A few months ago, I posted about a former class-mate of mine, Matthis Chiroux, who was refusing to be re-deployed to Iraq. Matthis is an active member of the anti-war group Iraq Veterans Against the War, who staged a small, peaceful protest during the last debate, hoping to approach both John McCain and Barack Obama with questions that were especially relevant to the thousands of veterans in America. They were refused, then shockingly abused by the Nassau County Police Department after they were arrested for disturbing the peace. Please read this account of the incident as told by Matthis. No matter what your political beliefs (and I will remind you that they were there to ask questions of BOTH candidates), I think we can all agree that there is no excuse for our police to abuse honorable, brave veterans.
I think it’s really important to get this story out, because it has been ignored in the media. If you find it compelling, please repost it on your own blogs or send it to your friends.
Hooves of fury stampede veterans/U.S. Constitution Oct. 15
Matthis Chiroux of the “Hempstead 15″ recounts his debate experience
Wednesday, Oct. 15th, 2008, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and supporters gathered near the Hempstead, N.Y., train station to march on the final presidential debate at Hofstra University.
Our intent was made clear in a letter to Bob Schieffer, the debate moderator, one week prior. We wanted two members of our organization inside the debate where they would ask one question of Obama and one of McCain. If CBS and the candidates failed to meet our demands, we would march on Hofstra at 7 p.m. in a peaceful attempt to enter the debate to have our voices heard.
I planned on asking Barack Obama if he would back up his assessment of the occupation of Iraq as illegal by supporting service members who would thus be required to refuse service there. Kris Goldsmith planned on asking McCain about his history of failing to vote in favor of V.A. funding, especially since the beginning of the occupation of Iraq.
Non-violence was stressed in every stage leading up to this action. It was stressed by me and Kris to Det. Thomas J. Calvert and Det. Robert Annese of the Nassau County Police Department the day before the action. Calvert and Annese were in charge of security for the debate, and they assured us they would instruct their officers to respect the non-violent spirit of the action by using restraint towards peaceful veterans and demonstrators.
In every stage of planning, IVAW made every effort to keep all planned tactics and actions “above the table” so that the candidates, the media, the police and the country would know exactly what would happen if our demands were not met.
We were at Hofstra to force the issue that veterans and service members are not being cared for or heard from by our government, and the candidates, CBS and the Nassau County Police Department couldn’t have proved us more correct.
We, the veterans and our supporters, stood together in solidarity, knowing the stakes were high. But a resolve echoed deep from with us to stand our ground and be heard. Twice these candidates had brushed us off, and thrice just wasn’t going to happen.
So at seven p.m. when we’d heard nothing from the moderators, IVAW made good on its promise to the candidates and Det. Calvert. We marched to the front gate of Hofstra, read our questions and peacefully proceeded into police lines.
Because these candidates cared more to hear from “Joe the Plumber” than veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, ten veterans went to jail and five civilian supporters joined us.
This upsets me, but I knew the risk, and if I must fall in defense of democracy, peace and justice, I offer my sacrifice willingly.
What infuriates me is the GROSS MISCONDUCT of the police in the process, much of which I believe to be illegal.
After my arrest, the police charged their horses onto a sidewalk and, unprovoked, knocked my friend Nick Morgan, a veteran of Iraq, to the ground and trampled his face. They then arrested him, put a piece of gauze on his facewound and loaded him onto a bus headed for jail with the rest of the Hempstead 15.
After they brought Nick onto the bus and we the veterans identified him as exhibiting signs of a concussion and as needing immediate medical attention, our arresting officers laughed at us and told us Nick would receive no help unless he himself asked to go to the hospital, though Nick was barely conscience and completely disoriented at the time AND THE COPS KNEW IT!
We pointed out that as a result of a serious head injury, Nick wasn’t aware enough to speak for himself. The police responded with, “too bad.”
After Nick stirred enough for us to instruct him to ask for medical attention, he was taken to a hospital, diagnosed with a fractured cheekbone, given nothing more than Motrin for the pain and brought to the Police Station where he sat chained to a bench for 5 hours with no further medical attention at all.
