In a significant move for the Hempstead 15, the Nassau County District Attorney’s office has agreed to drop the charges of “disorderly conduct” and “failure to obey a lawful order” against 10 Iraq War veterans and 5 of their supporters when what is known as a six-month “Adjournment to Contemplate Dismissal (ACD)” is finished.
The charges brought forth will be completely dropped after the “ACD” period is over, meaning that no criminal action related to the Oct. 15 anti-war demonstration in Hempstead, NY will be taken against members of the group for six-months as long as none of the protesters get arrested again.
The news was hailed as vindication for the Hempstead 15 in a message put out to supporters on Facebook, and comes after over a month’s worth of grassroots pressure on Nassau County that included a torrent of phone calls and emails, petitions and court support for the defendants. The 15 protesters were arrested as they tried to enter the campus of Hofstra University during the final presidential debate, in which they planned on asking Barack Obama and John McCain questions about the Iraq War, military resisters and veterans’ treatment.
After the first court date, in which the Nassau County DA split up the individual trial dates for the defendants, a long string of arraignments were planned that would have stretched to January. However, along with the decision for the Hempstead 15, “[the Nassau County DA] agreed to consolidate all of our court cases on one date (TBD) so that we and our supporters may be seen and heard together,” according to Matthis Chiroux of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). IVAW is an organization of military members who are calling for an immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq.
Chiroux, who along with Kristofer Goldsmith of IVAW organized the action outside the Hofstra campus, said, “this is a decisive victory for activists and veterans everywhere, and for the Constitution.” In a Facebook message to supporters of the Hempstead 15, Chiroux wrote, “what happened at Hofstra will forever remain with all in attendance and those who suffered most. May it be burned into America‘s conscience as well, but let it be a turning point.”
A CONTINUED FIGHT
But the battle is not over for IVAW member Nick Morgan, who had his face trampled on by a horse’s hooves as he and other demonstrators were standing on a sidewalk near the entrance to Hofstra. Morgan and his lawyer, Jonathan Moore, who is an adjunct professor at CUNY School of Law and whose firm specializes in police misconduct, are working on a civil suit seeking compensation from Nassau County. The suit is being filed in federal court.
Morgan, who served in Iraq from 2004-2005, had to undergo surgery for his broken cheekbone and fractured nose after the Oct. 15 incident.
And for Chiroux, his struggle against the U.S. Army is far from done. A week after the protest outside Hofstra University, the Army sent him a notice in which they stated their intent to prosecute him for his refusal to deploy to Iraq. This past Father’s Day, Chiroux publicly stated his intent to resist a war that he calls “illegal” and “immoral.” Chiroux is confident that he will overcome the Army’s case against him, and since his public statement against the war in Iraq, 13 members of Congress have come out in support for him.
The letter, whose signers included representatives John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, and Tammy Baldwin, said, “we, the below signed Members of Congress, voice our support for current, present and future members of the United States Armed Forces who oppose the war in Iraq and who are working to bring it to a safe and speedy conclusion.”
“I…refute [the claim] that soldiers can’t refuse participation in things we believe are illegal,” Chiroux wrote in an online exchange with the Indypendent.
Past coverage in the Indypendent of the Hempstead 15:
“Antiwar Vets Injured,Arrested”
“IVAW Protest Update: Shocking New Video Released as Nick Morgan Undergoes Surgey and First Court Date Set”
“Hempstead 15 Members Face Long String of Court Dates After Hearing on Monday”