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Gathering of Eagles: Threat to damage the Vietnam Veterans Wall

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Gathering of Eagles (GoE) originated in February 2007, according to organizers, in response to a January 27, 2007, antiwar demonstration in Washington, D.C., at which time "a military recruiting station and other landmarks were vandalized." [1]

Photographs of some vandalism that occurred at that protest can be seen here: Two instances of spray-paint on the Capitol steps ("We will win" with an anarchy sign, painted with green spray paint, and "All cops are pigs" with a middle finger, painted in black spray paint), and an impromptu march to a recruiting station resulted in a smashed window. A photograph of the Lone Sailor statue—which was undamaged in any way—at the Navy Memorial upon whom a Code Pink tiara was placed can be seen here.

Another antiwar demonstration was scheduled to occur March 17, 2007, in Washington. When GoE learned that the demonstration "might start at the site of the Vietnam Memorial, [it] snapped to action calling for an effort to 'stand silent guard over our nation's memorials, in honor of our fallen, and in solidarity with our armed forces in harm's way today'," Seth Gitell wrote March 16, 2007, in the New York Sun.

On March 16, 2007, Joe Dager, President, Chapter 1 New York [2] of Rolling Thunder (web) and Old War Dogs member and GoE co-chair Larry Bailey—a retired U.S. Navy Captain who was president of Vietnam Vets for the Truth, "which attacked 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry's military record, on the heels of the more well-known" Swift Boat Veterans for Truth—appeared on Fox News' "Your World with Neil Cavuto" to discuss the "upcoming anti-protest protest to protect the Vietnam Memorial."

When Cavuto asked whether "there really is truly a credible threat to the wall, Bailey reveal[ed] that [he'd] heard that the anti-war commies are planning on bringing muriatic acid to throw on the memorial, and advising their minions to bring lots of yellow spray paint for its walls." [3] A video link is posted at the bottom of the page.

Evidence of the "threat"

The "threat" appears to have originated with members of the "Right" rather than from those on the "Left":

December 2006: Next demonstration announced

In December 2006, Carlos Rovira from Bay Area Indymedia sent early alerts to various message boards and independent media about the planned March on the Pentagon for the following year. In these messages, he names the assembly point as follows:

"The March 17 demonstration will assemble at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Constitution Gardens) at 12 noon in Washington, D.C.and march to the Pentagon."

Later, A.N.S.W.E.R. would describe the assembly point of the march as to begin "at 23rd St. and Constitution Ave. NW ... near the Vietnam Memorial".

January 2007: Alert begins with ProtestWarrior and Free Republic

At 10:15 AM on January 27, 2007, 'Thunder90', who describes himself as the University of Wisconsin ProtestWarrior Chapter Leader (identified here as Steven Thunander), posted the following at Free Republic (prefaced with a direct quote from Rovira's messages cited above):

"The Canswer from ANSWER are planning to march on the Pentagon on March 17th. They are enlisting the help of UFPJ, World Can't Wait (web), and other groups. Mother Moonbat Cindy Sheehan and Jane Fonda are expected to attend."

Early planning is expressed by fellow ProtestWarrior 'trooprally', who expresses the sentiment that the March 17 protest "may be our last chance to really support the troops", and proposes that "Since the event starts at the Vietnam Memorial, I think Rolling Thunder and Patriot Guard Riders show [sic] be informed. Maybe they and Vet groups can gather there and FR, PW and others can be along the march route somewhere."

It is also suggested that Kristinn Taylor be made the main organizer: 'Thunder90' suggests involving ProtestWarrior, noting that "The target of the protesters should be enough to get them fired up". Taylor was pinged on January 27 at 10:16 AM, but it was some time before he seems to have responded.

After returning from the January 27 counterprotest, Taylor—co-founder and spokesman of the Washington D.C. Chapter of the conservative group Free Republic, which supports the George W. Bush administration and "has held pro-troop rallies since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and counter-protests of anti-war demonstrations" [4]—and future GoE media enquiries person, expressed disheartenment at the turnout and frustration that people didn't attend to prevent the spray-painting that occurred at the demonstration (see February 28, 2007, posts at 12:07 PM and 4:48 PM). At 5:37 PM, Taylor posted this:

"I'm angry. I'm angry at the 'antiwar' protesters who heaped abuse on our troops. And I'm angry at the people who couldn't be bothered to stand up for our troops yesterday.
"Tens of thousands of anti-American leftists and their dupes marched on our nation's capital calling for America's defeat in the war on terror in Iraq.
"Only about forty people could be bothered to turn out in support of America's victory in Iraq."

