The Marines have arrived.
Last week, amidst the frothing sea of protesters in New York, assembling to protest what they see as rampant greed and political corruption, Marine Sgt. Shamar Thomas, an Iraq War Veteran, started a fire that has suddenly begun to grow and rage. As the Marine angrily stood up for protesters who were allegedly being aggressively arrested by riot police, he reminded the standing authorities, who looked stunned as they listened to the his frustrated and furious rant, that they were not "in a war zone."
"Leave these people alone," he was heard shouting. "These are US citizens! Stop hurting these people, man! Why are you doing this to our people?" He continued, emphasizing his confusion at the seemingly unbalanced reaction to a peaceful demonstration: "I've been to Iraq for 14 months for my people... They don't have guns! ...Why are you hurting these people? It doesn't make any sense... There is no honor in this!"
In the wake of this outburst of raw frustration, those of the group now known as OccupyMARINES, whose members had been cautiously monitoring the situation in New York since the first day of protest, began to take a stand against perceived police brutality against peaceful assemblers. An estimated 20,000 non-active Marine Veterans have decided to band together and form the aforementioned group, with the stated purpose of supporting and protecting the growing movement, offering "organization, direction, supply and logistics, and leadership... especially for the oncoming winter months."
Asking that no individual be granted special recognition, in keeping with the traditions of the Marine Corp and the overall sentiment of the movement, the group spoke with me as one, saying that they intend to "stop the brutality used against demonstrators... with tact and respect." Beyond this basic intention of protection, the group also hopes to "diminish what we believe to be the 1 percenter's attempt to discredit what OWS was attempting to achieve by expressing, or influencing, public opinion with such excerpts as:
"The OWS participants are unemployed, hippies, or college kids looking for a handout; They are anarchists; and They are a movement organized by the 1% for control purposes.
"Our initial goal by coming forward was to legitimize the OWS argument that should America continue down the path currently set forth, America will eventually cease to exist. OccupyMARINES wants America to understand her military, though employed at the time by the Federal government, are Americans that have freely elected to defend her, to sacrifice individual life should it be required, and will not stand idly by as the 1% continues to rip out the heart of America."
It is important for those outside the movement to be aware that no member of OccupyMARINES is an actively serving member of the armed forces, nor are any a member of the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR.) Additionally, the group has set forth a strict set of guidelines with regards to dress code, in keeping with the requirements of the military uniform code. They will not be in dress uniform, but will be organizing "blouses which identify branch affliliation affixed with an OWS logo for shirts and sweatshirts..." The group's dress code, in keeping with the tradition of military precision, goes on to outline exactly what each member should wear, down the the brand and color, so as to be identified easily as part of OccupyMARNES.
"Should non-active military supporters present themselves at demonstrator groups in military dress uniform, we ask that they do not actively participate in group activities. We will honor our military uniforms and the sacrifices of our brother's and sister's. Only non-dress uniform supporters may actively participate."
The group is also hoping for a little help from the American entertainment industry. Knowing well that the influence of popular celebrities can greatly impact media attention, which the group believes have "refused, and continues to refuse..." to offer adequate and fair news coverage. They have asked the "celebrity class of America to support OWS and OccupyMARINES in waking America up. Celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez and the rest at #OccupyCelebrities, take a stand with us at 1 Liberty Street in Manhattan. Zuccotti Park is waiting for your help."
And above all, the Marines have requested that all supporters express support for the "brave men and women of the New York City Police Department and Fire Department... by providing hot coffee and food to eat. These honorable men and women are out there along side us and deserve to be remembered for their roles in 'Occupy' America. OccupyMARINES asks supporters to create and express signs in support of NYPD and FDNY. OccupyMARINES extend our eternal gratitude to New York's finest out there ensuring a peaceful occupation."
As the group grows, so, too, does it's influence and capabilities. As former military service members, they seem to have been born with an inate sense of organization and leadership. As their involvement has expanded, their operation has expanded with them. Now conducting intelligence gathering, they group has alleged that they have uncovered that "individuals within the White House have proactively targeted our dissemination efforts by ordering such independent media outlets, such as YouTube, to not support the occupation efforts."
"Regardless, the White House or those influencing major and independent media outlets... do not support America, the American Veterans, or American citizens by denying the dissemination of our message. Ultimately, they are unprepared for us; our collective efforts and expertise exceed those within the White House and the 1%. Our message will be disseminated with or without their assistance."
In this search for outreach, the OccupyMARINES have turned to independent media to overcome the perceived blackout by major media outlets, and get their message heard. And that message is one of peaceful demonstration, even in the face of potential violence from authority. "[We] understand that police departments outside of New York are continuing brutality against demonstrators and infringing upon their first amendment rights... Regardless, we ask demonstrators to please respect what OccupyMARINES asks by honoring the OWS 8, to have faith in what we are attempting to do."
The OWS 8, as defined by OccupyMARINES, is as follows:
- Nonviolent discipline. Zero tolerance for any violence whatsoever, including verbal.
- Unity of message across organizations' and Occupy Participants and supporters. There should be a consistent message with demands coming out; activists should know them and share them.
- There must be a long-term and coherent strategy, not just tactics and actions that are not connected in support of our movement.
- Security forces and police should be seen as potential recruits to our cause and message, not as adversaries. Ultimately, they are accountable to the people.
- Keep larger audiences (national and international) in mind when framing and strengthening our message. The goal is to win people over, not to alienate our brothers and sisters.
- Defensive strategies never win. Do not respond to verbal attacks or hostile propaganda by using the language of the opponent. Reframe.
- Claim victory whenever possible. It is important for morale and enthusiasm.
- Keep anger and rage in check with humor and solidarity actions.
The group, currently using Zuccotti Park as a base of operations, plans to roll out their campaign of protection and organization across the nation as demand calls for their presence and assistance. They have joined forces with a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit known as the Velvet Revolution to handle their fiscal operations and enable their campaign. "Velvet Revolution is a seven year old operation and they are in excellent standing with non-profit rating agency Guidestar and Network for Good.
"OccupyMARINES will exceed industry standards for transparency, publishing our financials and making the process we use to allocate our resources visible to donors and the general public. Details of our fiscal sponsors are listed within our website."
When asked what they hope to accomplish with their efforts, they responded with the gusto and authority you would expect from the Marines:
"We at OccupyMARINES first ask the demonstrators to continue to show up; this mission is critical for the entire Occupy movement. We ask additional groups to begin to organize across America, and internationally, as we understand the world is watching what we are doing now. OccupyMARINES asks demonstrator groups to have patience with us as we implement organizational strategies that will facilitate the achievement of group sustainability, development and leadership; organizing logistics nationwide is no small feat, and will not develop overnight.
We ask demonstrators and non-active military supporters to adhere to our disclaimers; we feel this is mission critical to the OWS American message. We ask donations to be made to our charity to mobilize our objectives nationwide. And lastly, we ask America, OWS, and all participating to continue pushing forward."
The Occupation of America, heading into it's second month, has been given the backup it has needed for some time. And that backup, it now seems, has come in the form of the Marines. Whether you agree or disagree with the Occupation, it is increasingly clear that this is a group that will need to be reckoned with, sooner or later.
And it is a group that will be heard.