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May 29, 2012


A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

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May 29, 2012

The Medal Hurling Ceremony, Part One

The Wife goes to Chicago and attends an important historical event that you didn’t hear about

Because The Wife took so many pictures, this report is in two parts.
This is Part One.
Click here to read Part Two.

The Wife was in Chicago on May 20, a hot humid Sunday, to support some 40 or so Veterans of the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. These brave soldiers had come to America’s heartland to march in formation along the downtown streets. Then, at the end of the march each one of these men and women who had served their country well, or once believed that they had, one by one ripped their own medals from their chests and threw them away in disgust.

US Veterans Marching In Formation On Michigan Avenue In Chicago, May 20, 2012
US Veterans Marching In Formation On Michigan Avenue In Chicago, May 20, 2012

This ceremony was organized primarily by Veterans For Peace. A long time ago Veterans were represented by organizations like American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, which politically and socially tended to promote militarism. No more. The premier Veteran’s organization of today looks for alternatives to profitable destruction, the typical Veteran of today has graduated from the idea of war.

The Wife had an assignment for the day, to follow the marching Veterans and take as many photos as she could. She came home to Albany with a lot of really good pictures, many of which are a unique record of an important and influential event that was frantically suppressed by the corporate media and by our government. She did good work as a citizen journalist, I want to show you what she saw.

Terrorist Assassin Directs Fellow Suicide Bombers To The Jihad, Note The "Security Barriers"Terrorist Assassin Directs Fellow Suicide Bombers To The Jihad, Note The "Security Barriers"
Terrorist Assassin Directs Fellow Suicide Bombers To The Jihad, Note The "Security Barriers"

For the past week the streets of Chicago had been mostly emptied of vehicles because of the Lock Down for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO.) The Lock Down encompassed some five square miles of downtown Chicago, meaning that inside this special zone the Bill of Rights was suspended for the duration of the declaration. In other words, this was a zone of martial law. These Lock Downs, of course, are unconstitutional, but hardly anyone in power cares about the US Constitution anymore.

Now, in case anyone doesn’t know, the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq are being conducted by NATO, not the United States. The USA is merely a part of an international coalition of concerned nations who only want what’s best for the world. Got that? So these important people meeting at the nearby McCormick Center, said to be the largest summit in NATO’s history with delegates from 63 nations, are technically the leaders responsible for sending these US Veterans into war.

The Five Square Mile Lock Down was advertised as a special security zone meant to protect the foreign ministers and heads of state attending the NATO conference from terrorists and assassins. But The Wife reported that she did not see any threatening violent people with weapons other than the cops. There were lots of cops. That’s how powerful people display fear of the public that supports them, by hiding behind walls and throwing cops at the world.

Peace Groups And Justice Groups Rallied Before The Veteran's March, "Free Bradley Manning" Was Heard Throughout The Day
Peace Groups And Justice Groups Rallied Before The Veteran's March, "Free Bradley Manning" Was Heard Throughout The Day

I expect these Lock Down Zones will become more common, eventually they may extend permanently over all of America’s major population centers. But this particular “temporary” Lock Down Zone attracted a lot of patriotic citizens who converged on Chicago for the week. This convergence of concerned citizens turned into a national conference of liberal patriots who have not given up on their country like the right wingers have.

In public places these patriotic activists played that strange peace dance with the violent cops, asserting their right to demonstrate while the police threatened and intimidated. Between public events, in meeting rooms and church basements around the City the activists met and conferenced and learned from each other. It was a convention without a convention center, the entire City was their venue. The authorities didn’t like that but there was little they could do about it.

Riot Cops At White Vans Dressing In Armor

Riot Cops At White Vans Dressing In Armor

Did the protests, particularly the Medal Hurling ceremony have a positive effect? Well let’s see. That cabal of rich white northern hemisphere nations called the Group Of Eight, or the G8, was supposed to meet in nearby the same time as NATO but left town in a hurry to avoid the protesters. They ended up meeting in California. As for NATO up the street, President Obama came out of that meeting with a firm promise to start winding down the corporate land wars in Asia. And of course, look all those cops they put on the street. Oh yeah, the big boys got the Veteran’s message loud and clear before they even delivered it.

