Baseball bat wielding Marine assaults protesters in New Haven

***PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY***

URGENT: Two peaceful anti-war protesters were assaulted by a baseball-bat wielding Marine at the Orange St. recruiting station in New Haven, CT on Wed. June 28th. They were attending a non-violent demonstration in support of war resisters Lt. Ehren Watada and Suzanne Swift. We will not take this sitting down. Read below under ” Take Action” for how you can help!

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ACT NOW TO SUPPORT FREE SPEECH AND WAR RESISTERS!

On June 27th at 5pm five anti-war activists heeded the National Call to Action in support of Lt. Ehren Watada ( http://www.thankyoult.org/) and Suzanne Swift (http://www.suzanneswift.org/) who are soldiers who are facing punishment for refusing to deploy to Iraq. They peacefully chanted and held signs while passing out information on the resisting soldiers and counter-recruitment literature. Although an officer called the police, they engaged in civil discussions with various soldiers and pedestrians and were invited back for the next day when the colonel would be in town. They left chanting “We’ll be back! See you tomorrow!

The activists kept their word and returned the following day with four times as many people. Things started out peacefully but that quickly changed when an aggravated marine officer began yelling and sent a young recruit to retrieve a baseball bat. He lunged wildly at the protesters with the bat in their faces while threatening physical violence. The activists did not respond in any way and tried to diffuse the situation peacefully. One activist pulled out their cell phone to take a picture. The marine pushed two activists off the curb into the street and knocked the phone out of the other activists hand. He picked up the phone, erased the picture and only after police arrived at the scene did he back down. Meanwhile his fellow soldiers stood back and did nothing.

When the police arrived, the marine was still holding the bat. Yet the police approached the protesters immediately. The marine was allowed to leave the scene with the phone he had taken and returned to his duties, training the Junior Marine Corps. Meanwhile the police insisted that protesters had provoked this reaction from the marine by exercising their free speech rights. He insisted that they move their protest to the opposite side of the street. When asked politely by protesters why they were required to do this, pointing out that they were on a public sidewalk, he declared “This is MY sidewalk.” He implied that if they did not move they would be arrested when he said “You can do whatever you want, but in the end I’ll win.” He then proceeded to call in police paddy wagons to intimidate. After 45 minutes, the phone was returned but the police refused to divulge the identity of the marine.

Throughout this outrageous incident, the activists maintained composure and did absolutely nothing to aggravate the situation. They immediately called a member of the National Lawyers Guild and other allies. Upon some discussion and legal advice, the protesters moved to the opposite side of the street to avoid escalating the situation. At this point the news cameras arrived and the protesters continued to chant loudly until the soldiers went home and their offices closed.

This is not over. They are holding a press conference this Wednesday July 5th at 5pm in front of the Orange St. recruiting station. We can’t let the government intimidate us!!

Demands:
1. A public apology from both the US Marine Corps and the New Haven Police Department.

2. That the officer that assaulted us be removed from his duties and provided appropriate counseling but NOT jail time.

3. That our free speech rights are guaranteed in all public places including in front of the recruiting station.

4. Free Lt. Ehren Watada, Specialist Suzanne Swift and all other jailed war resisters!

5. Fund GI healthcare! ( http://www.courant.com/news/specials/hc-mental1a.artmay14,0,6150281.story)

6. Bring the TROOPS HOME NOW!

TAKE ACTION!

Call the US Marine Corps Recruiting Command
Orange St, New Haven, CT – 203-789-4484
Regional Office, Springfield, MA – 413-594-4623 or 2033
— Major Lawrence Coleman, Sergeant Major Cevet Adams

Call the New Haven Police Department
Chief Francisco Ortiz – 203-946-6333
General – 203-946-6316 or 6120
“Internal Values and Ethics” – 203-946-6249 or 6250
–Officers Ratti (#463), Hartnett (#4), Knickerbocker (#80)

Come to the Press Conference and Rally
Wednesday, July 5 – 5PM
157 Orange St. New Haven, CT 06511
For More Info/directions/get involved call Todd 203-506-2414

For every emotionaly disturbed Marine desperately in need of treatment, and hypocrite
thug of a cop we meet, we meet ten people who are glad
we’re there. Now it’s time to get those supporters
into the streets with us for next time.