Taylor also reported that an Iraq Vet, Joshua Sparling was spat at by protesters. The post was picked up by Michelle Malkin and garnered over 600 replies.

On January 30, 2007, Philadelphia Indymedia published an article about the January 27, 2007, demonstration, which included the following information on the March on the Pentagon:

"There are almost seven weeks to go before the March on the Pentagon, which will take place on Saturday March 17. Ramsey Clark will help lead the demonstration. It will assemble at noon at the Vietnam Memorial (Constitution Gardens) and then march to the Pentagon."

When word got out that another antiwar protest would be held at the Memorial, various groups objected to its use for political purposes. For example, on January 31, 2007, Free Republic poster 'InfantryMarine' posted "Radical Left Set To Defile (WALL) The Vietnam Veterans Memorial", referring to it as "Operation Honor Locked In Stone":

"Passing the word received on the next anti-war debacle to be held, of all places, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial! ... we need to enlist legions of veterans to form a wall of honor to prevent the wall's use as a backdrop and defilement by the radial left."

By January 31, 2007, Taylor was responding in threads, noting that "The ANSWER rally will be right next to the Wall at Constitution Gardens".

February 2007: The message spreads to Vietnam Veterans

As word was passed along, the message changed from the threat of a metaphorical defilement to a literal one. It also became more organized and GoE was formed.

On January 31, 2007, at 1:49 PM, 'betterallthetime' at Over 45 posted a notification on the March 17, 2007, antiwar protest which he "cut and pasted from an e-mail" he had received from the President of the PA State Council of the Viet Nam Veterans of America (currently listed as Jeffrey R. White).

On February 1, 2007, at 9:00 AM, '1stbn27' posted, noting that 'ViperAsh50' (Gary Assell) had sent to "major Veteran groups" regarding plans by demonstrators. It emphasized the assembly point described by Rovira, stating: "In case you think it's of little importance, they are formimg up at THE WALL!"

As early as February 1, 2007, at 10:44 PM, it had been received and was being passed on by Matt Bruce, who is managing editor and publisher of NewsSarasota.com, a contributing syndicated columnist at Newsbull and GOPUSA, a contributing columnist at NewsBusters, and contributing columnist and blogger at Townhall.com. [5]

At 1:37 PM on February 1, 2007, Milblogger and Old War Dogs member Zero Ponsdorf posted the following on Another Voice:

"There's an upcoming anti-war rally in DC on March 17. See this.
"I aim to be there at the Vietnam Memorial where they plan to form up. The alternative is to start studying the Koran. Yep it's that serious! I'm convinced the next two years WILL decide the fate of this country.
"Get off the sidelines and get in the game... we have thousands of cheerleaders, but few players."

At 11:05 AM on February 1, 2007, 'ViperAsh50' states that he's been in contact with the U.S. Department of the Interior and that they said "the protestors do have a permit to gather, but NOT a permit to gather at the WALL." At 3:00 PM, he posted saying that he got in contact with the National Park Service and quoted Robert M. Healy, Jr., Park Ranger, National Mall and Memorial Parks:

"At this time, it is accurate to state that the National Park Service has issued no permit for any event starting at the Wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, on that date. As I mentioned on the telephone, there are special regulations, found at Title 36, United States Code of Federal Regulations, Section 7.97, which protect core Vietnam Veterans Memorial areas and resources from such activities."

However, instead of interpreting this as a sign of a mix-up or that his information is wrong, 'ViperAsh50' infers:

"In other words the website is lying they have not yet gotten a permit...people need to clog their Congressmen and Senators and the National Park Service with E-mails and phone calls! They can't be allowed to be anywhere near any Memorial!"

C.J. Raven—who appears to be 'ViperAsh50'—sent a similar message, minus clarifications from National Parks personnel, through Ted Sampley's The U.S. Veteran's Dispatch. [Note that Sampley is anti-John Kerry, anti-John Murtha, and anti-John McCain, as well as the creator of Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry and has a history of controversy regarding Prisoner of War issues.]

