Above photo by Jefferson Siegel.
Sisters and Brothers, Comrades,
This October 7 at 5 pm, veterans and allies will gather at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in NYC, as we did last year, when 25 veterans and allies were arrested as we peacefully remembered the fallen, reaffirmed our commitment to ending war, exposed the lies and betrayals of U.S. wars and stood with dignity and resolve for our inalienable right to assemble.
The police normally do not bother anyone passing through or lingering at the Memorial at any hour although there is an arbitrary 10 pm closing time posted. We were arrested slightly after 10 pm as we read the names of the fallen and placed flowers at the base of the memorial wall.
Prior to 10 PM we had speakers, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghan war vets as well as non vets who exposed the lies and betrayals of the Vietnam war and made the connections between U.S. wars of empire, militarism, poverty and environmental devastation.
Subsequently 12 of us went to trial and after 5 days of compelling testimony had a very interesting and somewhat unprecedented verdict of guilty and then a dismissal of all charges, “in the interest of justice.”
We are filing a federal suit to challenge the 10 PM closing time and are involving NY City Council members in the struggle to overturn this ordinance restricting our right to assemble. We claim the right to be at that open plaza place of memories at any time day or night as is the case at most war memorials.
In 2012 we stated on our web site, “On this day and at this place, our demands are straightforward:
We call for an end to the 12-year war in Afghanistan.
We call for an end to all U.S. wars of aggression.
We will remember those who have fallen.
We will stand for our right, duty and sworn oath, to defend the Constitution and to assemble and organize.
The deeper issue is that we recognize, with no illusions, that the ghosts of Stalin, HItler, Mussolini have occupied the elite ruling class of the U.S., U.K. and their minions. We are in the grips of a efficient, ruthless and still partially disguised system of totalitarian fascism. All those of us who understand this, should also understand and take it to heart that many of us will face difficult times ahead.
“State power is to be, from now on, unchecked, unfettered and unregulated. And those who do not accept unlimited state power, always the road to tyranny, will be ruthlessly persecuted.” – Chris Hedges
Most of us, especially white, privileged males (and females – somewhat less privileged) still live relatively comfortable and safe lives. This will probably not last.
We see signs of encroaching repression and state surveillance all around. Being a white male – or female has not protected truth-tellers like Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning (35 years for revealing the truth), Thomas Tamm, John Kiriakou, Jesselyn Radack, and many others either pursued and harassed relentlessly by the government or sitting behind bars already.
Sooner or later, many of us may face more severe repression than an overnight in jail for civil resistance. This being the obvious reality, my question is – how much are a few more years of comfort and relative safety worth, while countless millions of living beings suffer and while the lives and future of our children and their children are increasingly endangered?
There is a sense of urgency.
Do we expect our highly paid, comfortable, so-called “democratically elected” representatives to change the system – to change the corporate machine that gives them wealth, prestige and comfort? The hope many decent people believed in 5 years ago has turned into a cruel and bitter disappointment.
We cannot expect a system, rotten from the beginning with slavery, genocide, wars for profit and empire, to voluntarily change itself or its essence. More likely, as all entrenched systems of power have done, from Rome to the Third Reich, it will seek to maintain itself until outside forces and inside decay cause collapse.
Let us put ourselves for a moment in the place of the Vietnamese, the Iraqis, the Afghan people, indigenous people worldwide, poor people of color right here, who every day see U.S. corporate militarism destroying the lives of their women, children, incarcerating and torturing their men and women and stealing land lived upon for generations.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said on April 4,1967 at Riverside Church in New York City.
“Somehow this madness must cease. . . we are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man (and woman) of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.”
“Somehow this madness must cease . . . ”
The words he spoke 46 years ago ring even more true today: “These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before.”
The question of our times is: can we follow Martin’s lead and go beyond fear, embrace a willingness to sacrifice, which often means increased risk, to take one more step into that unknown and dangerous revolutionary zone, that zone where greater freedom and strength awaits?
There are many steps we can take and each of us has to decide what we must do, but we must act.
Think about joining us, as once again in October, veterans and allies resist police and state repression of our right to assemble, our right to remember and speak out about the lies, the betrayals of this system.
Join members of Veterans For Peace on October 7th at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in NYC as we send a powerful message to the powers that be and to the public, that we, veterans and allies will stand for our rights and all people’s right to live freely and express themselves without fear.
For more information and to be involved, e-mail StopTheseWars@PopularResistance.org.
Take the next step.