The IVAW Bus Tour arrived in Columbia yesterday and got right to outreach before settling down at the Sesquicentennial Park. We canvassed a couple Wal-Marts near Fort Jackson and a couple other areas that looked like GI hangouts. Today we decided to step it up a notch and go on base to meet with the one active duty member that we already have there. We got in through the visitors entrance with our civilians IDs without incident and went to the PX where I thought we were meeting our soldier. It turns out we were at the wrong PX and went to the main one. We wandered around for a few minutes, then sat down to wait for our friend.
When he arrived, we proceeded to the ManchuWOK for some lunch. I was last in line, and while I was getting my drink and talking to a GI, Lt J O Smith of the Department of the Army Fort Jackson Police #008 told me to put my tray down and step towards the door. On the way he grabbed the rest of our group, Nate Lewis, Mike Blake, Sholom Keller, and Steve Mortillo, who were sitting down having lunch with our soldier. Mike was the only one who had the foresight to bring his food with him. When we got outside, we were surrounded by police, and there was a Park Ranger truck blocking in my car. They took our IDs and harassed us for a while with stupid questions, all the while refusing to tell us why we were being detained except for something about protesting on base.
They lined us up against a row of vending machines and told us to keep our hands at our sides. Sholom happened to have a copy of the Constitution on him and began quoting some craziness about rights, like “to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation.” One of the officers went to give him back his ID card. “Is this your ID card, brother?” “Yes it is, and I’m not your brother. Dr King was a brother, Malcom was a brother, Huey P Newton was a brother. You are a traitor and a sell-out.” Then one of the officers told me that because the base registration sticker on my Bronco was expired, he was going to have to scrape it off and he called me over to watch him do it. That was when I started taking pictures. Then the Lt started taking pictures of us with his phone.
They kept asking us questions and we generally refused to answer, while Sholom said something ridiculous about “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” One gentleman came up and asked us what was going on and praised us for standing up for our rights.
Our soldier passed us and winked and then disappeared. We later found out that he went back to his car so he could videotape the whole thing. Hopefully we’ll be able to get that up on YouTube later tonight. We stood around for another ten minutes or so while they radioed our information back and then out of the blue decided to cuff us and bring us in. It was just before the cuffing that Mike cracked open his fortune cookie, the contents of which read, "The course of life is uncertain. No one can write his autobiography in advance." We were frisked and loaded into their police cars. When we got to the station, we were put into interrogation rooms. We had to empty our pockets onto the table and then were frisked again. They confiscated my expired military ID, as they did with Sholom and Nate. Then an Army First Sergeant came in and started deleting the photos from my phone. Fortunately, I had a few of them “saved to my phone” and he only deleted the ones that were “In Camera.”
After a few minutes of random questioning, we were led into a larger room together and the First Sergeant told us we were going to be taken back to the Bronco and escorted off base. “If you should be seen again around the gate area, you will be arrested for criminal trespassing.” The Lt asked me my social security number for about the tenth time, and again I declined. Then they put a piece of paper on my lap that was a receipt for my ID card. It had my social on it, naturally.
We got loaded back into three police cars, and were driven back to the PX just as it started pouring rain. The guy driving Nate and I happened to be prior service as we had found out earlier, and I asked him what he thought about what was going on in Iraq. He evaded the question, but ended by saying “I just find it best to go along and get along.” I said, “A lot of people were saying that in Germany in 1939,” and Nate saved the chance for dialogue with, “Don’t you thing we should allow the Iraqis a chance to get along?” We pulled up at the PX, got out of the cars, got let our of our cuffs, got our baggies of personal belongings and IDs, and got into the Bronco and drove off.
EDIT: Just so it's perfectly clear, WE GOT ON BASE WITH OUR CIVILIAN IDS THROUGH THE VISITORS ENTRANCE. That means we went through the line for people without base registrations. We did not do anything fraudulent to get on base. Stop sending me stupid emails and posting irrelevant comments.