At Thursday’s debate, where both candidates pandered to “Joe the Plumber” (who turns out not to be a plumber, not to be undecided and not to pay his taxes), U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan tried to get their questions asked, and were treated horribly. Five vets and four civilian supporters were arrested) and several injured, including one vet who was stepped on by a horse ridden by a cop — on his head, causing him to be taken to the hospital (after insistance by other vets) before he was hauled to jail.
Report from World Can’t Wait:
RNC Police Tactics v. Iraq Veterans with a Message for the Candidates
A group of us from World Can’t Wait went to Hostra University yesterday before the debate. Several different groups had messages outside the gates. Immigrant rights activists (Hempstead has a large Salvadoran community) came on a march with student anti-war groups, World Can’t Wait, Code Pink and many local activists. The Long Island Alliance of peace/environmental groups, and about 50 Planned Parenthood supporters, along with a mix of Obama supporters had a rally inside a fenced-in “free speech zone.” We were all in a kind of fluid mix across a wide turnpike from where the debate was held, while elsewhere, a free concert was held for Obama. All the national media were inside the campus.
Iraq Veterans Against the War had announced last week that they had questions for Obama and McCain about the war and treatment of veterans, and wanted their representatives allowed into ask them. IVAW had a meeting earlier with the local police, assuring them would be non-violent. At 7pm, the deadline they gave the debate organizers for an answer, 15 members of IVAW led a march across the street. At least 100 of us followed them, backing them at the entrance of the campus, and shouting “Let them in!” We were met by a solid line of police on horses, with nearly 100 riot police.
Matthis Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith read the questions they wanted to ask the candidates, and when they stepped forward a few feet to attempt to go on campus, they were arrested. In the next few minutes, a total of 10 IVAW members were arrested, some after standing together, pushed across the turnpike by cops on horses. They never raised their arms. The horses were used repeatedly to charge into the crowd, and especially at the IVAW members, in uniform, who were able to stay upright for nearly 10 minutes. As we were pushed to the opposite sidewalk, the batons came out, and horses pushed several veterans to the ground, including Geoff Millard. Nick Morgan was stepped on by a horse, and treated at a hospital (only after the other vets demanded it) for a broken cheekbone and possible concussion, then sent on to jail. Two women in the crowd were also hurt by horses.
The several veterans who were not arrested spoke to the independent media afterward, full of outrage. Jabar Magruder, who was stationed in Iraq as part of the national guard, said he had not seen people attacked like that since he was in Iraq, and “I don’t need to see that here”.
Those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct and refusal to obey an official order, and released for a November 10 court date. There was almost no mention of this protest in the news today. New York Newsday and The Army Times were the only daily newspapers to cover the story. Local TV affiliates sent cameras after the arrests. See independent media reports:
And the questions that went unasked:
Chiroux planned on asking Obama a pointed question: “My question is, as President of the United States of America, are you prepared to back up your own words [about the illegality of the Iraq War] and the U.S. Constitution by supporting service members refusing to participate in what you describe as an illegal occupation?”
Goldsmith wanted to ask McCain a question about his lack of support for veterans. “What promises are you willing to make, as a veteran, as a senator, as a presidential candidate, to the veterans of the United States, to prove that you will ensure the V.A. is fully funded, staffed and capable of preventing troops from suffering as they are now?” he says.