Iraq Veterans Against the War - NYC Memorial Day

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Operation First Casualty, Memorial Day 2007. Photo by Lovella Calica. (From the Brooklyn Rail)


I can't believe I just now heard about this action. The Iraq Veterans Against the War staged a protest on Memorial Day in many locations in New York (including Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and Ground Zero), with the goal of the bringing the reality of the Iraq War to America. The Brooklyn Rail has an excellent article, and the video above came from The Nation. Here is an excerpt from the Brooklyn Rail article.

It was Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of Fleet Week. At the corner of Broadway and 44th Street, a small group of men and women wearing oversized white t-shirts waited for the light to change. Tourists, military personnel and locals enjoying the long holiday weekend pushed and squeezed their way through the crowd.

Out of nowhere and without provocation, nine soldiers in full-desert fatigues appeared and screamed at the group in white to “get on the fucking ground.” The soldiers pinned people to the pavement and began “bagging and tagging,” using zip-ties on their wrist and stuffing bags over their heads.

People ran to get out of the way. The crowd pushed back to create a wall of wide eyes and open mouths around the soldiers. A hotdog vendor stopped in the middle of Broadway and held up traffic. Strangers exchanged looks of confusion and concern, unsure of what, if anything, should be done.

With precision, the soldiers moved quickly, separating the detainees from the rest of the group. As soon as the site was secure, the squad leader, Demond Mullins, called for the group to “form up” and they proceeded through the stunned crowd down Broadway.

If this were Iraq, a truck would have pulled up to transport those unfortunate detainees to a detention facility. Instead, people in black t-shirts with “Iraq Veterans Against the War” printed across the front quickly distributed fliers to on-lookers that read: “This is Operation First Casualty. The first casualty in war is the truth.”

Operation First Casualty is modeled after the Vietnam-era protest action Operation Rapid American Withdrawal that took place in Pennsylvania during the summer of 1970. This variation came out of a brainstorming session among the Washington D.C. chapter of IVAW earlier this year. The vets felt “tired of just being part of other people’s protest,” explained Adam Kokesh, a member of the D.C. chapter. IVAW, a national veterans organization founded in July of 2004, performed the first Operation First Casualty in D.C. this past March.

Update: Here is a flickr photoset from Joe Holmes of joe's nyc fame.