Iraq Vets Arrested,Brutalized,Threatened,Protesting Final Presidential Debate -Vets,Protesters Face 15 Separate Trials
VIDEO AND AUDIO can be viewed here: Warning-Graphic:
In a follow-up to the arrest of the Iraq Vets protest at the final Presidential Debate, reporter Stephen Dohnberg talks with IVAW member Sgt Chiroux about the charges faced,support they are receiving,tactics of the Nassau County Police, and Sgt Morgan's injury.
On Oct 15, I reported a breaking news scoop on the demands and the arrest of 10 members of Iraq Vets Against the War (IVAW) members and 5 civillian protesters. IVAW and supporters were seeking to address the final Presidential Debate at Hofstra University, Nassau County, Long Island, New York.
iwitness videoSgt Morgan Appears to be Trampled in Vid Still despite Nassau County PD's assertion that the "injury is undertermined"
The protest coordinators, Sgt. Matthis Chiroux (Army) and Sgt. Kristofer Goldsmith (Army), met with Nassau County PD prior to the planned action and outlined their intentions to engage in a non-violent protest, and informed the NCPD that there would be no resistance, and that full cooperation was the intention.
Goldsmith and Chiroux had one request which they also delivered in a written letter to the campaigns of each candidate, as well as CBS's Bob Schiefer: They wanted permission ask one question of each Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain regarding veterans affairs and issues surrounding the Iraq war. IVAW members and supporters felt that both candidates remained "eerily silent" during the 3 televised, CPD sanctioned debates.
The IVAW announced their intention to breach police lines if no response from any camp was offered by 7 p.m.
That night, something very different happened. The peaceful and legally assembled supporters of the IVAW were pushed back by police using horses to engage in crowd control. Amid that action protesters and IVAW members were also physically pushed back and down. It was during this action that IVAW member Sgt Nick Morgan (Army) possibly had his head trampled by a police horse. After the melee 10 veterans and 5 protesters were arrested. Additionally, members of the IVAW reported verbal harassment and threats from the police while in custody, and indicate that Morgan was initially denied treatment despite having been rendered unconscious, injured, and suffering from a concussion.
i-witness videoSgt Morgan Appears to be Trampled in Vid Still despite Nassau County PD's assertion that the cause of the injury is undertermined-Video still 3
Chiroux, Goldsmith, and other veterans were arrested while crossing police lines after delivering their questions via bullhorn. Not all veterans were arrested crossing police lines however. Some were plucked by police along with civilian protesters.
Morgan eventually required reconstructive surgery, with a titanium plate being placed under his eye socket.
i-witness videoSgt Morgan Appears to be Trampled in Vid Still despite Nassau County PD's assertion that the injury is undertermined - video still 4
The NCPD's "crowd control method" was caught on video by a number of people documenting the event.
On Nov 10 at 8 a.m., one day before Remembrance Day (Canada), and Veteran's Day (United States). the group, known as the 'Hempstead 15' appeared at the Nassau County, NY courthouse on 99 Main St, Hempstead, NY, to hear the charge of 'Disturbing the Peace' issued against them.
They were greeted that morning by 80 to 100 supporters at the courthouse."Hopefully some understanding of how outraged people are over this action...can be seen by the fact that so many people would be willing to come out on a Monday morning...and will be recognized by the DA (Kathleen Rice)." Sgt Matthis Chiroux continued, "no justice was served" on that morning.
Detective Anthony said of the NCPD's actions the night of the protest and of the injuries sustained by Morgan, that the "Protesters were trying to gain access into the debate and police were not going to let that happen. We used necessary force in order to carry out that goal."
Jonathan Moore, a former Vietnam-era conscientious objector, is the lawyer representing the Hempstead 15 on a pro bono basis. Moore has represented clients in many social justice issues from Agent Orange victims, environmental concerns, and protesters arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.
IVAW member Sgt Adam Kokesh (Marines) was the first of the Hempstead 15 to appear before the courts on Nov 13. His trial was scheduled for Dec 11. The Court attempted to increase his bail amount. The protestors have had their dates spread out individually dating from Nov 13 to the end of January.
Sgt Chiroux indicated that further actions are planned to raise awareness and funds in support the of the charged protesters, noting in a press release that "Dec.10 and 11, and Jan. 5 thru 8 are the days set for the 15 of us to be tried. Each day, we will assemble at 8 a.m. to demand that charges are dropped against us and that the officers responsible for brutalizing us are held accountable"
Regarding the separate trial dates for each arrested protester, Chiroux noted "I have never heard of this being done before, though I have also never heard of veterans, peacefully assembling Constitutionally to redress grievances, being trampled by police on horseback before. There's a first time for everything and it appears the place is Nassau County."
He does feel that there is a tactical component to the decision to hold scattered trials on different dates. In an open press event on the courthouse steps on Nov 10, as Chiroux took questions from a reporter with the Nation, he took of his sweatshirt to reveal a tee shirt with the IVAW logo "You Are Not Alone".
"Nassau County wants us to believe this statement is not true."
The press release also calls for supporters to contact "District Attorney Kathleen Rice at 516-571-2994" or to contact her through the Nassau County website at "to demand that all charges be dropped against the Hempstead 15."
Ultimately ,Chrioux hopes that the DA's office will see fit to drop these charges "and hold their officers accountable for their crimes against veterans".
i-witness videoSgt Morgan Appears to be Trampled in Vid Still despite Nassau County PD's assertion that the injury is undertermined 1of 5 image:44642:1:1:1
Official comment from the Nassau County PD states "The police have yet to determine whether Morgan was stepped on by a horse"
In a coincidental twist, Sgt. Chiroux has received notification from the Army dated Oct 15 that he faces a "Misconduct" charge for refusing a deployment to Iraq slated for June, 2008. Chiroux was honourably discharged after 5 years of service in June of 2007. He had originally faced Desertion charges and fought his deployment after garnering the support of members of Congress, including Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Lynne Woolsey (D-CA), Jan Schkowsky (D - IL), James McGovern (D-MA), and House Judiciary Chair John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) among others, who comprise the Out of Iraq Caucus.
He publicly announced his refusal on the steps of the Canon Building of the House of Representatives on May 16, 2008. It is a development, story, and issue all it's own.
Sgt Chiroux discusses additional details of the Hofstra events with New York Times bestselling author Naomi Wolf ('Disaster Capitalism') HERE.