The protest was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) who wanted the issue of veterans’ healthcare and support of war resisters to be addressed by the candidates. What began as an orderly and peaceful gathering escalated into an aggressive use of force by the Nassau County Police Department leaving one Iraq war veteran, Nick Morgan, with a fractured eye orbit and cheekbone.
Nick Morgan following reconstructive surgery (photo by Bill Perry)
Video coverage of the protest shows Morgan standing solemnly, hands clasped behind his back while mounted police backed their horses onto the sidewalk and into the crowd. Despite serious injuries and semiconscious state, the police proceeded to handcuff Morgan dragging him across the street to an awaiting bus.
Yesterday Nick, along with 13 others, faced disorderly conduct charges in Nassau County Court. Ten of the 15 charged are members of IVAW. Iraq war veteran, Adam Kokesh, is scheduled to appear in court today, Veterans day.
A throng of supporters gathered outside the Nassau County Court House early yesterday and filled the court room. IVAW member and defendant, Mathis Chiroux spoke to reporters before the arraignment, "We the Hempstead 15 are out here today to be arraigned for disorderly conduct. We are moving to dismiss. We were assembling October 15 to force the issue that service members and veterans are not being heard or cared for by the leaders of our country. We were responded to by the candidates by being ignored. In fact, we were brutalized and arrested by the Nassau County Police Department before also being charged."
Each of the defendants pled not-guilty to the charges. In what they and their lawyer, Jonathan Moore, describe as a "divide and conquer" tactic, the judge ordered separate court dates be held thus preventing them from being co-defendants.
After the arraignment, Moore declared "What happened in court today was basically nothing except an attempt by the district attorney to separate people into smaller groups so that there wouldn’t be the same appearance of a large crowd at the next court date. I don’t know why cities and states and counties are so afraid of people engaging in lawful political protest. To the extent that there was a hazardous condition created, it was created by the police not by the individuals who were simply engaging in protected first amendment speech. Some people were seriously injured by the use of these horses in a reckless and dangerous way."
Nick Morgan thanking the crowd for their support added "You know I hope a lot of you especially from around this area are as appalled as I am about the actions of the Nassau County Police Department and the gross violations of the constitution that all of us veterans swore to protect and uphold against all enemies foreign and domestic."
Mathis Chiroux vowed to fight until their names are cleared and justice is served. "Today, make no mistake about it. Nassau County has added insult to injury. But, I am grateful and thankful and I am overwhelmingly happy to report that every single member of the Hempstead 15 pled not guilty today. And, we are going to fight this thing out. This is unacceptable," he said.
Chiroux continued "We cannot be brutalized and silenced and told that we don’t have the right to oppose those who would take away our rights and literally trampling everything that it is to be American. Condemn, condemn the Nassau County Police Department for their trampling of Nick and others and as well their sneaky backdoor maneuvering to try and have us all tried on separate days to keep you from coming out and having your voices heard in our support. We are going to continue forcing this issue and we are not going to stop until the names of every single one of the Hempstead 15 are cleared and Nick Morgan sees justice."
According to Newsday.com, police spokesman, Det. Sgt. Anthony Repalone, claimed that officers showed restraint in handling the protest, but they are reviewing the incident.
IVAW is raising funds to assist in Nick Morgan’s medical expenses. Readers can donate at IVAW.org. For video of yesterday's events visit Adam Kokesh Revolutionary Patriot. Vietnam veteran and Veterans for Peace member, Bill Perry, contributed to this report.