You see, this Medal Hurling event on the street demonstrated to the leaders of NATO that the men and women who do the actual fighting are becoming tired of dying in their pointless wars. That is the historical reason why the war against Vietnam ended in the early 1970s, the soldiers refused to fight anymore. The high and mighty NATO leaders meeting behind closed doors and deploying threatening cops appear to have good memories. They haven’t yet forgotten the lessons of Vietnam.

As for NATO, this public event raised a long overdue question, why does NATO still exist? NATO was created after World War 2 to promote the military aims of “The West” during the Cold War against the old Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union has been gone for more than two decades, why is NATO today overseeing corporate wars in Asia? And why are Americans dying in those wars?

The Wife, who had arrived in Chicago more than a week earlier, is certainly no veteran but she very much participated in this City-wide activist networking convention. As part of her ongoing work bringing attention to how the extra-legal prosecutions of Muslims are being used to destroy every American’s right to a fair trial, she ran a workshop and sat on several panels and contributed to others. But according to her, the real reason she took the train to Chicago was to visit Sue The Dinosaur at the Field Museum of Natural History:

Sue The Dinosaur Contemplates The Wife And Her Camera
Sue The Dinosaur Contemplates The Wife And Her Camera

What can I say, she likes dinosaurs. She absolutely had to go look at the biggest and best preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex in the world, 42 feet long and 13 feet tall with teeth the size of bananas. At 28 years of age Sue is also the eldest Tyrannosaur known, and was the object of a very expensive privatization controversy back in the 1990s. The Wife was fascinated to learn about FBI interference in the case, she has been wondering if and how the secret police ultimately caused Sue to be brought to Chicago.

The Wife was out in the streets of Chicago early Sunday morning, she said she was terrified that she wouldn’t get enough good pictures and disappoint her horrible husband who was languishing back in Albany. My goodness, she was more afraid of me than the Chicago police. She started the morning by looking for the very front of the procession on Michigan Avenue and discovered what she called “Critical Mass Police:”

Critical Mass: Chicago Bicycle Cops Assembled In Front
Critical Mass: Chicago Bicycle Cops Assembled In Front

A cop she talked to told her tersely, “Every officer in the City is out here this morning.” Looking through her 250 or so photos, I have to say that I have never seen so many tense cops assembled ready for action for no particular reason. Really, the cops were there merely to scare and impress the citizens, there was precious little police work to be done other than routine crowd control.

But after looking over her accounts and listening to her stories, it became clear to me that there really was a compelling reason for all this police overtime pay. The US government and the foreign corporations that own our elected officials desperately wanted to restrict access to public information about the Medal Hurling ceremony. They wanted to keep it as secret as possible from the American people and from the world that American soldiers are tired of fighting.

Indeed, the police cordon successfully kept the news out of the corporate media. Their content providers, you see, were not allowed to wander around and talk to people. They were strictly confined to a tour bus:

Corporate Media Content Providers Imbedded On The Bus
Corporate Media Content Providers Imbedded On The Bus

I can never decide if I should laugh or cry when I see such things. The corporate content providers on the bus could only see what the bus operator let them see. After a quick view of the march in progress, the bus was spirited far away from the Medal Hurling ceremony. The last word was that the bus went off to point cameras at some rally of black shirt anarchists, probably hoping those kids could be provoked into doing something crazy that they could exploit.

This is why you most likely didn’t hear about this landmark act of defiance by our Veteran Soldiers. Other than a few citizen journalists, Democracy Now! was the only professional national media to document the Medal Hurling ceremony. This is one more reason why I have such deep contempt for the corporate media and their content providers.

*UPDATE* The bozos on the corporate media bus put out a report for the day that naturally has little connection to what actually happened, but functions as adequate propaganda. Again, this is why I have pure contempt for the Associated Press (AP) monopoly.

The March Begins
The March Begins

I would like to know the compelling law enforcement reason why it was necessary to pay these cops to line the street shoulder to shoulder to separate the people on the sidewalk from the people on the street. There were no crimes being committed that day on the street or on the sidewalk. These cops were sent here to intimidate, to create tension.