Statements

The following is a statement that is being circulated regarding an incident at the military recruiting station on Orange Street in New Haven on Wednesday, June 28. A baseball
bat-wielding Marine recruiter engaged in an unprovoked assault on two demonstrators outside the recruiting center and then seized the cellphone belonging to another demonstrator who had witnessed and photographed the assault. There are plans for a rally and press conference outside the recruiting center for July 5 at 5PM.

The National Lawyers Guild was contacted immediately after the incident by organizers who were looking for legal assistance because, among other things, the New Haven police were trying to discourage the victims from making a complaint against the recruiter — apparently at least one officer expressed the opinion that having an anti-war demonstration outside a military recruiting center was a “provocation.”

The question that this incident must raise is this: if a US Marine recruiter, while safely ensconced behind a desk in an air-conditioned office in New Haven, working in a position that
plainly keeps him in the public eye, feels free to use a baseball bat to beat a protester . . .
then how much restraint do we imagine that his compatriots use against Iraqis?

I would strongly urge people to participate in the rally on July 5. The movement needs to respond in a strong and clear voice to violence against demonstrators, and all the more so when it comes from government personnel and is calculated to discourage political opposition.

Peter Goselin
NLG-CT

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“Yesterday, five of us heeded the call to action in support of Lt.
Ehren Watada who is the first officer to refuse deployment to Iraq by
staging a peaceful protest outside the Orange St. recruiting station
in downtown New Haven. Chanting “They’re our brothers, they’re our
sisters, we support war resisters” we stood on the sidewalk out
front holding signs and receiving positive support from pedestrians
and drivers. We had civil conversation with soldiers in the office,
distributed literature and fliers and raised the profile of some of
the first true heros of the Iraq war – those refusing to fight.
Although they called the police (who left us alone) the protest was
completed peacefully and we were invited back to protest today when
the Colonel would be in town.

Today, however, the protest was NOT entirely peaceful from the part
of one US Marine. When about 10-15 of us returned today to continue
our non-violent expression of our free speech rights, we were
confronted with an imposing marine with a baseball bat. He screamed
in our faces, trying to intimidate us and after hitting []’s phone
out of his hands with the bat he shoved me with the end of it off the
sidewalk into the street. Not only did he assault two of us, he
took the cell phone, erased the picture that had been taken of him
with the bat and kept it. Other, more level headed soldiers arrived
to try and defuse the situation and sent the enraged officer to lead
a training session of fresh recruits – canon fodder for the illegal
imperial war in Iraq. When the police arrived they did nothing.
They did not care that we were assaulted. They did not care that
something had been stolen. They want this to go away quietly. We
MUST NOT let that happen. A police report has been filed and we are
discussion possible legal and certainly political responses to this.
Eventually the phone was recovered and we continued our chanting with
renewed energy “This is what democracy looks like…THAT is what
hypocrisy looks like!” The police were threatening, saying “this is
my street” and “no matter what you do, I will win.” We decided it
was in our best interest to listen to the officer and we moved our
protest to the opposite side of the street. The police officers
refused to give us the name of the Marine who attacked us and called
in paddy wagons to bring us away. Fortunately the news media showed
up shortly and filmed us chanting and interviewed some of us. We want all of the news stations to cover this and they will be
getting calls in the morning.

