Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Report from Outside the Presidential Debate Last Night

What "democracy" looks like outside the permitted "debate" celebrating "democracy."

From Debra Sweet

[For photos go here. For video footage, see here.]

A group of us from World Can't Wait were out at Hostra University last night before the debate. Several different groups of immigrant rights activists (Hempstead has a large Salvadoran community) student anti-war groups, the Long Island Alliance of peace/environmental groups, and about 50 Planned Parenthood supporters, along with a mix of Obama supporters marched and rallied in a kind of fluid mix across a wide turnpike from where the debate was held.

Iraq Veterans Against the War had announced last week that they had questions for Obama and McCain, and wanted their representatives allowed in. At 7pm, the deadline of when they expected an answer from the debate moderator and the candidates, about 15 members of IVAW led a march across the street. 100 of us followed at that point, into the street, backing them up at the entrance of the campus, shouting "Let them in!" They were met by a solid line of police on horses, with nearly 100 riot police. The activists were non-violent, and announced a peaceful protest.

Matthis Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith read their questions for the candidates, and when they stepped forward to go in, were arrested. A total of 10 IVAW members were arrested, some after standing together, pushed across the turnpike by cops on horses. 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, horses pushed several veterans to the ground, including Geoff Millard, and at least one, Nick Morgan was stepped on by a horse, and hospitalized with a broken cheekbone.

The several veterans who were not arrested spoke to the 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".

I've gathered some of the coverage here:

Listen to Democracy Now for today. Interviews and live audio at the end of the broadcast.

IVAW members arrested while attempting to present questions to Obama and McCain
from ivaw.org:

One hour before the final presidential debate of the 2008 campaign, fourteen members of IVAW marched in formation to Hofstra University to present questions for the candidates. IVAW had requested permission from debate moderator Bob Schieffer to ask their questions during the debate but got no response.

The contingent of veterans in dress uniforms and combat uniforms attempted to enter the building where the debate was to be held in order to ask their questions but were turned back by police. The IVAW members at the front of the formation were immediately arrested, and others were pushed back into the crowd by police on horseback. Several members were injured, including former Army Sergeant Nick Morgan who suffered a broken cheekbone when he was trampled by police horses before being arrested.

"Neither of the candidates have shown real support for soldiers and veterans. We came here to try and get serious questions answered, questions that we as veterans of the Iraq war, have a right to ask, but instead we were arrested. We will continue to ask these questions no matter who is elected. We believe that the time has come to end this war and bring our troops home, and we will be pushing for that no matter what happens in this election." said Jason Lemieux, a former Sergeant in the US Marine Corps and member of IVAW who served three tours in Iraq.

A total of 10 veterans were arrested during the action, including Matthis Chiroux, Kristopher Goldsmith, Adam Kokesh, Mike Spinato, Geoff Millard, Marlisa Grogan, Nathan Peld, Nick Morgan, James Gilligan and Jose Vasquez.

NY Indypendent:

At Least Nine Demonstrators Arrested as Iraq Vets Try to Enter Final Presidential Debate

By Alex Kane
October 16, 2008 | Posted in IndyBlog

As millions of Americans were readying their television sets to tune into the final presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, a much different scene was unfolding outside of Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY where the debate took place.

At least five members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), a group of military veterans who are calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, were arrested, as well as at least four civilians, according to National Lawyers Guild observers. Nassau County police on horses trampled one member of IVAW, Nick Morgan, a veteran who served in Iraq for about a year. Morgan was knocked to the ground, and according to witnesses, the horse hooves slammed down on his face. A gash was visible on the side of his head as blood dripped down onto the pavement.

Protesters in the crowd said that Morgan was taken to a local hospital.

“The horses were pushing, like really pushing, against [members of IVAW], and physically touching their bodies,” says Erika Ward, an NYU student and intern at Democracy Now! “To see people laying on the ground…was crazy. For me, it was really emotional, [and] I saw people crying,” she continued.

