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Iraq Veterans Arraigned on Disorderly Conduct Charges: Vow to Defend Right to Free Speech and Assembly

Originally posted at OpEdNews.com

On Monday, the day before Veterans day, 14 members of the ‘Hempstead 15′ were arraigned on charges of disorderly conduct. The charges stem from a protest outside of the final presidential debate at Hofstra University on October 15. The protest was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) who wanted the issue of veterans’ healthcare and support of war resisters to be addressed by the candidates. What began as an orderly and peaceful gathering escalated into an aggressive use of force by the Nassau County Police Department leaving one Iraq war veteran, Nick Morgan, with a fractured eye orbit and cheekbone.

Nick Morgan following reconstructive surgery (photo by Bill Perry)


Nick Morgan wounded outside presidential debate (photo by Bill Perry)

Video coverage of the protest shows Morgan standing solemnly, hands clasped behind his back while mounted police backed their horses onto the sidewalk and into the crowd. Despite serious injuries and semiconscious state, the police proceeded to handcuff Morgan dragging him across the street to an awaiting bus.

Yesterday Nick, along with 13 others, faced disorderly conduct charges in Nassau County Court. Ten of the 15 charged are members of IVAW. Iraq war veteran, Adam Kokesh, is scheduled to appear in court today, Veterans day.

A throng of supporters gathered outside the Nassau County Court House early yesterday and filled the court room. IVAW member and defendant, Mathis Chiroux spoke to reporters before the arraignment, “We the Hempstead 15 are out here today to be arraigned for disorderly conduct. We are moving to dismiss. We were assembling October 15 to force the issue that service members and veterans are not being heard or cared for by the leaders of our country. We were responded to by the candidates by being ignored. In fact, we were brutalized and arrested by the Nassau County Police Department before also being charged.”


Outside Nassau County Court House (photo by Bill Perry)

Each of the defendants pled not-guilty to the charges. In what they and their lawyer, Jonathan Moore, describe as a “divide and conquer” tactic, the judge ordered separate court dates be held thus preventing them from being co-defendants.

After the arraignment, Moore declared “What happened in court today was basically nothing except an attempt by the district attorney to separate people into smaller groups so that there wouldn’t be the same appearance of a large crowd at the next court date. I don’t know why cities and states and counties are so afraid of people engaging in lawful political protest. To the extent that there was a hazardous condition created, it was created by the police not by the individuals who were simply engaging in protected first amendment speech. Some people were seriously injured by the use of these horses in a reckless and dangerous way.”

Nick Morgan thanking the crowd for their support added “You know I hope a lot of you especially from around this area are as appalled as I am about the actions of the Nassau County Police Department and the gross violations of the constitution that all of us veterans swore to protect and uphold against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

Mathis Chiroux vowed to fight until their names are cleared and justice is served. “Today, make no mistake about it. Nassau County has added insult to injury. But, I am grateful and thankful and I am overwhelmingly happy to report that every single member of the Hempstead 15 pled not guilty today. And, we are going to fight this thing out. This is unacceptable,” he said.


Mathis Chiroux speaks to reporters (photo by Bill Perry)

Chiroux continued “We cannot be brutalized and silenced and told that we don’t have the right to oppose those who would take away our rights and literally trampling everything that it is to be American. Condemn, condemn the Nassau County Police Department for their trampling of Nick and others and as well their sneaky backdoor maneuvering to try and have us all tried on separate days to keep you from coming out and having your voices heard in our support. We are going to continue forcing this issue and we are not going to stop until the names of every single one of the Hempstead 15 are cleared and Nick Morgan sees justice.”


Co-Defendants Jose Vasquez & Kris Goldsmith (photo by Bill Perry)

According to Newsday.com, police spokesman, Det. Sgt. Anthony Repalone, claimed that officers showed restraint in handling the protest, but they are reviewing the incident.

IVAW is raising funds to assist in Nick Morgan’s medical expenses. Readers can donate at IVAW.org. For video of yesterday’s events visit Adam Kokesh Revolutionary Patriot.

