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2011-11-02

Occupy Oakland Prepares for General Strike as War Veterans Organize Day of Action at Occupy Camps

Guests

Clarence Thomas, former secretary-treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10. Today he joins us as a spokesperson for the Million Worker March Movement.

Boots Riley, hip-hop artist with the bands The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club. He’s a resident of Oakland participating in the Occupy Oakland protests and today’s general strike.

Jose Vasquez, U.S. Army veteran and executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Joshua Shepherd, U.S. Navy veteran. He was standing next to former U.S. Marine Scott Olsen at Occupy Oakland when Olsen was hit in the head with a police projectile, fracturing his skull.

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Protesters in Oakland, California, are launching a citywide general strike today that will include an attempt to shut down the nation’s fifth-busiest shipping port. The strike is expected to draw thousands of people to downtown Oakland, many responding to police attacks last week on nonviolent protesters with Occupy Oakland, including two-time Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen. During the strike, protesters intend to picket banks, businesses, schools, libraries, and any employers who try to reprimand striking workers. "What this general strike is all about is this: this is a call to working people, not only throughout the United States, but throughout the world, to retract their labor. The only time that working people can gain the attention of the bosses or the ruling class is when we withhold our labor," says Clarence Thomas of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10. "This is a fight-back moment." We also speak with Boots Riley of the hip-hop group The Coup. "This general strike puts some teeth to the slogan that 'We are the 99 percent.' It’s not only that we are the 99 percent and that they are the one percent; it’s that the one percent gets all of their wealth by exploiting the 99 percent," Boots Riley says. "And we want to show people that they can take it back if they want to." Meanwhile, in New York City, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War are planning to march in their military fatigues from Vietnam Veterans Plaza to Zuccotti Park, the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement. "It’s clear that veterans are part of the 99 percent. Veterans, when they leave the military, are much more likely to face unemployment and homelessness," says Jose Vasquez of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "Many people are forced to reenlist because they’re facing a tough economic situation." Vasquez says they are encouraging veterans across the country to join their local Occupy protests. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In Oakland, California, protesters are launching a citywide general strike today that will include an attempt to shut down the nation’s fifth-busiest shipping port. The strike is expected to draw thousands of people to downtown Oakland, many responding to police attacks last week on nonviolent protesters with Occupy Oakland, including two-time Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen. During the strike, protesters intend to picket banks, businesses, schools, libraries, and any employers who try to reprimand striking workers. Protesters are connecting with the history of general strikes on the West Coast, frequently citing a 1946 action in Oakland where 100,000 workers shut down the city for two days.

This is Louise Michel announcing the strike at an Occupy Oakland press conference.

LOUISE MICHEL: We stand here at the intersection of Telegraph and Broadway. This is the epicenter of the Oakland General Strike of 1946, the last general strike in the indigenous lands now occupied by the United States. This Wednesday, November 2nd, the people of Oakland are going to make history once again as we shut down the city in a general strike and mass day of action, called for by the general assembly of Occupy Oakland.

AMY GOODMAN: Several major labor groups, including local units of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents port workers, have voiced unofficial support for the strike. The executive board of the Oakland Educational Association, whose 2,700 members teach in the city’s schools, has also endorsed the day of action. Meanwhile, SEIU Local 1021, which represents 1,750 city workers, has encouraged its members to take—to participate in the protest.

While some small city businesses plan to close for the day, port officials said the docks will remain open. City offices will also continue with business as usual, though city administrators said city workers could request to participate in the strike.

Meanwhile, the city’s police union has slammed Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for handling of the protests. In an open letter, the police union write, quote, "Is it the city’s intention to have city employees on both sides of a skirmish line? It is all very confusing to us," the police wrote.

At the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the police crackdown in Oakland. Let’s go to his response.

PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: We understand the frustrations that are being expressed, specifically with regard to the need to make sure that Main Street and Wall Street operate by the same set of rules, and the general frustration with the need for jobs and economic growth that creates opportunity for middle-class Americans. And certainly we have a long and noble tradition of free expression and free speech in this country. We also—it’s also important that laws are upheld and obeyed. But that—I mean, that’s a broad view. I haven’t had a discussion about specific cities or instances with the President.