Additionally, police pulled other members and supporters of ours from the sidewalk and arrested them while horses spun in circles causing injury to most who couldn’t escape their paths.
All of this, I observed after arrest through the large windows of a bus we were detained in which was parked parallel to the demonstration and subsequent atrocities.
While on the bus, the officers mocked us, calling us idiots and whiners. When we arrived at the Nassau County Detention Center, the hazing did not cease.
One officer, when I brought up the prospect of speaking to a lawyer, threatened to, “put me in the back (jail),” where, “the big boys will pop your cherry!” When I asked this officer if he had just threatened an honorably discharged veteran of Afghanistan with prison rape and told him I wanted his name and rank, he refused and told me to look it up on the police report which the Nassau County Police Department has refused to provide us a copy of.
While detained, the three females who were arrested with us, including Marine Reserve Capt. Marlisa Grogan, were sexually harassed by the police who went so far as to hold Ids next to the chained women’s faces and make comments like, “you look like you came out of a Barbie magazine.”
All night, they didn’t stop. “You’re cowards, you’re idiots,” they said. The hostility was thick and unwarranted.
“This non-violent protest stuff is retarded,” they said (as if they’d prefer the alternative). “See how it got your friend’s face fucked up?”
Literally, they said this when they brought Nick in and chained him to the bench. The harassment only increased from there.
“Look at you friend’s face,” said one officer. “You’re responsible for that.” As if I gave to order to charge horses onto a crowded sidewalk.
I saw this same officer in the Colony diner where we went to eat after we were charged with disorderly conduct and released. He was with the one who threatened me with prison rape, and when I approached them respectfully and again asked for their names, he leapt to his feet, threw his finger in my face and began threatening to “beat my ass” if I didn’t drop it.
Afterward, one of his friends, also a police officer, approached me, accused me of being drunk and said I was about to get arrested again. I retorted that his accusations were false (considering I’d only gotten out of jail 30 minutes prior) and that I was only interested in learning the names of the officers who arrested and harassed us as I have the legal right to do. He responded with only his name, which he said was Peter Sikinger, but refused to reveal the names of his partners, though to his credit, he did back down from threatening me with arrest.
I am outraged at the egregious conduct of the Nassau Country Police Department and the failure of Det. Calvert to make good on his promise to “make things go as smoothly as possible.”
But mostly, I must put this on the candidates.
Barack Obama and John McCain, you have failed to properly address the occupation of Iraq and veteran and service member issues in this campaign. You failed to hear from us, the veterans and service members, at the conventions. Your overwhelming concern for “Joe the Plumber” at the final debate while veterans are killing themselves at a rate of 18 per month is inhumane to say the least.
The fact that you allowed your veterans to be arrested, brutalized and harassed for simply trying to be heard by you is inexcusable. Forever should your consciences be scarred for what you allowed to take place to veterans on American soil.
But our questions still stand, and we still demand answers.
Obama, are you ready to support members of the military refusing to participate in the occupation of Iraq which you have termed “illegal?”
McCain, as a veteran, how can you account for your abysmal failure to vote in favor of post-2003 legislation to fund the V.A. which provides life saving services to men and women who gave all to serve this nation?
Besides which, you both owe the Hempstead 15 an apology. You owe Nick Morgan an apology for the reconstructive surgery he’ll be receiving and the permanent, violent altering of his face that is a result of your failure to hear from us.
You owe every veteran in history a public statement condemning the sidewalk trampling of Nick and Carlos Harris, an Iraq veteran, who also had his foot broken by a horse. As well Geoff Millard, a disabled veteran of Iraq with degenerative spine disease who was knocked to the ground, dragged from the sidewalk and arrested, and Nadine Lubka, one of our supporters, who was kicked in the face by a horse.
And we the people are not done forcing this issue.
I encourage every person who reads this to contact both the Obama and McCain campaigns and demand they answer our questions and condemn the actions of the police Wednesday night.
They don’t own this election, the media doesn’t own this election, we the people own this election, and we deserve to have our voices heard. Any candidate who disagrees with that statement is unworthy the Presidency of the United States of America.
Peace and Solidarity,