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This event is an outrage! Not only were we INVITED back to protest by the military recruiters but were subsequently lectured by the soldiers about how they fight “to defend our freedom and liberty”. After about 15 minutes, this raging Marine threatened to beat us, he was promptly thrown a metal bat from inside by another Marine, and he got in our faces and started yelling about how we were “distrubing his place of work”. We immediately tried to defuse the situation by telling him to calm down and asking him to put down the bat while HIS FELLOW SOLDIERS DID NOTHING. In response, the angry Marine violently waved the handle of the bat in several people’s faces, touching my nose with it, and then assaulting [] and [] and stealing []’s cell phone. [] got out her camera and the Marine then threatened to steal and destroy her camera and beat her. As the situation escalated, I threatened to and did call the police, but the Marine said that he had already called them! The police showed up right then and the soldiers quickly moved to push the Marine back while he still had the phone. The police immediately confronted us as though we were the instigators. The Marine was allowed to freely walk back and forth and eventully led a “training session” in the park with JROTC students. The police, for no legal reason, told us to move across the street because it was “their” sidewalk and they “would win no matter what.” Throughout all of this, while we were trying to maintain our compsure and discipline, we continued to chant loudly. Many bystanders stopped to watch and most showed their support for us, although one told us that we were “scum” and that he “would kill us if he had the chance” (he said this at least twice and stayed around until the very end). We also immediately called lawyers that we knew who gave us guidance over the phone and we called media. We continued to protest across the street until the scene was cleared and the recruiting offices were closed.

On the positive side, we engaged a solider in very calm, civil debate and he largely agreed with us on our anger over this assault and the immorality of the war. A female soldier talked to me and took our information until her officer told her that she wasn’t allowed to do that and that she had to get inside.

The really scary parts:
1. The rank hypocrisy and brainwashing that goes on in the military.
2. This Marine is training potential soldiers.
3. It gave us all a very small sense of what Iraqis face everyday — outraged, uncontrollable soldiers who have big rifles instead of metal bats and who are not in anyway considering laws, norms, or holding back because they’re dealing with Americans.
4. The arrogance of the soliders who knew they could depend on cops to defend them and the arrogance of cops who thought they could get away with anything through intimidation and the use of the “law” (ie, batons and paddy wagons).

They clearly don’t know who they’re dealing with. We’re going to turn up the heat and make this into a campaign. This is a free speech fight and an antiwar fight. No soldiers should be put into a position where they turn out raging like this. That Marine needs counseling for anger management and PTSD. His officers, the police, and the government need to be held accountable for these crimes — from the streets of New Haven to the streets of Haditha. Press conference a week from today — July 5, 5pm, in front of the recruiting stations. It’s time to jump-start the antiwar movement in New Haven and continue building so that we can the US out of the Middle East! ”

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It started really by 2 soldiers and one local worker legitimately asking me, “why don’t you support us [the troops] –which we certainly do– yet they were too impatient to wait for a response even though I was giving it to them. Quickly three got in my face in a somewhat aggressive manner. [] turned and saw three soldiers encroaching into my PZ and asked them, “why are there three of you crowding one of us [or something to that affect]?” In turn they saw this as confrontational because they quickly got in his face. Then [] stood up only to be chased with a bat. And on it went, down the line of successive activists being unwarrantably threatened, provoked, and assaulted until the police arrive as the Army’s arbiter. The rest is as laid out below.

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Today’s events revealed for me and everyone present
the heartbreaking and gutwrenching reality of the
domestic face of U.S. imperialism. Our project, after
all was to defend war resisters Ehren Watada and
Suzanne Swift. Ehren has refused to deploy to Iraq,
and is facing a jail sentence for refusing orders, and
Suzanne has already been to jail and been forced to
return to her unit after being sexually harassed by
her commanding officer and others and refusing to
return to Iraq for a second tour of duty. When we
returned to the recruiting station today, joking with
some of the soldiers there, and preparing our
materials, none of us expected to be assaulted by a
U.S. Marine Wielding a baseball bat. Especially since
yesterday we had been invited back by the recruiters,
and filed out of the park next door chanting “We’ll be
back, seee you tommorrow!”, to which staff in the
office responded by smilling and waving. The police
yesterday, in fact assured us the we had a right to be
there, and after responding to a complaint from a
commanding officer at the recruitment center, told us
to “have a good afternoon”. However, the police today
arrived on the scene having somehow come to the
counterintuitive conclusion that we, the unarmed,
peacefull protesters were somehow the cause of the
violence committed against us by a Marine wielding a
baseball bat. This recruter was then allowed to
continue with his duties, including the “training” of
several minors from the Junior Marines program, while
still holding stolen property which belonged to one of
the demonstrators. That’s right, it’s hard for me to
believe too, but we were assaulted and threatened by a
member of the U.S. military while he was on the clock
and he was allowed to stay at work with teens and
young adults in his care. This was of course after
being told countless times by his coworkers that they
were “defending our right to be there protesting”.
Well, I know I certainly don’t feel protected with the
business end of a baseball bat in my face. The
absurdity is abundantly clear if you immagine just for
a second of what would have happened if the situation
were reversed and a protester had threatened a
recruiter with a bat. In the blink of an eye, this
individual would have been beaten bloody, dragged
away, and sent to jail. This is the hypocrisy of a
system which when it’s not actively rewarding soldiers
for committing attrocious violence against unarmed
civilians, turns a blind eye to these incidents, and
sicks the police on their victims.