AMY GOODMAN: When we come back from break, we’ll be joined by two veterans, Jose Vasquez, executive director of Veterans Against the War, and we’ll be joined by Joshua Shepherd, who is a Navy veteran and was standing next to the former Marine Scott Olsen at the Occupy Oakland protest Tuesday evening when police shot a projectile that fractured his skull. We’ll also be speaking with Boots Riley of The Coup and with Clarence Thomas, who was a spokesperson, a former secretary-treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10. Today, he’s a spokesperson for the Million Worker March Movement in Oakland.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Boots Riley performing in Oakland. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen is continuing to recover from serious brain injuries after a projectile fired by police at Occupy Oakland last week fractured his skull. Spurred by the attack of one of their own, military veterans are mobilizing to increase their presence and profile in the Occupy movement at large. Today, members of the New York City chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War are convening on Wall Street to march in their military fatigues from Vietnam Veterans Plaza to Liberty Square, the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement. They’ll hold a press conference urging more veterans to join the movement and raise their concerns, from multiple tours of duty to post-traumatic stress disorder, to the hardships of pulling their lives back together when returning to civilian life.

Well, Democracy Now! has spoken to a number of veterans since the Occupy movement began. At Occupy Louisville, we spoke to Gulf War vet Brian Smith and Iraq War veteran Gary James. Then, at Occupy San Francisco, we spoke with Iraq War veteran Aaron Hinde, a close friend of Scott Olsen. Let’s turn to some of their voices.

BRIAN SMITH: My name’s Brian Smith. I’m from Louisville, Kentucky. And I’m here because this is our moment to stand up and to voice the grievances—to voice what we’ve all been thinking of for a long time. The system does not work for us. The system works against us. The politicians we’ve elected are not looking out for our best interests. And we’re here to tell them that we’re no longer going to put up with that. We’re here to put fear in them. They’re running scared right now. They’re trying to divide us. They’re trying to denigrate the movement. We’re not going to allow that to happen. We’re going to stand together. We’re going to stand united. And we’re going to show them what it looks like when millions of people take to the streets demanding their rights.

I’m a veteran, and I’m pretty disgusted that—just recently it came out—that the largest banks around the country were taking advantage of a VA home loan refinancing system. It’s a government program designed to help veterans refinance their home loans. And all of a sudden, all these banks got together and decided, "We’re going to find a way to charge hidden fees. We’re not allowed to charge attorney fees under this program, so we’re going to find a way to charge hidden fees in order to recoup those losses that we would otherwise not get on the free market." So, apparently, they all came up with the same idea at the same time. In my idea, that’s collusion. I’m talking about Bank of America. I’m talking about Citibank. I’m talking about PNC, which is right behind us. They were all part of this collusion to basically violate the contract that the government has with veterans to take care of them.

GARY JAMES JOHNSON: Well, my name is Gary James Johnson. I’m here because it’s—you know, I’ve been viewing this for a while now. I’ve sat through and seen things that are not right, with the government, the government policies. I’m ex-military, and I can barely even get a job right now. I have to—

AMY GOODMAN: Where did you serve?

GARY JAMES JOHNSON: I served in Iraq for about a year and a half. I joined the military because I thought it was my obligation to help protect this country, to also, you know, just do something, because I was really, you know, eager to do something that would help everybody, you know? And right here, right now, this is another way I can help, and help people out, that—who won’t speak up, who won’t sit there and take a stand, who’s too afraid that they might lose their jobs, may sit there and lose their houses, might get their houses foreclosed. They might sit there and take away people’s houses—they could sit there and take away people’s houses, they could take away their cars, but they can’t take away their voice. That’s in the Constitution.

AARON HINDE: As a veteran or as an active-duty servicemember, you swear an oath to uphold and protect your country, and that is carried with you, even if you go out of the military, that sense of responsibility. And because of that vigilance, it seems veterans are always on the cusp of these types of social, progressive actions that are going on.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Iraq War veteran Aaron Hinde of Occupy San Francisco, Iraq War veteran Gary James Johnson of Occupy Louisville, and Gulf War veteran Brian Smith, also of Occupy Louisville.

