Bellows Falls war veteran arrested in Georgia
Madden, 24, told the Reformer he and Nate Lewis were arrested and cited with criminal trespass for approaching an entry gate at the sprawling Army base in Georgia.
A military police officer at Fort Benning also confirmed the two men were arrested and cited.
After spending three hours in a jail administered by contract police officers, Madden and Lewis were released and ordered to appear in Muscogee County Courthouse July 27.
"They don't want us talking to soldiers," said Madden about 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 are members of a group of Iraq veterans on a bus tour, visiting military installations on the East Coast to talk to active-duty service members about why they are protesting the war. For the Fourth of July, the bus tour is in Philadelphia at a local fundraiser. After that, it moves on to New York City and then Fort Drum.
"A couple of days ago, we actually had a couple of individuals who came on the installation," said Brandon Cockrell, spokesman at Fort Benning.
But Madden said that he and Lewis never walked through the entry gate at Fort Benning, home of the National Infantry Museum. Plus, he said, the public is allowed to access the base to visit the museum.
According to a staffer at the museum, visitors need only arrive at one of two base visitors centers with a drivers license and proof of insurance and they will be given a temporary permit to drive on the base.
"There's no reason we should have been arrested for trespassing," said Madden. "I don't see how it's trespassing to approach a gate on an open post."
The tactics are meant to intimidate the veterans, said Madden, and keep them from talking to active-duty veterans. "We will not let (the arrests) stand in our way."
The day after Madden and Lewis were arrested, five members of the bus tour were handcuffed and escorted off of Fort Jackson in South Carolina for wearing "illegal" T-shirts. None of the five were arrested, but Madden said their detention for wearing Iraq Veterans Against the War T-shirts was "absurd" to the point of being laughable.
Madden had been threatened with a dishonorable discharge from the Individual Ready Reserves, which every Marine is a member of after his or her honorable discharge from active duty. The ready reserves is a pool of discharged Marines who aren't paid, don't drill and have no chain of command. A member of the ready reserves can be called up for duty within a certain amount of time after discharge.
Madden had been threatened with an "other than honorable discharge" from the ready reserves for wearing a uniform during a political protest and for "making disloyal statements" at a speech in New York City.
During that protest, Madden said "the war in Iraq is, by Nuremberg standards, a war crime and a war of aggression" and "the president has betrayed U.S. service members by committing them to a war crime."
During another protest earlier this year in Washington, D.C., Madden and other war veterans participated in a "mock combat patrol," dressed in military uniforms with no insignia or nametags.
Recently, the command that oversees the ready reserves dropped the discharge hearing threat, saying it had received "indication" from Madden that he would stop wearing his uniform at protests.
"That's a blatant lie," said Madden, insisting the only thing he told the commander of the ready reserves was that he would stop wearing the uniform if he received a written apology from the Marines stating his comments in New York City were neither disloyal nor inaccurate. Madden said he never received such a letter.
In a letter Madden wrote to the commander of the Marine Corps Mobilization Command, he told the ready reserves commander that if the charges were dropped "I will take it as implied consent of protesting war crimes in uniform."
Madden said he feels vindicated "now that the Marine Corps has implied that they will not pursue charges against veterans who wear the uniform during protests."
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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