S military veterans resisting the naval base obviously has significance,” says Tarak.

The veterans are now back in the United States, jet-lagged and exhausted after their ordeal, but they are not giving up. They protested at the South Korean Consulate (335 East 45th Street, between First and Second Avenues) in New York City on Friday, March 16 at 12:30. If you couldn’t join them there, consider calling the South Korean embassy in Washington DC 202-939-5692 or 202-939-5600 to lodge a strong complaint about the denial of entry of three VFP members entry to Jeju Island. For information on upcoming Peace Team trainings, email Elliott Adams.

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Veterans Peace Team Mission Statement

Veterans Peace Team Statement of Purpose

People of color, immigrants, and working-class communities in the United States of America have long been on the receiving end of police brutality.

The violence of the system, however, can and will target anyone who stands up for justice and opposes the exploitation of the 99 percent by the 1 percent.

The Veterans For Peace Statement of Purpose states that we pledge to work for the elimination of war—the ultimate violence. As veterans of conscience, we are compelled to take a stand against police violence toward the national Occupy movement and others seeking a more just system.

Veterans Peace Team, a national project of Veterans For Peace, will be made available as we can to Occupy and other protest sites where the local general assemblies or decision-making bodies request our participation.

These Veterans Peace Teams will act as an unarmed, nonviolent presence standing with peaceful protestors, taking a front line if necessary, nonviolently confronting, documenting and opposing any and all use of force by police, national guard, regular military, or private contractors against peaceful protestors exercising their right to assemble and seek redress of grievances.

As veterans with non-veteran citizen allies standing in solidarity with us, we implore individual officers, police agencies, elected officials and government agencies to use restraint, negotiation and common sense when dealing with peaceful protesters.

We realize that those employed in law enforcement are part of the 99 percent, and we call upon all police personnel not to be a domestic front line force for the 1 percent—but to honor and perform their duty to serve and protect the people.

The Veterans Peace Team mission as veterans and allies is to nonviolently confront, document, and thereby expose the inherent or actual violence of those institutions that would use violence to impose their will on others.


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Protesters Arrested at Quantico Marine Base at Rally for Bradley Manning

Police almost trample protesters sitting in the road at Quantico Marine base.

350 activists rallied and marched and 31 were arrested at the U.S. Marine Base at Quantico in Virginia March 20 demanding freedom for PVC Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking secret U.S. government documents to the WikiLeaks website. Manning has been held in solitary confinement for nine months; recently, even his underwear has been taken away at night because authorities claim he might hurt himself. He presents himself outside his cell for inspection each morning unclothed.

Click here for the complete story in pictures.

Photos by Irina Ivanova

Video by Eddie Becker

The demonstrators, including many U.S. military veterans, wanted to put flowers on a replica of the Iwo Jima memorial that sits outside the entrance to the base, but the base authorities closed access to the statue, which is normally open to the public. A deal had been negotiated to allow six of the demonstrators, accompanied by a videographer and a photographer, to lay flowers on the memorial, but they weren’t even allowed to go up to the statue, instead having to throw the flowers over a barrier about 10 feet away. The rest of the demonstrators were enclosed in a pen across the road from the site. After the flowers were left, three of the six–Dan Ellsberg, Elaine Brower, and Ret. Col. Ann Wright–sat in the middle of Route 1 and were soon joined by other demonstrators, who broke out of the barricades.

The Virginia State Police handled some of the protesters quite roughly, including pulling people to their feet by their heads and necks and pushing standing protesters on top of those sitting next to them.

Some nine different police agencies were on hand to deal with the nonviolent protest, including military police, Prince County Mounted Police, Quantico town police, and Washington, D.C., Metropolitan police.

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113 Antiwar Protesters Arrested at White House Fence

Watermelon Slim of Vietnam Veterans Against the War is taken into custody March 19 at the White House. Photo by Ellen Davidson

More pictures by Ellen Davidson

Pictures of March 19 by Irina Ivanova

Pictures of March 18 benefit at Busboys & Poets by Irina Ivanova

Some 1500 activists rallied in Lafayette Park and marched to the White House fence today, where 113 were arrested. Chanting “Stop the wars, expose the lies, free Bradley Manning!” the protesters marked the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. The action was sponsored by Veterans For Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and March Forward!

Speakers at the rally included Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader, and Ret. Col. Ann Wright.

The activists plan to follow up March 20 with a rally at the Marine base at Quantico, where Private First Class Bradley Manning, accused of releasing classified government information to the WikiLeaks website, has been held in solitary confinement for nine months.

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A rally at noon, March 19, in Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, will feature Daniel Ellsberg; Ralph Nader; Ann Wright, retired Army colonel and diplomat who resigned over the 2003 Iraq invasion; writer Chris Hedges and representatives of four national antiwar veterans organizations.

Immediately following the rally and a short march, the military veterans will lead peace activists in a nonviolent civil resistance action, similar to one in December when 131 people were arrested at the White House fence.

The demonstrators make three demands of the Obama administration: Stop the wars, expose the lies and free Bradley Manning.

Mike Ferner, former Veterans For Peace president and Navy corpsman, said, “Since 2003, U.S. taxpayers have spent over 780 billion dollars to kill more than a million Iraqis, leaving the survivors considerably worse off than before; killing 4,439 U.S. troops and wounding many thousands more. At every level our economy is bankrupt, while state budget crises prove that maintaining an Empire kills people abroad and turns our people and cities into ‘collateral damage.’ Our infrastructure isn’t bombed, it simply rots from neglect.”

