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15 Arrested Outside Presidential Debate in Protest Led by Iraq Veterans Against the War

StoryOctober 16, 2008
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Outside the Obama-McCain debate, at least fifteen people were arrested at a protest organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War. IVAW member Nick Morgan was left bloodied and nearly unconscious after being trampled by a police officer on horseback. [includes rush transcript]

As John McCain and Barack Obama prepared to face off in their third and final debate last night, outside the gates of Hofstra University, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, backed by hundreds of demonstrators, protested at the campus gates.

At least fifteen people were arrested, including at least five members of IVAW, on charges of disorderly conduct. Nassau County Police on horseback trampled one member of IVAW, Nick Morgan, a veteran who served in Iraq for about a year. His condition is unknown.

The protest was organized by IVAW members Matthis Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith. Last week, Chiroux sent a letter to CBS debate moderator Bob Schieffer spelling out the demands of IVAW and demanding that at least two veterans be allowed entry into the debate to ask Senators Obama and McCain one question each. He did not receive a response.

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

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to what happened in the streets last night outside, of the protest. This is Matthis Chiroux, speaking just as the protest outside the debate was to begin.

    MATTHIS CHIROUX: Iraq Veterans Against the War is out here today at the final presidential debate to force the issue to these candidates that this government is not listening to or taking care of its veterans, as it promised to do when we all enlisted. As I told Detective Calver [sic.] yesterday during our meeting, “Sir, I hope the next time I see you you’ll be escorting me inside the debate and not putting a pair of handcuffs on me, because we’re both veterans, and you understand the importance of these issues.” And he seemed to concur.

    Right now, five minutes to deadline, we are preparing to form it up and march to the main gate of Hofstra, where Kristofer Goldsmith and myself will be attempting to enter the debate and ask our question. The butterflies in my stomach are pretty big, but so is my determination and my resolve to have our voices heard. Our troops demand nothing less. What we do here mirrors the courage displayed on the battlefield. What we do here mirrors the courage displayed in every nonviolent protest in history.

    IVAW MARCHERS: Left, left, left, right, right, left, the other left, left. It’s alright, it’s OK. It’s alright, it’s OK. Remember MLK. Remember MLK. He tried to lead the way. He tried to lead the way.

    CROWD: Let them in! Let them in!

    MATTHIS CHIROUX: One moment, one moment, so we can get clear. The two questions we wish to ask the candidates are: one, Barack Obama, you yourself have said that the war and occupation of Iraq is illegal. If, by your words, it is illegal, then it is not the right of servicemembers such as myself to refuse deployment and participation in Iraq; it is our responsibility. So, sir, as president, are you willing to go by your own words to back them up and support servicemembers refusing to participate in what you yourself have termed an illegal occupation? Kris Goldsmith.

    KRISTOFER GOLDSMITH: My question is addressed to Senator John McCain. Senator, as a veteran who claims that he has been endorsed by every major veterans’ organization in America, you continually refused to fund the VA. In the years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, you have refused or voted against VA funding. We currently have 1,000 servicemembers, 1,000 veterans, attempting suicide each month in this country. We have an average of seventeen or eighteen succeeding in killing themselves each month in this country. Senator McCain, what are you doing? Are you prepared to fully fund the VA system? Are you prepared to fully staff the VA system? And what are you going to do about your poor voting record according to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Disabled American Veterans?

    CROWD: Let them in! Let them in! Let them in! Let them in! Let them in!

    MATTHIS CHIROUX: Freedom! Justice! Democracy!

    CROWD: Let them in! Let them in! Let them in! Let them in!

    PROTESTER: You just stepped on his head!

    PROTESTER: The police arrested the members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. And we were standing in solidarity with them in the line of people in this rally, and the police continued to charge their horses at the protesters, at the activists, at the civilians, at the people who care about this country, resulting in the stepping on an Iraq veteran, or at least one Iraq veteran, by a horse. And I believe that that veteran is receiving medical attention right now.

    IVAW MEMBER: They were arrested for trying to use their freedom of speech, arrested for trying to ask a question that did not come through — you know, through the filtered process in which we elect our presidents. They’re elected to actually bring a little bit of grassroots democracy to America. And you saw tonight how veterans of this country are treated. And that’s a shame.

    At least one, we believe two, were trampled, because another one was knocked down. His name is also Geoff Millard. And another woman was trampled, as well. And I have not seen injuries like that since Iraq, seeing him laying on the ground like that. I don’t need to go through that here in the streets. I don’t need to go through that here in America. I don’t need to relive that. And this is what I got tonight trying to peacefully bring a message to these candidates and which we’re trying to elect. And both of them claim that they support veterans. And this is how we got supported tonight, by being pushed back, trampled and arrested.

AMY GOODMAN: Special thanks to Matt Hegedus, Richard Sackett and Emily Forman for that report.

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