Revolution #146, October 26, 2008

Iraq Vets Arrested & Trampled While Attempting to Question McCain & Obama

We received the following correspondence from a reader:

The last presidential candidates debate was held on October 15 in Hempstead, New York at Hofstra University. That afternoon a march called by Iraq Veterans Against the War went down Hempstead’s main streets. Protesters included immigrants’ rights activists from Long Island (Hempstead is a center of Salvadoran immigrants); local middle school students with their teacher; college students from Brooklyn and Hunter College; Veterans for Peace, Peace Action, Pax Christi, Code Pink, and World Can’t Wait–Drive Out the Bush Regime with a banner saying “No War on Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Iran…or Pakistan!”

In the evening, two hours before the debate, 15 members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and 350 anti-war protesters gathered outside Hofstra. IVAW had sent a letter asking debate moderator Bob Schieffer to let two veterans question McCain and Obama about ending the occupation of Iraq and the treatment of war veterans, but received no answer. 100 riot police, some on horseback, blocked the campus entrance to keep protesters out.

Matthis Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith, two IVAW members, had been chosen as speakers to go into the debate. (Last May Chiroux refused “stop-loss” orders to Iraq [orders to return to duty after being discharged from the military].) The two vets stepped towards the gate. The crowd chanted “let them in!” and Chiroux and Goldsmith were immediately arrested. Then mounted police pushed everyone across a street to the opposite sidewalk. The police charged into the IVAW members, pushing several to the ground. Army veteran Nick Morgan was stepped on by a horse and had his cheekbone broken. Ten IVAW members and five other protesters were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

IVAW member Jabar Magruder said, “I have not seen injuries like that since Iraq, seeing people laying on the ground like that. I don’t need to go through that here in the streets. I don’t need to go through that here in America. And this is what I got tonight for trying to peacefully bring a message to these candidates. Both of them claim that they support veterans, and this is how we got supported tonight. By being pushed back and trampled and arrested.”

A New School University student from Jamaica said this was the most significant protest so far in her life. She was very angry at the brutality of the police attack and screamed at the police about it for an hour. Her brother taunted, “Obama! What do you have to say about this?” Anti-war activists from Long Island were shocked and angered. For many, this was a first experience seeing protesters being bloodied and some yelled at the police, “Don’t you know you work for us?”

African-American and West Indian people from the Hempstead neighborhood came out on the street as this whole scene unfolded. Some were there to support Obama and others had come out because of the confrontation. Several older women said they had never seen white people beaten by police before, although everyone said they had seen plenty of Black and Latino people pulled over, pulled out of their cars and beaten, or stopped and frisked on the street. A Black veteran spoke about how U.S. troops act towards people in Iraq, “Like they aren’t human. Like they don’t have any rights, just like us.” Some bystanders asked why would people protest if this meant risking getting beaten and arrested. Intense conversations broke out among people, including distributors of Revolution newspaper, about what rights people have in a “democracy” that’s really a capitalist-imperialist dictatorship; how Black and Latino people do get treated differently than whites; how a socialist society would change this.

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