October 7, 2012, was a cold, windy and rainy night at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in NYC. Twenty-five people, most of them veterans, were arrested by the NYPD—while we were reading the names of the fallen and laying white carnations by the wall as a bell mournfully sounded after each twenty names.
The veterans were exercising their right to peacefully assemble, especially at that open memorial, and intended to stay, soulfully and with great dignity, at this place of memories for many, until the morning light. A banner we had said, “Nightmares of War do not end at 10 pm.”
This October 7 at 6 pm, marking now 12 years of war in Afghanistan, we will regroup in greater strength at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in NYC to nonviolently reaffirm our commitment to justice, ending war, and exposing the lies of war and to stand with dignity and resolve for our inalienable right to assemble, especially at this hallowed place.
We will gather at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to voice our opposition to 12 years of war and war crimes committed by the U.S. military and private mercenaries upon one of the poorest nations on earth—Afghanistan. As veterans, we know the connection between the lies and betrayals of the Vietnam War and all the subsequent U.S. wars.
The actions of the NYPD on that October night in 2012 did not come as a surprise to us. On May 1 of that year, the NYPD arrested a smaller number of veterans on the same excuse. On October 7 then and now we have four very specific, open and honorable purposes which have not changed. We did not then and do not now hide our intention.
As we said in 2012, “On this day and at this hallowed place, our demands are straightforward:
- We call for an end to the 11-year war in Afghanistan.
- We call for an end to all U.S. wars of aggression.
- We remember all those who have fallen and been wounded by war.
- We intend to stand up for our right, duty and sworn oath, to defend the Constitution and to assemble and organize
The right of citizenry to assemble as guaranteed in the First Amendment has historically been dwarfed, minimized and thwarted in this country by ruling-class robber barons and the police and military designed and used to protect their moneyed interests.
Mike Tork, U.S. Navy, Vietnam veteran, expressed it succinctly,
“Being able to peaceably assemble to petition the government for a redress of grievances is crucial. We may as well draw that line in the sand now, because it will eventually come to that. If we can’t assemble, then we can’t organize. If we can’t organize, we can’t win. We have to help provide the courage so that others will stand up as well.”
Subsequent to the arrests on the night of October 7, 2012, 12 of us took part in a five-day trial, a trial in which the right to assemble peacefully was more than adequately expressed by the defendants themselves and experts on international law. Nevertheless, the young, on-his-way-up judge, as expected, stood behind the police and pronounced us guilty.
In an unprecedented move, however, he dismissed the charges with no penalty, warning us that the next time, we “would not get off so easy.” What the judge also realized is that most of us were prepared to take whatever jail time he would impose us rather than pay a fine, do community service or admit any guilt. He didn’t want to be the one to send veterans to jail.
If you wish to stand with us on October 7 at this special place of memory, we welcome you. The organizers from Veterans For Peace only ask that you respect their wishes to do so peacefully, that you do not act or speak abusively to anyone, including the NYPD—even if you disagree with their actions—that you do not carry hateful signs or come to this place and show disrespect. We will stand with dignity and resolve for the rights of all citizens and for the abolishment of war. We will not carry hatred in our hearts and ask that all those who support us do the same.
For more information and to be involved, e-mail StopTheseWars@PopularResistance.org.