Well, for more, we’re joined in New York by Jose Vasquez, executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He was in the Army for 14 years, applied for conscientious objector status in 2005, was honorably discharged in 2007. And we’re joined by Joshua Shepherd, Navy veteran, member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He was standing next to former Marine Scott Olsen at Occupy Oakland when Olsen was hit in the head with a police projectile, fracturing his skull.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Joshua, let’s start with you. Describe what happened on Tuesday night.

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: I was joined by Scott Olsen after I had already been there, and—

AMY GOODMAN: At Occupy Oakland?

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: At Occupy Oakland at 14th and Broadway.

AMY GOODMAN: And why were you there? Why were you there?

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: I was there mostly to lend a voice of credibility and sanity to the—what I knew would be a very tense environment. So I was standing there in uniform. And Scott was standing shoulder to shoulder with me, very peaceful. I was waving a Veterans for Peace flag. And that’s—

AMY GOODMAN: We have the video images of that. And then what happened? About what time was it?

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: It was 7:30 in the evening or so. And it descended into chaos quickly. And I’ve never seen war, but that was as close to war, or a war zone, as I could imagine.

AMY GOODMAN: What was taking place?

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: Yes, just the tremendous use of force, the escalation of force, from Oakland PD and the assisting agencies. It was traumatic.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, can you then explain what happened to Scott?

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: Sure. Everybody dispersed, rightfully so, due to the concussion grenades, tear gas, etc. I stood my ground. And so, then, the crowd was obscured, so I was not aware that Scott was hit until we had regrouped a couple blocks away.

AMY GOODMAN: Because of the tear gas cloud.

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: Yes. And so, thereafter, he was rushed to the hospital.

AMY GOODMAN: And the reports of what happened, the reports that we got, as we have the video of him laying in front of the police line—you were very close to the police line, is that right?

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So he was lying there, his face covered in blood, in front of the police line. Protesters came back—as you said, a lot was obscured by the tear gas—to help a person who they didn’t know, but they saw was on the ground.

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: Right. And then they were further dispersed from that extra gas canister.

AMY GOODMAN: From a kind of flashbang grenade?

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: Right, yeah, thrown into the middle of them as they tried to rally in his defense.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, then they came back to pick him up, because that—

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —scattered them for a moment—

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —the shock of it.

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: And he’s in the hospital now. Have you visited him?

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: I have not been able to. He’s since been moved to an undisclosed location, you know, for his own sake and his family’s sake.

AMY GOODMAN: Jose Vasquez, as I travel the country, I meet veterans at every encampment I visit. In Louisville, you just heard Brian Smith and Gary Johnson talking about why they were there. Going down to Occupy Wall Street, it is common. Why are veterans gathering at these Occupy encampments?

JOSE VASQUEZ: Well, Amy, it’s clear that veterans are part of the 99 percent. You know, we—veterans, when they leave the military, are, you know, much more likely to face unemployment and homelessness. Many people are forced to reenlist because they’re facing a tough economic situation. I think people that are currently serving see what the economy is like and, you know, oftentimes against their own best judgment, decide to reenlist because they don’t want to come out into this economy.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go also now to Berkeley, to California, where—have two guests there. Boots Riley, hip-hop artist with the band The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club, resident of Oakland, who’s been participating in the Occupy movement and today’s general strike. We’re also joined by Clarence Thomas, past secretary-treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10. He joins us today as a spokesperson for the Million Worker March Movement.

Boots Riley, Clarence Thomas, welcome to Democracy Now! Clarence Thomas, what is this general strike all about?

CLARENCE THOMAS: What this general strike is all about, Amy, is this. This is a call to working people, not only throughout the United States, but throughout the world, to retract their labor. The only time that working people can gain the attention of the bosses or the ruling class is when we withhold our labor. That is the greatest action that we can take against capital. I think one of the things that’s most critical about this is that we in the labor movement understand that it is very difficult to organize a general strike within a week’s time, but I think what is really interesting and significant about this is that in response to the attack on the Occupy Oakland activists, which was so brutal, and as you made reference to the serious injury of Brother Scott Olsen, the attention of the world is on this movement. And this is the appropriate response.

I also think that it’s also important to understand that it was not labor who made this call, but it was the general assembly of the Occupy Oakland movement. But the majority of the people in this country do not belong to a union. Only 7.2 percent are members of a union in the private sector, 12 percent overall. So I think that it is very important to understand that young people, which are the driving force behind this movement, are looking at an uncertain future. Students are facing $1 trillion in student debt. A society that does not care for its young people is a society that has no future.