AT THE HEMPSTEAD STATION

The protest began slowly, with about 70 anti-war activists rallying at a parking lot nearby the Hempstead train station. Speakers included a member of the New York Civil Liberties Union, a local civil rights advocate, a Military Families Speak Out activist and a member of the May 1st Coalition for Immigrant and Worker Rights. As more activists from the NYC area poured in, the march to the campus of Hofstra started, with defiant chants of “Stop the torture, stop the war, this is what we’re fighting for,” and “They’re our brothers, they’re our sisters, we support war resisters!” filling the streets of Hempstead.

With IVAW members at the front, the crowd swelled to around 400 demonstrators. Members of the local Planned Parenthood joined in along the way. At one point, as the antiwar march neared the campus, a group of ten members of the Gathering of Eagles, a conservative pro-war organization, heckled the demonstrators. They shouted epithets like “traitor” and “treasonous” at the Iraq veterans.

The troops have “been promised so much…it’s important for IVAW to have a voice,” says Chelsea Florio, a freshman at Fordham University and a member of the Fordham Anti-War Coalition.

The members of IVAW, backed by a crowd of anti-war protesters, were allowed to pass through one line of police before they were met with lines of Nassau County riot police and cops on horses who would not allow the veterans to enter the Hofstra campus. IVAW members Matthis Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith, who organized the protest, went first and were promptly arrested. At least three other veterans and four civilians followed and were arrested as well.

The arrests seemed to energize the crowd, and as they chanted, “Let them in,” it looked as if things could easily get out of hand.

The police on horses pushed back against the crowd, which was fronted by a group of about 15 Iraq veterans, until the demonstrators had been moved onto a nearby sidewalk.

After a tense standoff for five minutes, it looked like the police in riot gear shoved veterans and demonstrators to push them even further back, and around four people were knocked over by riot police and horses. It was during this fracas that Morgan was injured. After the police assault, a standoff between the cops and demonstrators occurred for over an hour.

A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS

A week ago, Chiroux, who this past May publicly declared his intent to refuse to deploy to Iraq, sent a letter to CBS debate moderator Bob Scheiffer spelling out the demands of IVAW. Chiroux’s letter demanded that two members of IVAW, himself and Goldsmith, be allowed entry into the debate to ask Senators Obama and McCain one question each. CBS or Schieffer did not respond to the letter from Chiroux.

“What yourself and the candidates must decide now, Mr. Schieffer, is what the legacy of this debate will be. Will this be remembered as an event where both sides of the [aisle] and the media came together to hear from our nation’s heroes…or will the words and promises of both candidates be forever shrouded in the image of a host of uniformed veterans and their supporters going to jail because these campaigns cared too little to hear from them?” Chiroux’s letter read.

“Our goal is to make Iraq and veterans the forefront of the debate,” said Goldsmith.

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.

With the crowd emotionally exhausted and worn down, the protest started to taper off at about 8:30 PM.

“We have a blind media [and] deaf candidates, but [IVAW] has a voice that will be heard,” James Gilligan, a member of IVAW said earlier in the day.

2 comments:

Arthur84 said...

Yes, what has happened to our media? During the civil rights marches in the sixties and seventies, there were cameras, and the media showed what was happening during the marches, speeches, etc.
Today, the only way I have heard any of this is through your blog. I never see any of this on the news. I never read any of this in the newspaper. What happened to our reporters?
Obviously, someone or some group is censoring what the media relays to the public. What happened to free speech, and freedom of the press?
We are blindly watching them slowing take away each and every right the Constitution grants us. Unless we do something, sooner or later we will not have any rights left at all.

Patrick Roberts said...

it's kindof sad that McCain and Palin have lowered people's standards so far that, when they finally manage to put whole sentences together during their debates suddenly they either "tie" or "are really making strides in their campaign" Between the two of them, they've got the pity vote locked away for sure. As for their actual competancy....