The march was tightly surrounded by cops to isolate it as much as possible from the rest of America, and from the world at large. But with so much recording equipment all over the street the cops didn’t dare attack anyone, and the crowd composed mostly of activists were too savvy to get provoked. A strange dance indeed.

Veterans March In Chicago, May 2012
Veterans March In Chicago, May 2012

The Veterans marched in a square formation defined by a yellow rope. Various national and local peace groups and justice organizations and of course Occupy Chicago marched with them in solidarity. Labor unions are lately showing up in force more frequently at such events, most prominent at this one were the National Nurses Association and the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU.)

The Veterans chanted in parade cadence, “No NATO, no war, we don’t work for you no more.” The Wife was impressed by how they marched in sync, their 40 or so pairs of legs moving in unison. That’s how you know they’re soldiers, I told her. “En Ay Tee Oh, we don’t kill for you no more,” delivered like flat statements of fact. These folks knew exactly what they were doing and why.

Marching inside the yellow rope with the veterans was a contingent of Afghan women representing Afghans For Peace, carrying the flag of Afghanistan. No, they were not wearing burkhas, these exiles living in Canada wore white t-shirts and fashionable formfitting black pants. They were to share the podium with the veterans and later become part of an innovative experiment in international relations.

Afghan Women March Alongside The US Veterans Inside The Rope
Afghan Women March Alongside
The US Veterans Inside The Rope

The procession ended at a flatbed trailer at the 100 block of S. Michigan Avenue which was used as a podium for the event. The Vets took the stage along with the Afghan women, both displaying the flags of their respective countries. Former Army Sergeant Alejandro Villatoro, who served in Iraq in 2003 and in Afghanistan in 2011, acted as emcee.

Members of Veterans For Peace who were not there to hurl medals, wearing identifying black shirts, lined the stage in front like bouncers at a rock concert. They did this to keep the police from crowding the stage. Baffled, the cops stalked back and forth while the Veterans For Peace stood firm and refused to be challenged.

Sgt. Villatoro Reads While Police Officers Are Momentarily Baffled By Veterans For Peace Guarding The Podium. 
Sgt. Villatoro Reads While Police Officers Are Momentarily Baffled By Veterans For Peace Guarding The Podium.

Unable to line up next to the podium, the cops set up a second line in front of the Veterans For Peace. This managed to keep the crowd from watching the action too closely, which is apparently what the cops intended.

Afghan Women For Peace And Veterans For Peace Announce The Beginning Of A Joint Dialogue.  Meanwhile The Cops Have Settled Into A Double Line In Front Of The Veterans Guarding The Podium
Afghan Women For Peace And Veterans For Peace Announce The Beginning Of A Joint Dialogue. Meanwhile The Cops Have Settled Into A Double Line In Front Of The Veterans Guarding The Podium

The Wife got as close as she could. Then she put her little camera on full zoom and on automatic focus, held it high over her head with both hands and snapped away.

Retired US Flag Presented To A Grieving Mother
Retired US Flag Presented To A Grieving Mother

The US flag was treated with great respect, as is customary among Veterans. This particular flag was “retired” accompanied by the playing of Taps. Then the flag was carefully folded and presented to Mary Kirkland. Her son Derrick had returned from his latest tour of duty in Iraq, and the very next day he hung himself. She later told an interviewer, “He was home, I thought he was safe.”

A Grateful Mother Recognized At Last
A Grateful Mother Recognized At Last

At this point The Wife swung her camera over and caught the Veterans waiting to one side for their chance to dispose of the medals that they had earned. Most of them were flashing the traditional peace signal.

Veterans Of Iraq And Afghanistan Show Approval Of Reconciliation
Veterans Of Iraq And Afghanistan Show Approval Of Reconciliation

It’s hard for older folks to understand the significance of this event, partly because it has not appeared in any of the corporate information channels that older folks identify with legitimacy. That is, if it didn’t flash across the TV or merit a few lines in a dead tree newspaper then as far as they're concerned it didn’t happen. Oh but it did happen. Look at how much effort went into suppressing the event.