AMY GOODMAN: The longshoremen, that you were the past secretary-treasurer of, what’s their involvement in this strike, Clarence Thomas?

CLARENCE THOMAS: OK, well, we are in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement. We are also in support of the Occupy Oakland movement. We are a democratic, rank-and-file union, and we have not had an opportunity to vote on the matter concerning a general strike. Having said that, if there is a picket line today, longshoremen will not cross that picket line. And at the same time, we also have free will. I am not working today, and I’m certain that there will be other members of the ILWU who will not be working, because we understand the importance of strikes. It was 1934 in San Francisco where two maritime workers were killed, which led to the general strike in San Francisco, culminating in us being able to have a coastwide agreement.

And I just want to make another quick point, Amy. Today, when young people in the community march to the Port of Oakland, they are doing so in solidarity with longshore workers in Longview, Washington, who are fighting the face of Wall Street in the workplace. EGT, an international grain conglomerate that receive subsidies from the Port of Longview, then turned around and double-crossed the community and the longshore workers. For 77 years, longshoremen have handled grain in the Pacific Northwest. And the driving force behind this is Bunge Limited. It is an international food concern and agribusiness, and also trades on Wall Street for the last 10 years. This is the face of Wall Street on the waterfront. So I think that this adds focus to this emerging movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Boots Riley, talk about your involvement and what you expect to see happening today in Oakland, why a hip-hop artist is involved with Occupy Oakland.

BOOTS RILEY: That’s what I would like to say. What I would like to say is that this general strike puts some teeth to the slogan that we are the 99 percent. It’s not only that we are the 99 percent and that they are the one percent; it’s that the one percent gets all of their wealth by exploiting the 99 percent. And we want to show—we want to show people that they can take it back if they want to.

My involvement is that I visited Occupy Wall Street early on. I also, earlier in the year, visited Syntagma Square in Athens and Barcelona, where a lot of this gets its inspiration from. And I visited Occupy Oakland a couple times and performed for them. When they were evicted, I got involved in helping put out the word for people to show up at 4:00 for the march to take back the plaza. And somebody handed me a bullhorn and—while we were marching, and it just—you know, I’m here. I’ve been involved since then.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you expect to see happen today, Boots?

BOOTS RILEY: I think—well, I’ll say this. The other day we had 3,000 people at a general assembly, meaning 3,000 organizers to start with. So, if you take that and see that those 3,000 organizers were working hard overtime to make this happen, and on top of that, we’ve gained momentum since then—the SEIU has jumped in, and they are encouraging their workers to take the day off and, as a matter of fact, phone banking and doing job visits to get their workers to take the day off. And all the unions, the OEA, the teachers’ union—many people are taking the day off and just informing parents that they’re not going to be at work. High schools are walking out. Community groups are involved. Churches are—there are clergy that are showing up with their bodies. There are going to be a lot of people.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get—

BOOTS RILEY: So, I would say, we start with the 3,000 that are organizing it, so that will at least be there, and we will probably have multitudes more than that, tens of thousands of people out.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get both of your response—

CLARENCE THOMAS: Amy, if I may add, black labor is also in support of this. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Northern California chapter, will be involved. There will be demonstrations at banks and various other financial institutions today.

I also would like to add that I think one of the things that separates the Occupy Oakland movement from others are three things: number one, no politicians; number two, no political parties; and number three, the absence of police presence at the Occupation camp. And I think that this is very significant, because I know that with respect to the trend that we find between the Million Worker March Movement and the Occupy Oakland movement is mobilizing and organizing in our own name, independent of the two Wall Street political parties.

BOOTS RILEY: And like I said, I think that this is a significant move for the Occupy Wall Street movement, in general, because the criticisms of the Occupy Wall Street movement is that the message is unclear. Well, we’re sure that with the millions of dollars in loss that will happen from us closing the port today and the profit that’s lost from this day, from this general strike, that the message will be sent loud and clear to the one percent. This is just a warning shot. It’s just a one-day strike. There is no contract to negotiate right now. What we are saying is, is that the working class is about to get more militant, and we’re about to get more organized.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to get your response to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who was an organizer herself. She attempted to speak last Thursday at Occupy Oakland encampment outside City Hall. After she was denied a chance to speak, she recorded a video message and posted it on her Facebook page. This was it.