Bill Homans, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, said Vietnam Veterans Against the War will be at the White House “to tell President Obama that a further combat role in Iraq and Afghanistan is simply unacceptable. We must stop making new combat veterans every day and treat the ones we have now with fairness and respect. Bring our brothers and sisters home now!”

Garett Reppenhagen, an Army Infantry combat veteran of the Iraq War and chair of the Iraq Veterans Against the War Board of Directors, said, “The one person who’s done the most to tell us the truth, PFC Bradley Manning, is now treated like a criminal by the same government that led us into war. In 2004, I deployed to Iraq as a sniper and since then we’ve learned the war was based on lies: We found no weapons of mass destruction, nor was Saddam Hussein connected with the 9/11 attacks. We’ve given the people of the Middle East plenty of ‘shock and awe’ but little democracy or stability.”

Mike Prysner, co-founder of March Forward! and an Army combat veteran of the Iraq War, said, “In March 2003, I landed in Iraq as a 19 year-old soldier in the U.S. Army. Little did I know that my life would never be the same again — nor would the lives of millions of others. That war was based on willful lies and deceptions from Washington and the Pentagon—just like the war in Afghanistan. While over $700 million a day is spent on these criminal wars, unions, education and social services are slashed. We can change this, but we have to stand up and fight back.”

Organizations endorsing the White House civil resistance action include: ANSWER, Black Is Back, CodePink, Courage to Resist, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say NO, March Forward!, National Assembly to End the U.S. Wars and Occupations, Office of the Americas, Peace Action, Peace Action Montgomery, Peace of the Action, United for Peace and Justice, United National Anti-War Committee, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, Voters for Peace, War Resisters League, Washington Peace Center, World Can’t Wait.

On Sunday, March 20, members of many of these groups will go to Quantico, Va., for a 2 pm rally to support Bradley Manning.

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Major Antiwar Veterans Groups Plan Antiwar Civil Resistance at White House

The imperial wars rage on. U.S. drones rain missiles down on innocents in Pakistan; hundreds of children die daily in Afghanistan because of the war; contrary to what the President says, the occupation in Iraq continues. The devastation and misery caused by the U.S. invasion of Iraq has not even begun to be addressed. The United States, rather than bringing democracy and freedom to the Iraqi people, has destroyed their country—perhaps beyond repair.

On March 19, 2011, a broad coalition of U.S. military veterans consisting of members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, March Forward!, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace will gather at the White House in solidarity to demand peace. The veteran-led action will be supported by a large array of activist groups including ­ANSWER, Fellow­ship of Reconciliation, ­CODEPINK, Voters for Peace, United for Peace and ­Justice, World Can’t Wait, Peace Action, United National Antiwar Committee, and the War Resisters League.

Veterans will gather to support Bradley Manning, who should be venerated as a hero instead of being incarcerated under conditions amounting, literally (and legally) to torture. We call for an immediate end to the cruel, inhuman, and ­degrading treatment of PFC Bradley Manning during his military ­confinement.

Records and videos allegedly downloaded by Manning revealed horrendous war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, widespread torture by Iraqi authorities with full knowledge of the U.S. military, previously unknown estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. military checkpoints, and the massive Iraqi civilian death toll caused by the U.S. invasion.

As veterans, we well understand and cherish the obligation of military personnel to refuse illegal orders and beyond that to prevent and expose war crimes. We know there is no excuse for following, either actively or passively, illegal orders.

We understand the need for justice. Our demand is clear, straightforward, and undeniable. Bring to justice those who committed war crimes, not those who report them—who heroically refuse to be a part of state-inspired mayhem and murder.
Veterans and others will gather en masse at the White House as we did on December 16, 2010, and again refuse to move. We have three clear demands for the President. End these wars and occupations. Expose the Lies. Free Bradley ­Manning.

“The speeches were over. There was a mournful harmonica rendition of taps. The 500 protesters fell silent. One hundred and thirty-one men and women, many of them military veterans wearing old fatigues, formed a single, silent line. Under a heavy snowfall and to the slow beat of a drum, they walked to the White House fence. They stood there until they were arrested.”—Chris Hedges

“We have become a killer nation and our economy is addicted to endless war spending. The ­Congress and the White House have been taken over by the corporate oligarchy and they have drowned ­democracy.”—Bruce Gagnon

America’s corporate rulers understand that their power depends upon a subdued, sedated and ­manipulated public—a public fed lies and fantasies that can, when needed, be manipulated by fear or coercion. But as the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt show us, the people can triumph over entrenched power, lies, fear, and coercion.
Forty-four years ago at Riverside Church in New York City Martin Luther King said, “Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”
On March 19—the anniversary of the brutal invasion of Iraq, where over a million Iraqis and almost 5,000 U.S. soldiers died with thousands more grievously injured—as the occupation of Iraq and the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan continue unabated, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, March Forward! and Veterans For Peace will bring the largest ever veteran-led nonviolent public civil resistance to the White House.
Our resistance will grow in numbers and strength; and like a hungry lion, our resistance will not abate, will not cease, until our appetite for peace is ­sated.

Download a two-sided flyer with this statement: Color or Black & White

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Ride Board

Feel free to post below if you need or can offer rides to Washington for the March 18, 19 & 20 actions.

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