October 22, 2012,
Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly
Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly,
A few Sundays ago, on October 7, I was arrested, along with 24 others, mostly U.S. military veterans, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza. At the time of the arrests, we were peacefully and solemnly reading the names of those who had fallen in the Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars and laying white carnations in honor of all those killed in these wars. Prior to that, a number of speakers, including an Afghanistan war veteran, two Iraq war veterans and three Viet Nam combat veterans, expressed their sense of betrayal at being lied to and deceived by our government as those wars began and raged on.
Those of us who were there had a peaceful mission that night. We wanted to express our opposition to 11 years of war and waste in Afghanistan, to oppose all U.S. wars of aggression, to honor and remember the fallen and to stand for our right to do this and our First Amendment right of assembly.
The city, as you may know, has imposed a 10 pm curfew at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, this public place of memory. Regarding that curfew, my friend, fellow veteran Paul Appell said, "War veterans, loved ones of the fallen, and certainly those living in war zones do not have the option of closing down their memories at 10 pm. There is a good reason why suicide is an attractive option for many. It is truly the only sure way of ending the memories. For a memorial to shut down at some convenient time for the city is an insult to all those who do not have the luxury of shutting down their war memories at a specific time. I know that many want us war vets to go out of sight and not bother them, except when we are needed for some parade. Some of us are not going away at 10 pm or any other time. If they do not like it, maybe they should have thought of that before they sent us to war."
Mike Hastie, a Viet Nam combat medic, was the first to be arrested as he asked of the NYPD, "Why? Why are you doing this? I was a medic in Viet Nam. I saved lives. Why are you arresting me?" There was no answer from the police, nor could there have been one. I ask you, Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, the same question. The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC, and other memorials around the country have no closing time. Why did you arrest military veterans and others who were peacefully remembering the fallen and why is there a closing time at this public place of memory?
I also ask the NYPD, whose supposed duty it is to serve and protect the public, in what way were they doing that? Was there a crime being committed at the Memorial, was anybody's safety imperiled, was property being damaged? As the answer to these questions is in the negative, we have to ask, exactly who were the NYPD serving and protecting that night when they arrested 25 veterans and others peacefully assembling, reading the names of the dead and laying flowers?
Mr. Mayor, you have publicly bragged that "I have my own army in the NYPD." It was my understanding prior to that, although not from experience, that the police are there to insure public safety, to serve and protect the public and that they are paid for with taxes from that same public. Is there an unholy alliance, Mr. Mayor, between a billionaire Mayor of NYC, and the NYPD? Does the NYPD exist to serve and protect the ruling 1%, the Wall Street bankers, the politicians, those who lie and deceive to initiate and perpetrate wars for profit and power?
Mr. Mayor, we ask you to prove this is not so. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial needs to be open 24/7 and we ask that the charges against the 25 arrested on October 7 be dropped immediately.
Veterans For Peace
Board of Directors