MAYOR JEAN QUAN: What I wanted to say to you tonight is how deeply saddened I am about the outcome on Tuesday. It’s not want anyone hoped for. I understand it’s my responsibility, and I want to apologize to everyone about what happened.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain the role of Mayor Quan, who has actually taken on the police before, is now being criticized by the police for saying that Oakland workers can take vacation time to be a part of the protests, and yet the Occupy Oakland group, encampment, is very angry at her, Clarence Thomas?

BOOTS RILEY: Well, let me say this. One, Mayor Quan ordered the police to evict the Occupy Oakland encampment, and as soon as they were evicted, even though it was violent and with tear gas and rubber bullets, she sent out what basically amounted to a victory letter that day, so—and only had anything slightly regretful to say about it after there was a protest against it. And the message sent out from the city that says that there will be no retaliation against workers is only because we have momentum behind us, and it’s only because the unions are behind us, and it’s only because the community sees what’s going on. It’s not a favor.

That being said, as you said, Quan was an organizer, was politically left, or is. The point is, is that when you elect a politician, it has nothing to do with their personality. Politicians perform a function, a role in government. And the role of city government is not one that serves the people, unless the people make them do what the people want.

AMY GOODMAN: The interim police chief, Howard Jordan, defended the use of force to break up the camp. He said the decision to move was based on public health and safety, due to defecation, fire hazards, sexual assault incidents, violent behaviors, and denial of access of medical aid. Your response?

CLARENCE THOMAS: If I may address that, Amy, it has been termed that the reasons for the police taking the actions that they have are somewhat analogous to the weapons of mass destruction that was the rationale for going to war in Iraq. In other words, these allegations are really unfounded. The question about sexual assaults, that hasn’t been proven. If there was a question concerning health and safety, the camp is very open to having conversations with department heads. It does not prohibit that kind of activity. But let’s say that those reasons are—were in fact true. Was it the appropriate response to come down in a shock and awe, using so-called non-lethal weapons that have put an Iraqi veteran in a trauma center? I don’t think so, because people have a right to peaceably assemble, and they have a right to free speech. And that’s exactly what is being exercised and what is being challenged.

We need to understand one thing: the police represent the one percent. And as we saw in Madison, Wisconsin, where the police took a position in support of the workers, and they were non-aggressive, once that begins to happen, then we will really begin to see the breakup of the one percent, because that’s what they rely on. They rely on the police. They rely on the military. And once the American people stand up to that, then we’re going to see a new change in direction.

I just want to also say this. Schools will be having—teachers will be walking out, and there will be teach-ins dealing with such issues as social justice, the purpose of general strikes. So this is going to be a momentous occasion. We’re looking forward to it today, Amy.

BOOTS RILEY: And let’s say this, that everywhere you go in Oakland, people are talking about it. You know, you pass someone on the street talking, they’re talking about this general strike. It’s not only big news all over the world, as you know, but everyone is excited and ready to take part in history.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what is being suggested for shop owners to do, for banks to do, for people to do in Oakland today? What is the request of the Occupy Oakland encampment?

BOOTS RILEY: There are convergences—

AMY GOODMAN: Boots Riley.

BOOTS RILEY: —at 9:00 a.m. There are convergences at 14th and Broadway at 9:00 a.m., noon, 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. The 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. convergences are actually marches that leave sharply at 4:00 p.m. to—the first one at 4:00 p.m., to go and take over the port, and the second one at 5:00 p.m. to march and take over the port. We are going to shut down the 7:00 p.m. shift. We need to leave at those times. So, for those listening, be there at the 4:00 p.m. march. If you can’t be there at the 4:00 p.m. march, be there at the 5:00 p.m. march. And these marches are leaving on time.

