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 twelfth. 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 7th, 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 7th 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.”
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