Thursday, May 9, 2013

Throwing a wrench in the imperialist machine

GUEST: Tarak Kauff, Veterans for Peace Action Team and organizer with the Occupy Movement, talks about his arrest and trial for reading the names of the war dead at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New York City.

Tarak was arrested by the NYPD for reading names of the war dead after 10 pm at the Vietnam War Memorial. Click on the video link above to get a intimate view of veterans honoring their dead, and resisting the new military adventures of the American Empire.

Who pays the price for our invasions of other countries? It is simply American veterans, lied to, pressured to murder innocent people, and then discarded with their broken bodies and battered souls.

In some ways, American veterans serve as our nation's conscience. We can report the barbarism that most citizens don't want to think about. We remember the woman or the child shot out in some field for no reason in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Vietnam, or Korea. We know our empire is a terrorist state, because we have been the terrorists.

Resistance is our a form of redemption. Or as one Iraq vet said during the Winter Soldier Testimony in Washington, DC, "I was a monster once, but I am no longer that now." Many veterans spend the rest of their lives reasserting their humanity by throwing a wrench in the imperialist machine.

The following is a statement to the court by Jay Wenk, one of the vets arrested that day.

Your Honor, I was born in Boston, where I was nourished in the history of the American Revolution. I grew up believing in that noble fight for Liberty, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. I'm an honorably discharged Combat Infantry Veteran; I served in Belgium, Germany, and Czechoslovakia during WW2. At present, I serve in my hometown of Woodstock, NY, where I am an elected official. You and I, your Honor, have both pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York. I have done that, and continue to do that, in War and in Peace. 
In observance of my Pledge, in the late afternoon of October 7 2012; that date chosen because of it's relation to the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, I went with my brothers and sisters to the Vietnam Memorial on Water Street. We intended to make an observance, a Memorial at that officially dedicated place. It was not an easy thing to do. The weather was atrocious; freezing wind whipped the driving rain under our collars, into our faces, our hands, everything. I mention this because we could have abandoned the proceedings, but our commitment to honor those whose lives were ripped from their bodies in war took precedence over our comfort. 
Tragically, for ourselves and for the entire nation, Constitutional protections for We, the People, were cancelled at that time and place. New York City Police, acting on some one's orders, interrupted our solemn memorial for those killed in war. Your Honor, in my Town we have a war memorial that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. In Washington DC, there is no restriction on when the public can be at the Memorial Wall. I wonder what thoughts were in the mind of whoever called the Police to end our serious observance. Certainly he or she is no Patriot, as I understood the term as a boy and now as a man. Nevertheless, we no longer had the right, the responsibility, to assemble peacefully, to speak out and petition to redress grievances. 
Your Honor, on the facade of this building, carved in stone, are the words of Justice, for all. I remind you of this because, as you know, this Nations' legal history is replete with unjust law. I don't need to point out the outrageously voluminous examples of them to you Sir, or to the lawyers and public here, but I will say that untold numbers of citizens have had their lives debased, if not ruined, because of legal but unjust law. I maintain that the actions of the police in the evening of 10/7 were unjust, even if legal. I have no quarrel with the police, they were following orders from higher up. Indeed, every one of them were sympathetic to our situation, and especially to those of us who are veterans. I have lived my life practicing Justice, as best I can, and I appear here seeking Justice.
Thank you, Sir.

Here is Tarak Kauff's statement to the court.

On the evening of May 1st 2012, I was arrested, along with Bishop George Packard, a much decorated Vietnam combat veteran, and 7 or 8 others, mostly veterans, for refusing to leave the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when ordered to from a megaphone held rudely and offensively approximately 2 ft. from my face by Capt. Edward Winski of the NYPD.  
The NYPD was there to drive out approximately 200 members of the Occupy movement who were having a well organized, peaceful and nonviolent assembly seated in the small amphitheater – the very thing one would expect and want to have regularly in a free democratic society. 
We were there as part of the Veterans PeaceTeam to try to prevent or stand between increasing and documented police violence and the young occupiers and to stand for all our rights to assemble peacefully and discuss issues in a public place - regardless of the unnecessary and arbitrarily enforced 10 pm “closing time of the park.” After all, where could we discuss issues? The NYPD has effectively shut down or hampered the essential citizen's right to assemble, time after time in public places. 
On Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, when the defendants and others gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Water Street, we had specific purposes which we did not attempt to hide before the event. (Introduce exhibits 1, 2 and 3 – banners)

We were assembled to call for an end to the war in Afghanistan, to speak out against the horrific and unjustifiable 11 years of killing and destruction in that country, the connection between government and media lies and betrayal on every level of veterans and the general public before, during and after the Vietnam and subsequent wars. We were there to affirm our right to remember our comrades who had fallen in these wars and we were there, perhaps most important, to stand up for thevery life blood of civil society – the right of the public to assemble peacefully and address issues in a public place. We were there nonviolently and peacefully to directly challenge the Mayor and his own "private army,” the NYPD, for shutting down the public's right to assemble, when in a just society, they would be using all their meant to protect and insure that right, as would the courts. 
We were there to give the NYPD a chance to affirm and recognize our right, especially as veterans, to assemble peacefully in that open plaza dedicated to veterans, or as is so often the case, to clearly demonstrate the absurdity and arbitrary enforcement of a closing time that has no public safety component, in fact no other purpose at all, other than to be used by the police to restrict the right of peaceful assembly whenever they so choose.

Other veterans memorials around the country, including the wall in Washington, DC, have no closing times.

We therefore intended to stay in that place through the night or as long as it took to respectfully and peacefully read the names of the fallen and lay flowers in their memory. 
According to Martin Luther King Jr., “Nonviolent direct action seeks to createsuch a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatizethe issue that it can no longer be ignored.” 
The defendants believe strongly in that truth, so essential to our liberty. Our right to assemble is being circumscribed and confined to smaller and smaller parameters by a billionaire Mayor and his“private army,” who in the eyes of the public and in reality, protect and ensure the property and privileges of the wealthy upper class, Wall Street and its minions, instead of the common people, from whose ranks the police actually come, and whose rights and liberties they should be protecting.
Finally, as veterans and allies, especially those combat veterans among us, we know that we have every right to peacefully honor our memories at that particular place at any hour. We will continue to stand for that right. 
Tarak Kauff

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