Tomgram: Frances Fox Piven, The War on the Home Front
It was a beautiful, sunlit fall morning when the patrol, many in camouflage jackets, no more than 40 of them in all, headed directly into enemy territory. Their ranks included one sailor in uniform, three women, and a small child named Viva in a stroller. Except for Viva, all of them were vets, a few from the Vietnam era but most from our more recent wars.
As they headed for Wall Street, several carried signs that said, “I am still serving my country,” and one read, “How is the war economy working for you?” Many wore Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirts under their camo jackets, and there was one other thing that made this demonstration unlike any seen in these last Occupy Wall Street weeks: there wasn’t a police officer, police car, or barricade in sight. As they headed out across a well-trafficked street, not a cop was there to yell at them to get back on the curb.
In the wake of the wounding of Scott Olsen in the police assault on Occupy Oakland last week, that’s what it means to be a veteran marching on Zuccotti Park. Scott Kimbell (Iraq, 2005-2006), who led the patrol, later told me: “Cops are in a difficult position with vets. Some of them were in the military and are sympathetic and they know that the community will not support what happened to Scott Olsen.” Just before Broad Street, a line of waiting police on scooters picked up the marchers, for once feeling more like an escort than a gang of armed avengers, while media types and photographers swarmed in the street without police reprimand.
Suddenly, the patrol swiveled right and marched directly into the financial heart of the planet through a set of barricades. (“Who opened up the barrier there?” shouted a policeman.) It was aiming directly at a line of mounted police blocking the way. In front of them, the march halted. With a smart “Left face!” the platoon turned to the Stock Exchange and began to call out in unison, “We are veterans! We are the 99%! We swore to protect the Constitution of the United States of America! We are here to support the Occupy Movement!”
Then, the horses parted like the Red Sea, like a wave of emotion sweeping ahead of us, and the vets marched on triumphantly toward Zuccotti Park as a military cadence rang out (“...corporate profits on the rise, but soldiers have to bleed and die! Sound off, one, two...”)
The platoon came to attention in front of Trinity Church for a moment of silence for “our friend Scott Olsen,” after which it circled the encampment at Zuccotti Park to cheers and cries of “Welcome Home!” from the protesters there. (One of the occupiers shouted to the skies: “Hey, police, the military’s here and they’re on our side!”) And if you don’t think all of it was stirring, then you have the heart of a banker.
Soon after, veterans began offering testimony, people’s mic-style, at the top of the park. Eli Wright, 30, a former Army medic in Ramadi, Iraq (2003-2004), now on military disability and Viva's dad, parked her stroller when I asked him why he was here. “I came out today to march for economic justice," he responded. "I want a future for my daughter. I want her to have an education and a job. I served seven years for our country to defend our constitution only to see it being dismantled before my eyes. I think it’s time for vets and others to stand up and fight back.” As for two-year-old Viva, “This,” he said, “is the introduction to democracy that she needs to see.” As a matter of fact, amid the tumult, Viva was soundly and peaceably asleep.
(This moving piece goes on to review the testimony of several veterans--and then Frances Fox Piven's collection of essays. Take a few minutes. Read. )
click here to read the whole piece