"The group, led by Cindy Sheehan, Jane Fonda, Ramsey Clark and their ilk, plan to gather March 17 at the Vietnam Memorial Wall to begin a march to protest America's involvement in the Iraq war. The date marks the fourth anniversary of the war's beginning.
"This time, however, protestors will see objectors if they spit on Iraqi veterans again, or throw paint on a war memorial. ..."

Rolling Thunder received C.J. Raven's message and relayed it via Free Republic as early as February 9, 2007.

Also on February 9, 2007, GoE's first post reads:

"Gathering of Eagles is an act of love by thousands of veterans who choose to honor the sacrifice of the fallen by guarding the memorials from those who would desecrate them on March 17th in a 'peaceful' anti-war rally in Washington D.C."

It was still clear at this time that the "desecration" feared was metaphorical, as Col. Harry G. Riley commenting on the post above makes clear. After quoting Carlos Rovira's instructions to assemble at the memorial, he says:

"The anti-war/anti-America group cannot be allowed to use the Viet Nam Memorial Wall as a back-drop to their anti-America venom and stain the hallowed ground that virtually cries out with blood at the thought of this proposed desecration ....it must not happen."

Also on February 9, 2007, the Nuke's News & Views Blog posted:

"This info needs to go blogosphere viral, ASAP! The leftists website MarchOnPentagon dot com is planning to gather at the Vietnam Memorial, The Wall, on 17 Mar 07, and march to the Pentagon. How’s that for childish agitprop? This group, Gathering of Eagles, has dedicated themselves to preventing these worthless propagandists from defacing or desecrating this hallowed place."

On February 10, 2007, 'Redhead Infidel' posted on Wide Awakes Radio:

"On March 17th, the socialistic, anti-war crowd (Cindy Sheehag, Hanoi Jane - now known as Jihad Jane - and their sorry ilk) will once again protest the war and our military. For drama’s sake, they plan to congregate at the Vietnam Wall and march on the Pentagon. There have been gleeful threats of splashing red paint on the Vietnam Wall and other War Memorials. We cannot allow such a thing to happen. Vietnam vets are beyond outraged and are planning a counter-protest to protect the hallowed ground from such traitors. The event is called The Gathering Of Eagles."

On February 13, 2007, Carlos Rovira sent out a message in response to the above:

"We will not be in the Vietnam Memorial and all speakers for amplified sound are turned away from the Memorial so as not to interfere with family members visiting the site. Thousands of veterans and military families, including those who have lost loved ones in Iraq, will be in the front ranks of the March on the Pentagon."

By this time, the threat to the memorial was no longer metaphorical, as Rovira continued

"Some tiny pro-Bush groups who support the war in Iraq, and who normally mobilize about 25 people to hold signs when massive anti-war protests take place, are now callously trying to manipulate Vietnam veterans by spreading rumors that the March on the Pentagon will defile the Vietnam Memorial."

The Associated Press's Jennifer C. Kerr reported February 21, 2007, that two veterans' groups said "they fear protesters may deface the memorial, a claim dismissed by the demonstrating groups. ... Larry Bailey, a retired Navy captain, said he and other Vietnam veterans aim to guard entrance points to the wall to keep protesters away."

On February 23, 2007, Wayne Boettcher of the conservative website American Protest (web) posted the following:

"The next 'anti-war' rally in Washington DC is scheduled for March 17, 2007 near the Vietnam Wall memorial. Concerned about radicals spray painting or otherwise desecrating the memorial, veterans and patriotic groups have established their own rally between the Vietnam Wall memorial and the left-wing protest. Calling themselves the 'Gathering of Eagles,' the rally has taken hold across the country as patriotic citizens ready themselves to stand up for America."

Michelle Malkin wrote in an article published February 28, 2007, by the New York Post:

"Last time the left-wing, peace-loving fun bunch came to town, their minions gone wild threw rocks at a military recruitment office in D.C's Dupont Circle neighborhood and at a local Fox News van, broke through a Capitol Hill police security cordon, spray painted the Capitol Grounds with impunity, desecrated the Lone Sailor statue that stands watch at the U.S. Navy Memorial and reportedly spat at disabled Iraq war veteran Josh Sparling as he voiced his support for his fellow troops."

