Twenty-five people, most of them U.S. military veterans, were arrested while laying flowers at a war memorial in New York City Oct. 7. They were engaged in a peaceful vigil to honor those killed and wounded in war and to oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan as it entered its 12th year.
The vigil was held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in lower Manhattan and began with a program of music and speakers including Vietnam veteran Bishop George Packard, Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges, and Iraq combat veteran Jenny Pacanowski. At 8:30, the protesters began reading the names of the New York soldiers killed in Vietnam who are commemorated at the plaza and the military dead in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At 10:15 pm, the police informed the group that the park was officially closed and that if they remained they would be arrested. Many chose to continue reading names and laying flowers until they were handcuffed and taken away. One of the arrestees was Word War II Army combat veteran, Jay Wenk, 85, from Woodstock, NY.
The veterans had four aims:
Demand an end to the 11-year war in Afghanistan
Demand an end to all U.S. wars of aggression
Remember all those killed and wounded by war
Stand up for our right, and duty, to assemble and organize
Photojournalist, poet and Vietnam veteran Mike Hastie was the first arrested, after appealing to police not to force the veterans out of the war memorial: “This is a sad day. I was a medic in Vietnam. I watched soldiers commit suicide. I had soldiers’ brains all over my lap. How can you do this? How can you arrest me for being at a war memorial?”
Via Twitter, all but three of the arrested veterans have now been released.