The word is quickly spreading in the Vietnam Veteran community that any attempts by anti-war protesters to deface the Vietnam War Memorial, aka The Wall, in Washington, D.C., March 17 will be met with a solidly opposed wall of humanity.
Vietnam vets, many of whom have voiced their frustrations with the out-of-control disrespect to our country, and the refusal by Capitol Police in January to prevent protesters from defacing the Capitol, are planning to form a "protective shield" around The Wall, and other memorials too if necessary.
In addition to informal organizing efforts by a large number of veterans organizations, a news release was sent to hundreds of media outlets Friday by a group of former Marines who are publicizing the event as a vigil. While they make the point that they support the right of protesters to gather and voice their dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq, and are adamant that this is a vigil, not a counter-protest, they are equally firm in their opposition to any attempts to deface the memorial.
The news release reads:
Veterans' Coalition Plans War Memorial Vigil March 17
Anti-War Vandalism Prompts Call for 'Protective Screen'
WASHINGTON - A nationwide coalition of veterans' groups is planning a vigil at the National Mall on March 17 as a result of increasing concerns that anti-war protesters participating in a march on the Pentagon might deface the Vietnam War Memorial or other national monuments.
The veterans plan to form a human 'protective screen' around the Vietnam War Memorial.
Although no umbrella organization is representing the veterans who plan on standing the vigil, organizers say there will be representatives all branches of the service from World War II to the current war. Individuals from Prisoner of War groups, Vietnam Veterans of America chapters, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and many other veterans' organizations are planning to attend, although the parent organizations are not sponsoring the vigil.
Ohio resident Dane Brown, who served as a Marine infantryman during the Vietnam War has posted on-line calls to action, noting there are Internet, anti-war web sites that now encourage vandalism to the war monuments.
Brown said there are many "fringe groups with private agendas who are planning to participate in the anti-war march. I want to be certain that these groups don't deface any monument to the men and women who risked their lives -- and gave their lives -- to defend this country."
Among the anti-war groups that Pentagon march organizers say will attend are: CODEPINK; National Lawyers Guild; Free Palestine Alliance; Nicaragua Network; Mexico Solidarity Network; Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation- KAWAN: NYC Labor Against the War (NYCLAW); Socialist Front of Puerto Rico; Islamic Political Party of America (IPPA);Vietnam Veterans Against the War Anti-Imperialist; Women's Anti-Imperialist League (WAIL); International Socialist Organization; Freedom Socialist Party National Office; and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Brown and fellow Marine Larry Zok, who also plans to participate in the vigil, say they are encouraged by responses to their inquiries from the National Park Service which has promised to vigorously protect the Vietnam Memorial and other sites on the mall from vandalism.
However, after reading news reports that the Capitol Police allowed protesters to spray paint graffiti on the Capitol at a recent demonstration, veterans believe it is necessary to provide an extra measure of deterrence in March.
Zok says "We need to have this vigil because some of these same people sprayed graffiti on our nation's Capitol and I want to ensure that the same thing does not happen" to the Vietnam Memorial.
While the veterans solidly support active duty troops now fighting the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, "This is not about pro or con the war (in Iraq)," Zok added. "This is about honor and integrity."
Brown said the National Park Service is emphatic that the decision by the Capitol Police does not have any relevance to the Park Service enforcement, and that measures in place to secure the memorial include a 300 yard exclusion zone, mounted and foot police, a riot reaction squad and intelligence personnel on the scene to insure that the conditions of the permit issued to the anti-war activists are not violated. This includes restricting the anti-war activists to their permitted assembly area on the eastern end of the grounds and away from the wall.
Those interested in obtaining additional information can contact Larry Zok 703-915-1019 in the Washington, D.C., area or Jim Bancroft 860-989-7219 in the northeast.
The release was distributed to media outlets nationwide by MJ London & Associates, a public relations, marketing and advertising firm, located in Trumbull, CT. Additional information from that source can be obtained by calling 203-261-1549 or by email at MJLondon@aol.com.
The key point to remember about this event is that it is billed as a vigil not a protest, counter-protest or call to arms. If the groups who are planning on marching to the Pentagon pass on defacing the memorials there will be no problems, the vigil organizers say.
Based on the dimensions of the Vietnam Memorial it would take about 500 to 1000 veterans to create a solid barrier around it. See you there.
Saturday, February 10, 2007