Thursday, June 30, 2005
I'm a Vietnam veteran born and raised in Cambridge.
I strongly oppose U.S. Army practices and recruitment promises and sending our children to a war built on lies. This letter is to protest the excessive force used on the demonstrators and the arrests of Dr. Joseph Gerson and others.
I protested this U.S. Army Recruiting event disguised as a "birthday celebration!" It was clear who's being targeted for recruitment - just read the sign on the "recruiting truck door"- "No drinks, food or gum allowed inside."
I greeted the police and soldiers with "hello" and most returned the greeting. I was near the end of the demonstration group as we passed through the "body search." I walked toward the podium with a frail, elderly woman holding a "Peace" flag together. Nearing the podium, we saw the crowd ahead of us being pushed back by the "SWAT team," pushing them with batons held horizontally and shouting "move back" several times.
The protestors were pushed to near the tree where I and my elderly friend were standing and I saw Joe Gerson taken away in handcuffs! For a few minutes the SWAT team cordoned us off by the tree. Then suddenly they moved toward us saying to move back. One unidentified, special policeman grabbed my right arm, pushing me toward my elderly friend without time to turn around! Fearing for her, that she would be trampled beneath me, I asked him to stop, then asked the SWAT man behind me to grab me and asked the man holding me to grab the frail woman so she wouldn't be hurt. The unidentified uniformed man replied, "Sir, I feel you are resisting me and I will have to arrest you."
Suddenly the SWATs stopped. They had moved us back five feet! I was shaking. This was all unnecessary force. Were they intentionally inciting the crowd? The demonstrators were now about 50 feet from the podium. I walked away saying I didn't want confrontation with them. Why did the mayor and police commissioner use force with a potential for harming citizens who were nonviolent!? Why SWAT police?
How will the mayor try to rebuild trust with the Peace and Justice community? Why didn't the mayor invite dialogue for a balanced community event? There is perpetual war going on - it will take all of us to get this U.S. government to bring our troops home safely now.
USMC Vietnam Veteran, Community Mediator