Monday, June 6, 2011
REFLECTIONS ON THE STATUE OF LIBERTY TAKEOVER JUNE 6, 1976
June 6, 2012
REFLECTIONS ON THE STATUE OF LIBERTY TAKEOVER JUNE 6, 1976
Much of this was written last year on the 35th anniversary of the
Statue of Liberty takeover by Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Today was thirty-six years ago when members of Vietnam Veterans
Against the War (VVAW) took over the Statue of Liberty. I was one
of them. I believe that there were twelve of us. We were a diverse
group; Irish and Italian American, African-American, Arab American,
There were three reasons (that I can remember) for the takeover.
The spark was the expiration of the G.I. bill, particularly veteran’s
educational benefits for a certain section of veterans. Once discharged
from the military a veteran had twelve years (I believe) to use those
benefits. There had been an extension for some veterans, but this was
due to run out unless Congress extended them.
Veterans groups had lobbied Congress to extend the time limits again,
but Congress was against this and decided to let the benefits expire.
But, it was the manner in which they went about it that caused outrage.
Members of Congress who supported cutting the benefits did not want a
hand count of votes recorded. ‘How did you vote’ is not a question that
flag waving Congressmen or women want to answer, particularly during their
next election campaign. So, they devised a way to avoid a hand count from
So they did it like this. Unless a sufficient number of members asked for
a vote count the proposal to extend benefits would, and did die a silent
death. The name/number of the bill was read out, and as a sufficient number
of hands were not raised to ask for the vote the benefits for a certain
group of veterans expired. For Congressmen and women who fund and approve
of war measures that send young men into combat this was a despicable way
to cut veteran’s benefits. A non-vote that would allow every member of
Congress to say to their constituents ‘I didn’t vote against it.’ I call
that ball-less and spineless. It was a slap in the face to veterans.
But, there was a second reason for the takeover. Our actions were also
a protest against the miserable treatment that America’s veterans were
receiving from the US government. I don’t mean the doctors, nurses or
other staff at the Veteran’s hospitals and clinics. They were and are
today, dedicated, hard-working people who fulfil their mission to care
for the wounded and other veterans.
No, it was not them, but the system itself that forces veterans to
fight for recognition of their injuries, and conditions acquired from
their time in combat or military service.
When I entered the Marine Corps (I volunteered for Vietnam twice as a
rifleman; a ‘grunt’) I knew that should anything happen to me or my
comrades the government would take care of us. You know, diagnose and
treat any conditions acquired as a result of our military service. I
was naïve; just as naïve as I was when I entered the combat zone.
To this day I have jungle rot (a fungus) on my big toe nails. The US
government refused to acknowledge or compensate me for it. When I pushed
them they gave me a liquid with a brush to apply to the nails. But, the
bottle had a skull and crossbones sign; it didn’t make me feel too
comfortable. I took it to my civilian doctor, and he told me not to
use it. A foot doctor showed me how to cut the nail back; I do it
about once a month.
The VA, in denying recognition and compensation for the injury said
that I probably got it ‘in my high school gym.’
My first medevac was to a stateside hospital (dysentery and a seizure),
and after a battery of tests the doctor told me that I had significant
deterioration of my right shoulder muscles. I was unaware of it. But,
even today when I take my shirt off my left side (chest to shoulder)
is more developed than the right side. I carried the radio (25 lbs +
two batteries of 2.5 lbs apiece), plus about 60 or more pounds of
gear, and I shifted weight to one side. It was a heavy load.
About a year after my discharge I filed for disability for both
conditions (which still affects me today). I was denied recognition.
I had not reported the jungle rot in the military as it had not
manifested itself fully, but also I was a Marine and didn’t want to
go to the doctor for a minor matter. That goes against you when you
file for disability.
As for my shoulder injury I was told that there were ‘no records’ of
the injury. This is despite the fact that it was listed in my discharge
from the hospital. When I pressed the matter, and asked for my records
I was told that, unfortunately there had been ‘a fire at the Marine Corps
records center’ which destroyed those files. There are many veterans who
have received those letters.
Wars are fought for the benefit of banks and corporations, and they
don’t want to spend money for injuries once the war is over!
In 1971 I went to the VA clinic in Boston for help. I knew that
something wasn’t right. I alternated between wanting to end the extreme
emotional pain that I experienced to feelings of rage. It’s called
‘combat rage.’ I was seeking help for what is now called Post Traumatic
Stress (PTSD), but the US government did not acknowledge the effects of
combat trauma and stress until 1980. I got out of the military in 1970.
So, we had to deal with it ourselves, and we didn´t have a name for it.
The US government knew from the other wars. But, the bankers and
industrialists who actually run America didn´t want to pay for stuff
like that...you know the psychic trauma of combat...the so-called
It was all about saving the government money. There are some 58,195+
names on The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, but over 100,000 have
taken their own life since returning home. This is the effect of war.
I will always remember the first time I went to the pharmacy at the
VA Clinic on Court Street, Boston. One of the vets a Marine Vietnam
vet and he asked if it was my first time there. I said yes. And, he
asked "What did your bean man give you?" Or, words to that effect. I
looked at him, and he said see the docs are the ´bean men.´ Beans as in
pills. And, the pharmacists are the ´bean counters,´ and they give you
a ´ bag of beans.´ But, it don´t help; it´s just to drug you up"
There was another big reason for the VVAW takeover, and it was a big
factor. VVAW had called for major a demonstration on July 4th, 1976,
in Philadelphia. July 4th was the Bicentennial anniversary of the
Declaration of Independence. The main slogan was ‘We’ve Carried the
Rich for 200 Years. Let’s Get Them Off Our Backs.’ So we were
publicizing that event too, and hey what better place?