March 2007: "threat" spreads

On March 3, 2007, Hank Hangsleben, President of Chapter NC-5, Rolling Thunder (web) of Kinston, NC, wrote in a letter published by KinstonPress.com:

"While there were incidents involving red spray paint on the Capitol steps and surrounding areas during the January anti-war protest, our Veterans and other members will mass around the Vietnam War Memorials and protect them from desecration if need be. Our people will be there to protect the Wall, support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and preserve the honor of those whose names are on the Vietnam Wall and are honored at the other War Memorials."

On March 6, 2007, at 6:02 PM (EST), '101ABN' "From South of occupied San Francisco" made the first post in the "Gathering of Eagles, Washington D.C March 17th, 2007" thread on the History Channel Boards, with a link to the GoE website, which was followed twenty minutes later with a posting of GoE's Mission Statement.

That same evening, on March 6, 2007, evidence of a "threat" was quickly circulated on the internet:

At 6:12:27 PM (EST), 'A' posted "Anti-authoritarian bloc on the 17th?" on the D.C. Indymedia "LOCAL Announcement :: Anti-War/Peace":

"About the demo on March 17th:
"People who are planning a black bloc, youth bloc, SDS bloc or something like that should announce it so more than 10 people can join in and make it worthwhile."

At 9:41:53 PM (EST), 'dylan' responded

"bring some paint so we can spray the wall."

At 9:49 EST (6:49 PM local time), the alarm was sounded when the "threat" was reported by 'Thunder90' on the Protest Warrior 2.0 Blogspot. Note that Protest Warrior 2.0's timestamps are three hours behind D.C. Indymedia's, as can be verified by a direct test (see for example indymedia versus Protest Warrior 2.0).

Then, at 9:55 PM EST (6:55:28 PM PST), 'Thunder 90' posted the D.C. Indymedia "threat" announcement on Free Republic. This also included the comment by 'dylan'.

By 10:55 PM (EST ?), Michelle Malkin had posted "Anti-war vandals plan to strike at the Wall" on her website, linking to The Indepundit's "Bring Some Paint", which in turn linked back to the D.C. Indymedia announcement.

In a March 8, 2007, 1:26 PM posting by marcolinux on the Final Phase Forum comes:

"Also, from a March 6th entry on Michelle Malkin's blog, there are rumors that someone might spray paint the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Thankfully, there will be another group there on March 17 called The Gathering of Eagles."

On March 8, 2007, at 10:36:47 PM, 'Nage' posted a LOCAL Announcement::Anti-War/Peace update at D.C. Indymedia entitled "Major Alert About the March on the Pentagon", which included details for time, parking, and assembly in the park at 23rd and Constitution.

In a March 8, 2007, comment to the thread, 'Freeper Alert' posted:

"While the Gathering of Eagles has put these communist terrorist lovers on the run, the danger to the memorials from ANSWER’s fellow travelers is growing. With each passing day, we are receiving reports of threats to desecrate the Vietnam Memorial and other Memorials. We pass this information to the Park Service for investigation. ...

On March 9, 2007, 'protect the memorials?' responded:

"My God, you guys are so predictable.
"First you make a phony post on Indymedia, posing as anarchists, saying, 'let's spraypaint the Wall!' Then you present yourselves as 'defenders' of the memorial, even though we all know that you were the ones who made the original post about spraypaint anyway.
"Do you think you are fooling anyone? You're not, morons, unless you count fooling yourselves.
"Nevertheless, when no one spraypaints the wall, I'm sure you will declare your mission a 'success.'"

Yellow Spray Paint

Muriatic Acid

Discussion of the "threat"

A read through the D.C. Indymedia comments which follow the "threat"—a majority of which were posted by "Anonymous"—reveals little evidence of any real threat to the Vietnam Wall or other monuments in D.C. or elsewhere. Few commenters took suggestions for vandalism seriously, in fact most dismissed or ridiculed them.

There were admitted Gathering of Eagles supporters (and provokers) who posted in the thread. First posting as 'cjhill', one commenter wrote on March 7, 2007:

"C'mon, Wolverines. You know that cowards like that don't actually do anything but talk trash.
"I will be there in spirit because work keeps me from being there in the flesh.
"God Bless The Gathering Of Eagles."