But, as brutal and nakedly one sided as this
experience was, I wanted to generalize some positive
aspects of our work, because we did a kick ass job today! Not only were we able
to get counter recruitment literature to some
potential recruits, and supportive literature to some
GIs who might be against the war, but we were able to
conduct ourselves in a well organized and disciplined
manner which avoided any injuries, and maintained our
presence at the demonstration.
These are the things we did right:
1) We stuck together, never letting anyone be isolated
for very long.
2) We called the press.
3) We recognized our limits in terms of numbers and
complied with the cop’s order to move across the
street.
4) We contacted an NLG lawyer who was able to advise
us on how to deal with the cops.
5) We gathered information about the incident
including names and badge numbers for all the cops on
the scene.
6) We didn’t back down or become disorganized, but
moved across the street, chanting even louder, and
didn’t leave untill the office closed.

For every emotionaly disturbed
Marine desperately in need of treatment, and hypocrit
thug of a cop we meet, we meet ten people who are glad
we’re there. Now it’s time to get those supporters
into the streets with us for next time.

These guys don’t know who they’re messing with. We’ve
already sent out a press release to seventy media
outlets and begun
calling through our allies to put together a free
speech campaign. In other words, we are a force to be
reckoned with! Next Wed. same time, same place,
we’ll be back!

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The past day’s events were an eye-opening experience for a good bulk of us,
although some had already been witness to the brutality of the NHPD, SCSU
Police, and the CT State Troopers, and today, compared to other times, we
emerged relatively unscathed, as opposed to arrests, and physical harm in
the past. If we play our cards right, and make our experiences of
today known to a wider audience, we have a real potential of strengthening
the antiwar movement, at least in New Haven.

A few things. First, we need to develop clear goals about what we want to,
and can expect to gain from this. As others noted, this for us is going to
be both a legal, and a political battle. On the legal front, our goals
should be (but not limited to):

1. A full apology, not only from the marine who assaulted members, but also
from the officer, and the New Haven Police Department and even Mayor
DeStefano.
2. A prosecution of the Marine that assaulted us, and threatened
the rest. However, we should tie this in to our political battle, and should
DEMAND that he NOT be jailed, but receive counseling, which can bring to
attention that what he did is a result of his experiences and environment,
and of the fact that the ENTIRE blame for this lies at the top, not only of
the military brass, but at the highest levels of government, which locally
includes Dodd, Lieberman, DeLauro, and DeStefano.
And 3. A full public recognition of our legal right to demonstrate outside
the recruiting office and other public property (which isn’t the cops’
property) in the future, as our constitutional rights entitles us to.

Our political tasks in the near future should more broadly be, a full
campaign around this, including press, phone blasts, petitions, but more
importantly bringing others into this struggle, and not just the usual
suspects, but the broader working people who are most affected by this sort
of thing daily. At every step, we need to bridge the connection between the war at home (Marine and Police
threats in New Haven with baseball bats and paddywagons), and the war abroad
(Army, Marines, and National Guard actual use of guns and F-16’s in Iraq and
Afghanistan). Through this, we can definitely hope, if not expect, to
solidify, and expand the antiwar left in New Haven.

