Vietnam Veterans Assert First Amendment Rights in New York City

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by Sharon Rondeau

“New York’s Finest” arrest 19 war veterans on Monday evening at the Vietnam War Memorial Park on Water Street

(Oct. 8, 2013) — On Monday, an assemblage of Viet Nam and World War II veterans assembled at the New York City Vietnam Memorial at 55 Water Street to speak out against foreign wars, particularly the ongoing war in Afghanistan; government “atrocities;” First Amendment rights; and to remember the fallen.

The website for the memorial states:

A quarter of a million New Yorkers answered the call to serve during the Vietnam War. Like fellow veterans around the country, many who returned home encountered extensive animosity, the scapegoats of an unpopular war.  This memorial to their bravery and sacrifice recognizes their service and sacrifice, and preserves the names and voices of a generation once lost to controversy but now forever found.

Approximately two years ago, the memorial was reportedly open 24 hours a day, but a 10:00 p.m. closing time is now enforced.

When asked by an interviewer, a World War II veteran invoked the anti-Federalists during the time of the American Revolution who advocated individual liberties.  He said that he and the other veterans were “continuing that tradition of struggling for the rights that we should have as people, as citizens, as veterans.”

Protesting veterans were handcuffed, photographed and brought into a police van, where they were seated together on benches.

One veteran said that he has seen people walking their dogs in the memorial area after 10:00 p.m. who have not been arrested and believes that veterans are being “targeted.”

Another man said he was “planning” on being arrested and was arrested last year.

Viet Nam veterans were reportedly removed from the Washington, DC memorial on Friday allegedly because of the partial government shutdown. There is no “government shutdown” in New York City that has been reported.

At 1:27 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, The Post & Email contacted the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and was transferred several times before reaching a media representative.  We asked for information on the arrests and were told that there were a total of 19 arrests made. Of those, 14 were issued summonses for remaining in the park after closing time and failing to comply with an order and were released.  The remaining five were charged with resisting arrest and “obstructing governmental authority” (OGA).  When we asked if the park closes at 10:00 p.m. every evening, the response was, “We made several attempts with megaphones” to warn the veterans to leave and “You can check with New York City Parks.”  When we asked if the closing time were posted in the park, she responded in the affirmative.

The Post & Email perused the web page for the New York City Parks Vietnam War Memorial and was unable to locate posted opening or closing times.

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