We hung two banners from the inside the Statue’s crown. The first one
read ‘EXTEND & EXPAND THE G. I. BILL’ Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
The second one read ‘WE’VE CARRIED THE RICH FOR 200 YEARS LET’S GET
THEM OFF OUR BACKS.’
Shit, the people of the world have been carrying the rich for a lot
longer than 200 years!
When we entered the Statue someone found photos of some members of
the New York area VVAW behind the security desk. The government was
expecting a takeover, possibly closer to July 4th, but we came early
and dressed better. We had an enjoyable time, and if I were in the US
again I would not hesitate to take it over again. This time I would
hang banners protesting the Imperial aggressive wars by the US, and
put in that 9/11 was an inside job.
Secondly, I would have a banner protesting the loss of liberties and
personal freedoms in the US since 9/11 ‘AMERICAN FACISM.’
The third banner would call for an END TO THE ZIONIST OCCUPATION
OF PALESTINE! TEAR DOWN THE APARTHEID WALL, and also for the return
of the Palestinian people to their towns, cities and homes.
Our main concern was that the authorities would try to break in and
get us out, but it was just before closing time when we did the take-over.
An officer came by and read a court order to vacate the premises
immediately. We ignored it. It wasn’t the first time.
Our spokesperson, Jim Duffy was asked how long we intended to stay,
and he said something to the effect that we had a food supply to last
through the summer. LOL! We hadn’t brought food or water.
Seeing the Statue of Liberty without tourist was nice. No queues. No
rush; just the 12 of us. We barricaded ourselves just below the
base of the Statue. We left peacefully when the police finally
disassembled our barricade. As I stepped onto the police boat, one
of New Yorks finest (policeman) came over and shook my hand. He told
me that he had to arrest us, but he sympathised with what we did
because his educational benefits were just cut.
As I was sure that we were going to jail I decided to have fun. I
was being questioned by a Federal Deputy District Attorney. He asked
when and how we decided to take-over the Statue. I told him that I
didn’t know that the others were, but that when I read about the
cuts in VA benefits I decided that I had to do something symbolic.
He mentioned that I didn’t bring any chains to lock the door, and I
said ‘ya, that was stupid.’ Of course someone else had them; that was
luck:- He was trying to establish a ‘conspiracy,’ but it seemed that
we each decided on our own (separately;-) to take-over the Statue...and we
did. That´s the truth.
He then said that ‘well we know that all of you met at the ‘Blarney Stone’
pub near Madison Square Garden earlier that day. I told him ‘Ya, that was
such a coincidence.’ He asked me if we discussed it, but I told him that
I didn’t want the others to know what I was planning in case they screwed
He didn’t like my answers. And, again I told him how surprised I was to
see the others inside the Statue at the exact moment that I decided to
take it over.
Then he asked me a list of questions to determine bail, such as how
much cash I had on me.
He asked me if I owned stocks, or bonds. I laughed. He wanted an answer,
and I told him truthfully ‘No.’
Then he asked if I owed any securities. He had to explain what they
were. Same answer; ‘No.’
He asked me how much money I had, and about bank accounts. I had to
control the urge to laugh:-
Finally, he asked me if I owned any property. I smiled inside and
said ‘No. I used to own some property, but I don’t anymore.’
He told me that I had to divulge the name and address of the property
so that he could check it for bail purposes. It was required, and it
didn't matter if I didn't own the property anymore. I just repeated
‘but, I don’t own it anymore.’
He told me to tell him what and where the property was located. I said
‘okay but I don’t own it anymore. I once owned the Statue of Liberty,
but it was for a very short time, and I just lost it. i didn't even
have it for twenty-four hours.’ Whew was he pissed. He didn’t think
it was as funny as I did and told me that I’d be in jail.
We were released without charge after signing an agreement not to ever
take over other US government properties, and it was a long list of
places like Yellowstone National Park, Craters of the Moon National
Monument, Idaho, Death Valley National Monument. There was even an
underwater park or reserve: Virgin Islands Coral Reef Monument. The
list was long.
I mean like How The F*ck do a take-over of of an underwater nature
reserve that is over 12,000 acres? Or, try a taking-over of 'Craters
of the Moon National Monument' Idaho. It's only just over 1,100 square
As it turned out, the government didn't want a political trial of
Vietnam veterans; the had already lost a big one with the trial of
The Gainesville Eight. They were charged with plotting (conspiracy)
'to disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach,
Florida.' Early in thr pre-trial process 'Two FBI Agents were caught
during the second day of jury selection.' They were 'discovered in
closet adjoining room used by defense attys. Caught with telephone
equipment, agents say they were making routine check of telephone
But, it was also that the government didn't want to give us the
chance to make it a political trial, and especially during the
run-up to and during the Bicentenial.
When I got back to Boston I was immediately fired from my work-study
job at the Veterans Administration Hospital. I was an admitting clerk
and I heard someone come screaming towards our office yelling ‘He’s a
communist. He’s a communist.’ I thought that it was someone headed for
the psychiatric ward. But, then my boss came into the Admissions office,
and pointed at me and said ‘You’re a communist! You’re fired.’ I told
him that I wasn’t a communist, but I was out the door.
For most of the next two years whenever I got a job the FBI showed up
and I was out.
I survived. I was given work by a veterans group and that sustained me.
Thank You Beany.
If I were in New York or America you better believe that I´d be
planning to take over some prominent symbol in America, and I
urge all veterans...and people of America to look at places like
the Statue of Liberty...and plan a takeover to highlight the
injustice of what is going on today.
The Supreme Court (Facist rubber stamp) would be a good one.
And, today I wish i were there again...Hey guys would you be
Peace and Blessings to all