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Posted on Jul 14, 2013
AP/Mary Altaffer

A Veterans for Peace demonstrator at a Sept. 15, 2012, rally in New York City’s Washington Square Park.

By Chris Hedges

(Page 2)

Tarak Kauff, a 71-year-old veteran of the Army’s 111th Airborne and former professional boxer, was one of the organizers of the Oct. 7 protest. He has been on a hunger strike for more than a month to express solidarity with the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay and in the Pelican Bay prison in California. He was gaunt. His skin was ashen and his cheeks sunken. He consumes 300 liquid calories a day and has lost 24 pounds. He was arrested in May and again in October.

“I saw clearly that the purpose of the arrest was not merely enforcing the 10 p.m. curfew,” he said of the May arrests, “but the purpose was very specific in restricting the right of assembly. We decided that October 7th would be a perfect day to do it. It was 11 years of war in Afghanistan. So when we came to the Vietnam Veterans Plaza that night we had four purposes. One was to call for an end to the war, the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The second was to call for an end to all U.S. wars of empire. The third was to remember and lament those who had fallen and been wounded in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, including the civilians, including the 5 million civilians in Vietnam. The fourth was to affirm our right to assemble. If we lose the right to address these issues and to organize in public places, we have absolutely nothing.”

“I’m fasting because it’s a sacrifice,” he said when I asked about his hunger strike. “I want to encourage other people in our movement of the necessity of sacrifice. If we want to establish anything, if we want to re-establish or ever establish any kind of democratic system, it’s not going to happen without sacrifice, some kind of sacrifice. And we have a choir. I want to see that choir inspired to start sacrificing more, to take risks. We have to be willing to put our bodies on the line in some way, shape, or form, nonviolently.”

According to several of the activists, some of the police officers said that they too were military veterans and disliked making the arrests but had been told by their superiors to take the demonstrators into custody to prevent another Occupy encampment.

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“ ‘We can’t let you stay,’ ” Kauff said he was told by a police captain. “ ‘It sets a bad example for the Occupy movement.’ ”

“After the process of being arrested began, a police lieutenant told me the Occupy Wall Street people really screwed this up for you guys,” Sam Adams, who served in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, said in his courtroom testimony. “You can thank them for this.”

The trial was a tiny window into how rattled the state was by Occupy, unfortunately now in disarray. The security organs know that as conditions worsen for the majority of Americans, as austerity cuts and chronic unemployment and underemployment drive tens of millions of families into desperation, as climate change continues to produce extreme and dangerous weather, there remains the threat of another popular backlash. The problem lies not, of course, with the Occupy movement, but with the reconfiguration of the government into a handmaiden of corporations that seek to squeeze profits out of the dying carcass of empire.

The corporate state’s quest to control all power includes using the military to carry out domestic policing, which is why I sued the president over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act. It is imperative to defend, as the activists did in New York City, what freedoms and rights we have left. If we remain passive, if we permit the state to continue to use the law to take away our right of political expression, we will have no legal protection of resistance when we will need it most.


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