My last post ended with a remarkable video by Sgt. Shamar Thomas, a USMC Iraq veteran reaming out a few dozen New York cops at a recent protest. Since then the Thomas has appeared on Countdown with Kieth Oberman, explaining himself a little more calmly. It’s a truly remarkable interview – he talks about the need to respond to even murderous intent on the part of rioters with “humility”. What’s even more remarkable, though, is what happened next.

A group is now forming, calling itself OccupyMARINES, made up of American Military service-people and veterens, in support of Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement. They’re calling on soldiers to don civilian clothing and join the protests, or stand in uniform, medals and all, on the sidelines to guard against police brutality. They’re even calling on police to join them.

Well damn. The potential for a swift and efficient military response to these protests just hit a big brick wall. I don’t suspect even the most conservative members of public will take kindly to soldiers and veterans being beaten, arrested and pepper sprayed, even if those soldiers do. One Iraq veteran has already been arrested at Occupy Orange County today, along with three others. Ironically, the officers arrived on horseback.

This development represents an enormous and dramatic schism tearing apart American political opinion. Soldiers taking part will bring a whole other dimension of legitimacy in a lot of sectors that usually have nothing but scorn for protesters. In a lot of ways, it isn’t terribly surprising, given how heavily the military recruits from marginalized parts of society, and the way veterans are treated when they get back from service. Large scale WWI veteran protests were common in the 1930s, backing the unemployed and other groups protesting during the Great Depression. In America, the “Bonus Army” with thousands of veterans marched and camped in Washington before being violently evicted in a gas attack by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton.

There will, of course, be a lot of complications which stem from this. I must admit, I have my apprehensions. Military personnel tend to have very different world-views and ways of doing things than most radicals. This will test the limits of many participatory and inclusive structures. The American Military, is, of course, an authoritarian organization (possibly the world’s foremost authoritarian organization), and that has a lot of connotations – they’ve hurt a lot of people. How might an Iraqi refugee feel about this? Guatamalan? Chilean? Yugoslavian? What will soldiers think of working with Palestinian solidarity workers, the peace movement or communists? This will, undeniably, involve a lot of patience on everybody’s part. We can only hope it’s the beginning of a long and much broader process of bridge-building.

The other issue, of course, is the state. Were I a commanding officer of these brave men and women, I’d be shitting like an open-source mudbrick press. At what point do they take reprisals against those involved? At what point can’t they take reprisals?

This all just keeps getting more interesting.

In other news, Occupy Hamilton had another, larger and longer rally yesterday in Gore Park, and held our first General Assembly under the statue. Occupy Toronto had at least a thousand or so in their march, now meeting with a wider embrace from labour and student groups as well as zombies. Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie led a march through New York singing “we shall overcome”. And 130 people were arrested at the continuing Occupy Chicago protests.

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