Heavily armed SWAT police threaten peaceful protesters. Photo by Ellen Davidson
Five different police forces were involved in responding to the flower laying threat. Quite a show of paramilitary force to stop a flower laying ceremony by five vets and a military mom!
There was no violence from the peace protesters who had all pledged to be non-violent at the event. Some of the protesters were treated roughly by the paramilitary police.
Paramilitary police push forward knocking people on top of each other. Photo by Ellen Davidson
Even the horse were wearing riot gear. Photo by Ellen Davidson.
What was the root cause of this expensive and unnecessary show of force? The Marine Command insisting that vets could not lay flowers at a public war memorial. Did they forget their oath? Perhaps the most important part of the U.S. Constitution is the First Amendment which protects Freedom of Speech, Assembly and Petitioning the government. The language is clear: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . .; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Rather than defending the Constitution, the actions of the Quantico Marine Command are undermining critical constitutional guarantees and violating the soldier's oath.
Daniel Ellsberg with Paramilitary Unit as he is arrested for attempting to lay flowers in an "unlawful assembly." Photo by Ellen Davidson
As a result of the events on the 20th, 32 people have been arrested. Daniel Ellsberg said when the magistrate told him the charge was "unlawful assembly" he thought: "Unlawful assembly ? I thought of that as a pre-Revolutionary charge: "Disperse, ye rabble! Go to your homes!' I was under the belief that the First Amendment--protecting the right "peaceably to assemble to petition for redress of grievances' was supposed to "change all that.' Could there be a clearer description of what we were doing--right at the immediate site of one of the grievances? Granted, we were in a highway: but the State Police had blocked off that road themselves, for the period of our assembly : we weren't even "disrupting traffic.'"
Now, it goes to the Prince William Courts. It will be an opportunity for the courts to enforce and protect the most basic constitutional rights of Americans, or an opportunity to turn those guarantees into a farce. Let's hope the courts side with the people and the Constitution or the shock troops at Quantico could become a model seen in other parts of the country.
Videos of the Events on March 20th Outside the Quantico Marine Base