Shameful Chicago Surveillance Cop Peeping At Our Brave Soldiers As They March
Shameful Chicago Surveillance Cop Peeping At Our Brave Soldiers As They March

Back in 1971 a group of Vietnam Veterans held a similar Medal Hurling ceremony outside the US Capitol. That event actually made it into what was then called the Mainstream Media, albeit as a negative story. But despite the negative spin the country was informed that the Veterans were tired of the war against Vietnam, I saw the effect this news had on the adults around me.

Soon all those smug people loudly sneering at “hippies” and “peaceniks” protesting that war were stunned into silence. After all, how can you argue with the Vets who got shot at? I’ve never forgotten how the testimony of those soldiers, appearing at protests and events like this, quickly ended knee-jerk support for that particular stupid pointless war.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the corporate media suppressed news of this Medal Hurling ceremony in 2012, and that is why the authorities sent all those cops out in the street to scare away observers like The Wife.

Click here for Part 2 to see the Medal Hurling ceremony.

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If you are having difficulties posting a comment, please email Daniel Van Riper. We are experimenting with our spam filters, and we do not want to exclude any legitimate commenters, just spammers!

Posted by:Barbara
Posted on:05/30/2012
Good reporting. Even the schools around here seize any excuse to go into Lockdown! (that's the way the tv announcers say it). A lot of the parents seem pleased with that too. It makes me worry about the future of education.

Posted by:Chris H.
Posted on:06/05/2012
First, I volunteered at Field Museum from 1996-2001, basically in late high school through college. Sue was one of my specialties.

While the legal wrangling was extraordinary, Sue was bought legitimately at open auction by Field Museum for a little over $8 million in 1997. She is still the most expensive dinosaur fossil in the world.

Part of the backing came from McDonald's and Disney, who were quite upset that Sue ended up costing so much. McDonald's and Disney both got licensing for Sue. With McDonald's, it resulted in a Sue Happy Meal series.

With Disney, it resulted in a display at Animal Kingdom of a Sue replica.

Funny, possibly apocryphal Field Museum legend: we and the other preparators (one of my jobs, although for myself I was never given "bone cleaning") originated the preparators on display phenomenon you see both at Animal Kingdom, Disney and at a permanent exhibit at Field.

James Holstein, a prep at Field, told me how for years they didn't have enough prep space so sometimes they would come down and do it on the main floor. Watching preps prep fossils became a #1 attraction at Field, and it stuck and spread to other museums.

Perhaps interesting, the head staring at you in your wife's photo is a replica - a fake - while most of the body is not.

Dinosaur bones are stone, which means they're really, really heavy. Therefore, you're almost never looking at a "real" fossil when you see a dinosaur on display.

The fact that Sue is largely comprised of real fossils is actually an engineering marvel. Rather than just a form of plastic with metal running through it, she's held up by a complex series of metal "cradles," which protect the bones and keeps them supported without damaging them.

The head, however, is a giant mass of rock. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the interior cavities of her head are filled with rock and cannot be cleaned without damaging her skull.

The "real" head is upstairs, behind Sue, between the permanent Gems exhibit and the Jades exhibit on the 2nd floor. She's actually on the balcony.

If you haven't figured it out, I'm from Chicago, but I missed the protest. I flew out on May 17th to visit someone for the summer in Alaska, which is where I am now. :-) Have lots of comments, such as "Chicago cops? Yeah. They always look like that!"

Posted by:EmmaG
Posted on:06/20/2012
These are terrific pictures from a trusted citizen journalist, and both "chapters" of this blog should be posted in all media outlets. This is a picture of the USA in 2012--and we should all listen up, suck it up, and get out there in the streets again and again, before we as a country go down in flames of our own making. I remember the Vietnam protests, saw some police brutality, and 42 years later have not forgotten, and won't. Either have lots of those vets--nor have our newest vets. Truly a terrible and sad activity to hurl one's medals, if you think about it...courageous, provocative, incendiary. Which is the point. These stories point to the need for solidarity with each other, all such protest groups, and coordinated action. Together we are too big to fail!

Thank you for publishing this. Onward!

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