AMY GOODMAN: Clarence Thomas, do you see this as representing a turning point in this movement today and also with the people at Occupy Oakland working with unions? You talked about SEIU. You talked about the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

CLARENCE THOMAS: Yes, I really do, because if nothing else today, Amy, there will be a new discussion about the whole issue of working people withholding their labor, working people becoming proactive. I think that—yes—and so, as a result of that, I think that this is a new beginning. It is a watershed moment. And not only that, Amy, but we’re also seeing the emergence new coalitions. And that is very, very important in terms of building the movement. I think that, for too long, the labor movement has not really embraced the social justice movement. There’s been too much concern about business unionism. We now see international presidents, such as Bob McEllrath of the ILWU and James Hoffa of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who have sent statements of solidarity supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement. This is a breakthrough. The things that are happening today, where unions are acknowledging the call for a general strike—many of them cannot call for a general strike themselves, but the rank and file of their respective unions are turning out. So this is a turning point, and I think that it is a significant shift, and we will be able to see the ramifications of this in the future.

BOOTS RILEY: Well, and the other thing is that—

AMY GOODMAN: Boots Riley.

BOOTS RILEY: As he said, most of the working class is not unionized. A lot of the working—ILWU is probably the most militant union I’ve heard of and the most militant union out there. But many people feel that unions aren’t militant enough for them and don’t do anything. The Occupy Wall Street movement, in general, by putting this idea out there that the one percent is leeching off the 99 percent, is making a new discussion, making people figure out how to withhold their labor and come and put their issues on the table with the ruling class all over the country and all over the world. And this marks a new day in direct action organizing. It’s not just—we’re not just doing something strictly for the media. We’re doing something which will—which can stop the mechanisms of industry long enough so that we can make—we can negotiate a different deal. Now, of course, today is just a one-day thing. But again, what we’re doing is we’re showing our power. And someone else will replicate this somewhere else in the country, somewhere else in the world. And, you know, it’s about to be off the hinges.

CLARENCE THOMAS: This is a fight-back movement, Amy, in the true sense of the word.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us in Berkeley, talking about the general strike that has been called for Oakland, Boots Riley of The Coup, Clarence Thomas, past secretary-treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, now a spokesperson for the Million Worker March Movement.

I want to get final comments from our guests in the studio here in New York, both veterans, Jose Vasquez, executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War. And Jose, talk about the march today in New York of vets, of soldiers.

JOSE VASQUEZ: Well, the Scott Olson incident in Oakland has really galvanized the veterans community across the country. There are veterans speaking out online, showing up at their local Occupies. And what we’re trying to do today is put a real presence of veterans at Occupy Wall Street and across the country. We’re calling on all veterans and active-duty military personnel to show up at their local Occupy and let someone know that you’re a veteran. Let them know how you feel about the movement. And we want to basically put the voice of veterans out there in the public. We also want to start organizing veterans’ committees at all of the different Occupy events. And we want to ensure that people fully understand that veterans support this movement.

I want to pick up on something that Clarence Thomas said a minute ago, in that the one percent uses the police and the military to sort of maintain what they have. And I’m here to let you know that the military and the veterans are getting angry about how the people are being treated.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, a lot of police are vets.

JOSE VASQUEZ: Absolutely. Yeah, there’s tons of veterans.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you been speaking with police at Occupy Wall Street?

JOSE VASQUEZ: I have, and I actually know someone who works in one of the counterterrorism units, and he’s supportive of Iraq Veterans Against the War and understands that people have the right to free speech, the right to assembly. And we also know that, you know, many veterans are going into the police force because of the economic situation. That’s one of the few jobs that military personnel can get easily after leaving the military. But we are here and, you know, just want to let folks know that it’s—not all veterans support what’s happening. We’re extending our oath that we swore to defend the Constitution.

AMY GOODMAN: And Joshua Shepherd, you were in your Navy fatigues when you were standing in front of the police at Occupy Oakland, just before Scott Olsen was hit in the head, his skull fractured by the police projectile on Tuesday night. Will you be in uniform when you march today? And what brought you to New York from Oakland?

JOSHUA SHEPHERD: Yes, I will be. I came to New York in solidarity with the veterans. Veterans have been silent for too long, because what they know is not what Americans want to believe. And veterans are finding their voice now and realizing they are just as much a part of the 99 percent as the rest of the movement. And they have a special credibility with their service, so they’re speaking up and joining the rank and file and the 99 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Jose Vasquez, Iraq Veterans Against the War, as well as Joshua Shepherd. Joshua Shepherd, a Navy veteran.

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