Then, as 'Wolverines', the poster wrote on March 8, 2007:

"There are going to be thousands of Vietnam and Iraq war veterans there, as well as current soldiers and off duty law enforcement within our Gathering of Eagles Rally. Touch the wall or attack us, and you risk not only arrest, but a good old fashoned ass kicking. WE WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO TOUCH THE WALL OR OTHER MOMUMENTS. PERIOD!!!!
"WOLVERINES!!! VIVA LA REAGAN REVOLUTION!!!"

Responses by D.C. Indymedia regulars included postings like the following:

"If you haven't gone on this thread yet, when you scroll down, you will see the usual susects daring everyone to come out so they can kick everyone's ass, only this time they are being encouraged to do so by Michelle Malkin who linked to a blog that linked to this thread. If someone wanted to vandalize the wall, they would have done so when there isn't thousands of people around. The fact that it hasn't happen suggests two things. One, we are not about that, and two, someone is playing agent provocateur. Memo to the right wingers out there, especialy you Malkin. If you have to resort to this kind of thing, maybe your position isn't all that correct."

On March 9, 2007, '(A)' wrote at D.C. Indymedia:

Following the January 27, 2007, antiwar protest in D.C., "... a right wing plant came to the boards and wrote that he was going to spraypaint the Vietnam War Memorial, that is clearly a fabrication, one because an anarchist wouldn't do something like that and if they were that stupid, they would not post it up on Indymedia, also don't you find it funny that on most other articles the rightwingers don't post but this article they posted like crazy, it was also very quickly all over the Freeper boards, also an anarchist wouldn't use his or her name when posting that they are going to spray the wall and as well at a large event like the march they wouldn't try and paint a wall in front of all the cops and protest police and veterans who realized that war is straight up wrong, if anything they would go at night in the shadows."

'Thunder90'

It should also be noted that the Protest Warrior 2.0 blog by 'Thunder90' includes only three posts:

The first was February 21, 2007, announcing the new 2.0 version website. The second posting was on March 6, 2007, when the "threat" was reported.

The third and last posting was March 19, 2007, announcing that Gathering of Eagles was a "success". Readers were directed to details posted beginning February 17, 2007, at Free Republic.

The D.C. Indymedia poster 'Wolverines' is most likely 'Thunder90', whose Blogger Profile shows him/her as also blogging at Calumet Wolverines Blogspot and UW Madison Protest Warrior Blogspot.

Lots of anger but no attacks on the Wall or monuments

"The antiwar demonstrators amassed on the north side of the Lincoln Memorial chanting demands for peace now. The counterprotesters, fewer in number but no less vocal, gathered on the east side of the Vietnam Wall and shouted political taunts — many laced with obscenities," Faye Fiore and Adam Schreck wrote March 18, 2007, in the Los Angeles Times.

"Police no longer give official estimates but said privately that perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 anti-war demonstrators marched, with a smaller but still sizable number of counterprotesters also out in force. An hour into the three-hour Pentagon rally, with the temperature near freezing, protesters had peeled away to a point where fewer than 1,000 were left," the Associated Press's Larry Margasak and Matthew Barakat wrote March 17, 2007.

"War protest leaders said a large winter storm that hit the Northeast hurt turnout. More than 60 bus loads of protesters who had been scheduled to come from the region canceled their trips Friday night, according to Brian Becker, national coordinator for the Answer Coalition, the event's main sponsor," Steve Vogel and Michael Alison Taylor wrote March 18, 2007, in the Washington Post.

"It was quickly apparent that the weather had not prevented counter-demonstrators, many in black leather motorcycle jackets, from showing up in force and surrounding all sides of the Wall," Vogel and Allison wrote.

"Much of the passion yesterday was supplied by thousands of counter-demonstrators, many of them veterans who mobilized from across the country to gather around the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. ... Some counter-protesters yelled obscenities and mocked the marchers as traitors. War protesters responded with angry words of their own, and police intervened at times to prevent shouting matches from escalating. ... Some said they came in response to appeals on the Internet to protect the Wall against what they feared would be acts of vandalism; no such acts were reported," Vogel and Taylor wrote.

External articles