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First of all, I think that given the unexpected situation we were confronted with, we did an excellent job of handling ourselves and working as a team. As we all know if takes very little for a protester to be harrassed and assaulted by the police and it was important to keep our cool, especially given our small numbers. That said, I think for future actions we can certainly be more prepared. This means: 1) having a legal observer present; 2) having media present if possible and our own means of recording things if not (for instance it would have been great to have that cop on tape saying things like you better listen to me or else)— although being aware that merely recording something is likely to be seen as a provocation; 3) bringing out as many people as possible and sticking together– for a larger demonstration marshalls are a necessity.

In terms of next steps, I agree for the most part with what others put out. However, if possible we should avoid pressing charges against the individual marine and try to move it further up the chain of command. Hell, we should press charges on the entire US government for waging this illegal and immoral war. After all, we have plenty of information about how the military treats its soldiers like crap, recruits and retains mentally imbalanced people whose conditions are only worsened by the horrors of being in Iraq. The military explicitly trains people to harrass and torture innocent civilians and these are the results. The point of a legal campaign, in my opinion, is not necessarily to “win” but to raise awareness and rally a grassroots mobilization. We also need to be crystal clear on the point that we don’t think this is an issue of one “bad apple” but of the war and the military as a whole.

The anger about this war is palable, both on the part of ordinary people who showed their support for us (a waitress from the nearby coffeeshop brought us free coffee and cookies!) as well as a genuine interest on the part of active soldiers and recruits. While the antiwar movement has hit a slump, mainly to due to liberal leaders’ bankrupt plan of supporting the democrats, anger has only increased and deepened. We have a potential right now to turn this anger into action and we must sieze the moment! All out for July 5!

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Yesterday was a clear example of what we have been saying for some time; a war abroad means at the same time a war at home. The US government in Iraq through its military arm is the same state here at home, in the way it conducts its affairs against those seen as “enemies”. There is little difference between “enemies” in Baghadad and “enemies” at home. Some of the brutality of the war was seen on Orange St. in New Haven, CT. The way soldiers are trained to handle citizens, police disregard for constitutional rights, etc.

The predom. ideas of protecting Americans through the “war on terror” has led to a significant curtailment of our civil liberties. The USA Patriot Act has been used against Arabs, Muslims, Latinos (border wall) anitwar activists and many others to accomplish some goal for US capital. While making US corporations happy through increased profits the majority of the US pop. and the world pop. have grown poorer and their freedoms have diminished.

People in the US have also seen funding for their social programs cut while the military budget has shot through the roof. Funding has even been cut for all GIs, even those who have come back from active duty in Iraq or Afg. Its sad but no surprise that soldiers aren’t getting the help that they need. There have been many well documented cases of suicide, violence, etc. that GIs have experienced after coming home from combat.

The war in Iraq has become quite upopular amongst most people in the US and around the world, to say the least. The Republican party and especially GW are facing all time lows in approval ratings, and the military is having a hard time recruiting new soldiers. All of this has come from scandal after scandal regarding the handling of the Iraq war. the Iraqi resistance, Lies, civilian casualties, escalating number of US GIs dead, killed or wounded, torture scandals, Haditha massacres, etc.

No challenge has been put forward to the “war on terror” and its logical consequences by the Dems. they have accepted the logic of the “war on terror” and say that they want to be stronger than Rep. on the “war on terror”

At the same time the antiwar movement has been struggling with political weakness that can be somewhat attributed to their support for the Dem. party. You can’t support the Dems. while they are supporting the “war on terror” if you do support them than you also accept their logic and baggage which is tied to corporate america and the “war on terror”

We need to organize and call out these issues on the ground, build a hearing for our ideas amongst ordinary working people who also disagree with the war, put pressure on any or either pol. party in DC from outside of their institutions to end the war, bring our troops home now, fund GI healthcare and all other social programs, and uphold our right to organize, speak, demonstrate, so on and so on.

Defend our civil liberties!

End the war, bring our troops home now!

Fund GI healthcare!