Coordinated Actions Show Growing Power of Veterans in “Occupy Movement”
Photo: Democratic Underground
“Corporate profits are on the rise,” a crowd of forty mostly uniformed Iraq and Afghanistan veterans chanted during a march on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, “Soldiers have to bleed and die.”
The march, called for by the New York chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, (IVAW) was a response to the October 28th attack on Iraq veteran Scott Olsen, whose skull was broken when Oakland police fired a tear gas canister at short-range directly into his head.
Wednesday morning’s march also drew attention to the economic and social conditions faced by active-duty service-members and veterans across the country: disproportionate rates of sexual assault, a broken veterans’ health care system, unemployment, homelessness, and a country lacking in decent-paying jobs. “I’m worried about how I’m going to feed my daughter and put her through college,” former Army medic and Iraq veteran Eli Wright told reporters. “I’m basically out here with everybody else, fighting for economic justce for all of us.”
Later in the evening, a dozen veterans helped lead a 1,000-strong march to New York Police headquarters to protest police brutality both against participants in recent “Occupy” protests and around the country in general.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Bay-area chapters of IVAW, of which Scott Olsen is a member, coordinated a contingent of dozens of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for the “General Strike” march that brought tens of thousands to the streets and shut down the Port of Oakland.
Wednesday’s marchers were an attempt to catalyze this force and to show to the rest of the movement that veterans, especially those who oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are with them.
“I am a two-time Iraq war veteran, and this is the only occupation I believe in,” IVAW organizer Joseph Carter said in a post-march speech at New York’s Zuccotti Park, site of the Occupy Wall Street encampment. “For too long our voices have been silence, suppressed, and ignored in favor of the voices of Wall Street!”
In a message from Occupy Wall Street’s veterans to other veterans and active-duty service-members, Carter urged them to join and support the movement. ”Show your support openly!“ he said. “Raise your voice and say: I am a veteran. I am the 99 Percent!”
IVAW has over 2,000 members and has been on the frontlines of the movement against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004. The organization will be hosting nationwide events on November 11th, Veterans Day, to focus on sexual violence in the military and the situations faced by female veterans both within and after the military. See their site for more information.