Vietnam veteran and Veterans for Peace member, Bill Perry, contributed to this report

 

 

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Meet the Protester who ‘May Have Received a Minor Injury’ at the Hofstra Debate

Originally posted at OpEdNews.com
Wednesday night Americans waited for presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, to take the stage at Hofstra University for the final debate before the elections. Outside the debate “15 protesters” were arrested. Oh, and “one person may have received a minor injury.” That according to the Associated Press.

Iraq War Vet Nick Morgan (photo by Bill Perry)

This is Nick’s fractured face after being trampled by mounted police at Wednesday’s peaceful protest.

After receiving this picture from friend, Bill Perry, a Vietnam vet and service officer who gives his time helping veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, I did a quick news search to find out more.

Democracy Now! was on it as were several Indy and alternative news sites including OpEdNews. Associated Press put out a brief release with the “one person may have received a minor injury” line, but then again their job is to make other news orgs aware of a story and in turn they can do the follow-up. Apparently, it was of little interest to most mainstream media that 10 of the 15 arrested were veterans most of whom served at least one tour in Iraq. Everyone of them repeated the “may have received a minor injury” statement making no effort to report the facts.

There were some media outlets that reported the arrests of protesters  at the debate, but few were inclined to mention that they were veterans. At most, they said the protesters “identified themselves as Iraq war veterans.” A rather dismissive remark and certainly not a hard thing for a veteran journalist to confirm.

How might the public have responded if the headlines read “10 Iraq Veterans Arrested Outside Obama – McCain Debate.” With great interest, I am sure. What if those “journalists” explained why these veterans were protesting? If they asked they might have received a response like this:

“Neither of the candidates has shown real support for service members and veterans. We came here to try and have serious questions answered, questions that we as veterans of the Iraq war have a right to ask, but instead we were arrested. We will continue to ask these questions no matter who is elected. We believe that the time has come to end this war and bring our troops home, and we will be pushing for that no matter what happens in this election.” said Jason Lemieux, a former Sergeant in the US Marine Corps who served three tours in Iraq, and member of IVAW.

What if the American people learned from the mainstream media that there is a growing movement of Iraq veterans who are angry about the poor services they are receiving after risking life and limb in an illegal war?

What if this morning Americans pulled up to that kitchen table that the candidates love to talk about and unfolded their paper to find this image on the front page?


Hempstead or Baghdad? (photo by Bill Perry)

This is Nick being comforted by a buddy after literally having his face broken because he wants the world and the candidates to know the Iraq war needs to end now. Because he wants them to know that veterans are not receiving the necessary care that they deserve and were promised. Because he wants to know what the candidates are going to do about it.

I have faith in the American people. I believe that a lot of those people sitting at their kitchen table would have reached for the phone to ask their members of Congress why they were looking at an image of a wounded soldier bleeding on a sidewalk in Hempstead, New York in a picture that looks like it came from the streets of Baghdad, Iraq.

The politicians and pundits love to praise our veterans for protecting our way of life and ensuring our liberties. This week Nick and his fellow Iraq veterans sought to exercise those rights. They paid the price. As usual, the mainstream media looked the other way.

Ten veterans were arrested during the action, including Matthis Chiroux (Army Sergeant), Kristofer Goldsmith (Army Sergeant), Adam Kokesh (Marine Sergeant), Mike Spinato, Geoff Millard (Army Sergeant), Marlisa Grogan (Marine Captain), Nathan Peld (Navy, 1998-2004), Nick Morgan (Army Sergeant), James Gilligan (Marine Corps, 6 years) and Jose Vasquez (Army & Army Reserves, 1992-2007).

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was founded in July of 2004 to allow servicemen and women from all branches of the military a chance to come together and speak out against an illegal, unjust and unwinnable occupation. IVAW currently has over 1,300 members in 49 states, Canada and on military bases in the United States and overseas. To learn more about IVAW you can visit their website at http://ivaw.org/.