Reports and Media Coverage
May 10, 2005: National Day of Action for GI Resisters
San Francisco, California
The New York Times (page A16, 5/11/05): Demonstrators gathered in San Francisco yesterday to protest the military’s decisions to refuse to grant two Iraq war resisters, Sgt. Kevin Benderman of the Army and Petty Officer Third Class Pablo Paredes of the Navy, conscientious objector status. Courts martial are scheduled to begin today for both the soldier and the sailor. The rally was one of several such events staged yesterday around the country. Photo (select for larger image): Jim Wilson/The New York Times.
San Diego, California
Supporters of Pablo Paredes staged three days of events beginning on the eve of his courts martial. Actions included a mock trial "to put the war trial" at a park near the naval station, "Defend Pablo" rallies at the gate, supporters filling the courtroom with anti-war t-shirts, and nightly events featuring Iraq Veterans Against the War, Gold Star Families for Peace, and local poets and artists.
Rochester, New York
Over 30 Rochester activist came out today at 2pm to protest the war. Organized by Rochester Against War, a city wide coalition, the protest had two main themes, "Military out of our Schools" and "Support Military Resisters." Both of these activities had a sense of immediacy behind them. Wednesday May 11 is set to be the Courts Martial for both Kevin Benderman and Pablo Parades, two service men who refused to serve in the Iraq theater of operations. Kicking military recruiters out of Rochester City schools has taken on a sense of urgency when several counter recruitment activists were harassed by school security for handing out antiwar literature in front of East High School. Several Rochester schools students joined in the protest to show their disagreement with the constant military presence at their schools. Rochester Against War has more activities planned, from more protests, to a panel featuring Pablo Parades’ brother, Victor Paredes and Veterans for Peace National President David Cline.
We held a picket in support of Pablo Paredes and Kevin Benderman on May 10. Over 20 activists attended and we collected petition signatures and passed out hundreds of leaflets educating passer-by on their cases. Reported from UW-Madison Campus Antiwar Network.
Seventy people came to a picket in front of the Federal Building in Burlington to show their support for G.I. resisters Pablo Paredes and Kevin Benderman who are facing court marshal for refusing deployment to Iraq. The picket was called for by Vermont Military Families Speak Out and supported by a broad range of groups from all over Vermont, including students, U.S. Labor Against the War, and the Vermont Progressive Party. Chants included, "Their our brothers, their our sisters, we support war resisters!" and "Kevin and Pablo should do no time, Occupation is the crime!" Colleen McLaughlin from Vermont MFSO read a Letter to George Bush written by Kevin Benderman.
Jim Ramey, one of the organizers of the event from Vermont MFSO told the crowd, "The importance of what we’re doing today can’t be overstated." The United States Armed Forces are attempting to make an example of Pablo and Kevin and so are we. By supporting them now we can give confidence to the many soldiers who are questioning this war that they can speak out and we’ll have their backs."
At 12 noon we gathered at the Ventura Count Government Center corner of Telephone and Victoria with signs reading stop the war and support GI war resisters. Considering the time frame we had to pull this together and the time of day, I think it worked out well. Please keep me informed on what’s happening Pablo and Kevin and other resisters.
Four demonstrations of support were organized in western Massachusetts: at 8:30 on Tuesday morning in Deerfield, Massachusetts, beside Route 5 and 10 at the foot of Woolman Hill; in Greenfield, at noon at the intersection of Main and Federal Streets, in Springfield from 4-6pm at the Federal Building, 1550 Main Street, and in Northampton at the intersection of Bridge Street and Bridge Road, near Route 9 and 91 at 7pm.
Sgt. Kevin Benderman will be represented by military and civilian attorneys in court at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Traprock Peace Center has gathered and sent $1,790 to support his legal defense. On January 5th, 2005, Benderman refused to deploy for a second tour of duty with his Third Infantry Army Division in Iraq. "U.S. military personnel," Benderman said, "are increasingly killing non-combatants. On my last deployment in Iraq, elements of my unit were instructed by a Captain to fire on children throwing rocks at us."
Traprock’s Executive Director, Sunny Miller says, "It’s hard a hard choice soldiers make when they stand up and speak up about the wrongs they have seen. I know what good people sign up for the military. And some good people have to leave, after the painful conclusion that they simply cannot participate. I think we glorify our own participation in a society engaged in mass murder, when we reduce it to a simpler concept and call it war."
Providence, Rhode Island
On May 12 approximately 30 people rallied in front of the Federal Building at Kennedy Plaza to defend two anti-war soldiers, Pablo Paredes and Kevin Benderman, who have been charged with desertion by the U.S. military. Chanting slogans like, "Take a stand! Do what’s right! Support the troops who refuse to fight!" the modest crowd was able to attract the attention of rush-hour motorists and commuters taking public transit. Some onlookers joined in the protest for a minute before suddenly rushing off to catch the bus! Protesters also held signs that read: "Bush = war criminal" and "Occupation of Iraq is the real crime", as well as large photos of Kevin and Pablo.
While organizers passed around a petition in defense of Pablo and informational leaflets about Kevin’s and Pablo’s cases, speakers talked about the shear insanity of fighting a brutal war we can’t win, the added devastation of a world economy dependent on oil, and the hypocrisy of threatening G.I. resisters with prison when alleged murderers of Iraqi civilians go free without being charged.
Pulled together by the Community Coalition for Peace (CCP) in only one week, the successful action drew some long-time activists, such as members of the Green Party and the International Socialist Organization, and some new faces, including students from Johnson& Wales University, Brown University, and one member of Military Families Speak Out who is interested in starting a chapter in Rhode Island. Eight people– who had never been to a CCP meeting or event before– joined CCP.
Small but significant steps like this protest are what will build the anti-war movement here and elsewhere.
Several supporters of the GI resisters set up a counter-recruitment table outside of an Army Recruiting Center with information on Pablo and Kevin’s cases. Afterward, we held up a banner, "We Support Troops Who Resist," next to a busy intersection while giving out informational flyers on Pablo and Kevin to people walking and driving by. We got a lot of affirmative support! Two relatives of Kevin Benderman came from out of town to participate and show support."
Communities rally to support GI’s resisting the war on national day of action (MP3 3.8M)
Sarah Olson, Free Speech Radio News. May 10, 2005.
Introduction: "On Wednesday the military begins its court martials of Navy petty officer 3rd class Pablo Paredes and Army Sergeant Kevin Benderman for refusing to deploy to the middle east. From Montana to Vermont, communities around the country are engaging in a national day of action to support military personnel who are resisting the war. "
Support Pablo, Kevin and GI Resistance;
The Way Out of Iraq
David Solnit, San Diego Indymedia. May 10, 2005
USA: International Conscientious Objector Day
marked by sentencing Pablo Paredes to three months of hard labour
Amentsty International. May 12, 2005
US War Crimes and the Legal Case for Military Resistance
Paul Rockwell, Common Dreams. May 3, 2005
Navy Judge Finds War Protest Reasonable
Marjorie Cohn, Truthout. May 14, 2005
No Jail Time for Sailor’s Refusal to Board Ship
Rick Rogers, San Diego Union Tribune. May 13, 2005
Anti-war U.S. sailor sentenced in court-martial
Reuters. May 12, 2005
Parade and rally in support of Pablo Paredes outside of the San Diego Naval Station during his sentencing for refusing to ship out in support of the illegal war and occupation of Iraq. May 12, 2005. Photo: Jeff Paterson