By Dee Knight
Published Nov 14, 2008
Fourteen members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War attempted to
present questions to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John
McCain at their final debate in Hempstead, Long Island, N.Y., on Oct.
15. Instead of being ushered into the debate site as they requested,
they were assaulted by riot police on horseback.
One veteran, Nick Morgan, was trampled when a cop provoked his horse
to spin, knocking Morgan down and trampling his face. Morgan
sustained a crushing blow to his heada cheek bone was broken in
three places, and his eye socket was shattered.
Morgan was dumped in a police wagon with the other vets, until they
badgered the cops to rush him to a hospital, then sent to jail. They
were arraigned for "disorderly conduct" on Nov. 10 at the Nassau
County District Court.
In its coverage of the Hempstead events, the New York City
Independent Media Center reported on Oct. 16 that "Speakers included
a member of the New York Civil Liberties Union, a local civil rights
advocate, a Military Families Speak Out activist and a member of the
May 1st Coalition for Immigrant and Worker Rights. As more activists
from the NYC area poured in, the march to the campus of Hofstra
started, with defiant chants of 'Stop the torture, stop the war, this
is what we're fighting for,' and 'They're our brothers, they're our
sisters, we support war resisters!' filling the streets of Hempstead.
With IVAW members at the front, the crowd swelled to around 400
demonstrators. Members of the local Planned Parenthood joined in
along the way."
IVAW members, backed by a crowd of anti-war protesters, were allowed
to pass through one line of police before they were met with lines of
Nassau County riot police and cops on horses. IVAW members Matthis
Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith, who organized the protest, tried to enter
the Hofstra University campus and were promptly arrested. At least
three other veterans and four civilians followed and were arrested as well.
As the crowd chanted, "Let them in!" the police on horses pushed back
against the crowd, which was led by a group of about 15 Iraq veterans
in fatigue uniforms. After a tense standoff for several minutes, four
people were knocked over by riot police and horses. It was during
this fracas that Morgan was injured. After the police assault, a
standoff between the cops and demonstrators occurred for more than an hour.
A couple of questions
Chiroux, who last May publicly declared his intent to refuse to
deploy to Iraq, had sent a letter to debate moderator Bob Scheiffer
demanding that two IVAW members be allowed to ask the candidates one
"My question is, as President of the United States of America, are
you prepared to back up your own words [about the illegality of the
Iraq War] and the U.S. Constitution by supporting service members
refusing to participate in what you describe as an illegal occupation?"
They also wanted to ask McCain a question about his lack of support
for veterans. "What promises are you willing to make, as a veteran,
as a senator, as a presidential candidate, to the veterans of the
United States, to prove that you will ensure the V.A. is fully
funded, staffed and capable of preventing troops from suffering as
they are now?"
A petition launched the day following the Hempstead incident says in part:
"We, the undersigned, denounce and condemn the violent actions and
gross misconduct of the Nassau County Police Department in Hempstead,
Long Island. Specifically, we are citing the unprovoked attack
unleashed upon a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who was
acting within the First Amendment right to peacefully assemble on the
evening of October 15, 2008 at Hofstra University, the site of the
last presidential debate. ...
"We urge that all charges against the Iraq veterans and the other
people arrested be dropped. ... All charges against [Morgan] must be
dropped immediately, and a public apology be given by not only the
Nassau County Police Department but the Mayor of Hempstead."
To sign the petition, go to www.ipetitions.com.
At the arraignment, Chiroux said, "We were charged with disorderly
conduct, to which we all plead not guilty." But, he adds, "Here's the
dirty thing. The cops scheduled our court appearances on different
days to break us up and make demonstrations that much more
complicated." What the cops did not take into account is that more
demonstrations help the movementnot them.
No reports were available regarding possible civil action against the
police for damages.