The Navy on Friday issued a restriction against troops attending a Memorial Day concert in New York organized by Iraq-war veterans and civilian activists.
The UXO Tour, a nationwide concert series for active duty service-members organized by veterans, held its first concert on a cruise ship at Pier 81 in Manhattan, next to the Navy’s fleet.
Organizers outreached heavily to service-members throughout Manhattan and were met with positive responses from those they talked with. “We were expecting at least 50-75 Sailors and Marines to come,” said Coast Guard veteran and UXO organizer Bobby Joe Grubb. Organizers handed out over 100 free tickets to active-duty troops.
But those numbers did not materialize due to a controversial order by Navy command. In violation of the first amendment rights of service-members, the Navy banned attendance to this event.
Veterans involved with the concert condemned this betrayal of service-members’ rights and are taking it as “a slap in the face”. “It’s a hypocrisy that these brave men and women who swore to defend the Constitution are being denied their own Constitutional rights”, they said in a statement.
Chantelle Bateman, a former Marine Reservist and Iraq veteran who represents the 1,800 strong Iraq Veterans Against the War, a co-sponsor of the concert series, addressed the ban during the event: “Putting on a uniform does not forego our constitutional rights”, she said.
Several other veterans spoke to address the ban as well. “The military chain of command has no right to micromanage what service-members are doing in their off time”, said Nick Morgan, an Iraq veteran and UXO organizer. “They have no right to censor the information that’s available to them, especially when it’s within the confines of the law.”
Despite the ban, organizers say they were able to meet many sympathetic service-members who expressed positive sentiments in support of UXO’s mission. “We were incredibly successful in reaching out to these Sailors and Marines,” says Grubb. “We made solid contact with those we met while doing outreach”. He said many of them were interested in getting more involved in the active-duty and veteran-led anti-war movement.
The UXO Tour’s next concert will be held in Seattle, WA on June 26th, at the Showbox At The Market. Organizers intend to reach out to soldiers stationed at Fort Lewis in the lead-up to the concert, and say they will not be stopped by future “restriction orders” from military brass.
“We’re not going to stop having these concerts. The troops have the right to have real entertainment for real purposes”, Morgan said. “We’re going to remind the troops that they are entitled to access information and have a space to freely express their opinions regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Morgan also added that these concerts are helping to bring legal and mental-health resources to members of the military. “It’s imperative for these veteran-led efforts to be accessed by active-duty troops to make up for the lacking support they get from the current administration, the Department of Defense, and the Veterans Administration.”
Details for UXO’s upcoming concerts, including those near Fort Lewis, Fort Hood, and Fort Riley, can be accessed at their website, http://www.uxotour.com.
By Ryan Harvey, May 31, 2010, New York, NY