Friday, August 3
BRATTLEBORO -- Trespassing charges that were filed against a former Vermont man and ex-Marine after he tried to walk on to an army base in Georgia have been dropped.

Liam Madden, a Bellows Falls Union High School graduate and Iraq war veteran, told the Reformer Tuesday he was relieved that his July 27 court date in the Muscogee County Courthouse in Columbus, Ga., had been canceled.

Madden and Nate Lewis were arrested and cited with criminal trespass for approaching an entry gate at Fort Benning on July 2.

"They don't want us talking to soldiers," said Madden after his arrest, adding he and Lewis were not protesting at the gate and simply planned to ask what the entrance policy was when they were handcuffed and escorted to jail.

Madden and Lewis, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, were participants in a "bus tour," visiting military installations on the East Coast to talk to active duty service members about why they are protesting the war. Madden and the other veterans on the bus tour are home now, planning the next stage of their vocal opposition to the war.

Arresting him and Lewis was meant to intimidate the anti-war veterans, said Madden, and keep them from talking to active duty soldiers. "We will not let (the arrests) stand in our way," he said.

Madden told the Reformer Tuesday that it wasn't his intention to get arrested at Fort Benning, but added "I don't have a problem taking risks and getting arrested is certainly a risk I would be willing to take.

"The tour was a success," said Madden by telephone from his home in Boston. "We generated a lot of momentum for Iraq Veterans Against the War," including the addition of 21 new members to the group.

Making it difficult to reach out to active duty members were military officials who were hostile to IVAW's message.

"It was apparent that the military started to realize we were coming and was willing to take measures to insure that we didn't talk to any active duty troops," said Madden.

As a way of countering the tactics the military is using, said Madden, future bus tours will spend more time at bases, giving active duty members more opportunity to talk to the anti-war veterans.

"Instead of visiting 10 bases in a couple of weeks, we are going to visit one or two military bases and spend more time there," said Madden.

With military officials trying their hardest to limit contact between the IVAW and active duty members, "only having one or two days somewhere there's only so much you can do," he said.

Next, he expects to be in Kennebunkport, Maine, Aug. 25, to participate in a protest against President George Bush with other IVAW members.

IVAW has established chapters at Fort Drum, N.Y., and Fort Lee, Md.

Madden said the group hopes to set up similar chapters at other bases around the country.