#VeteransForKaepernick Support Protest Against Police Brutality

Veterans Rory Fanning and Ramon Mejia support the NFL quarterback because the US government kills with impunity at home and abroad

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JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: 49ers’ Quarterback Colin Kaepernick ignited a firestorm of criticism when he refused to stand for the national anthem because he said of prevailing police brutality and racial oppression. He’s faced a deluge of attacks including form many who say he needs to stand to honor military veterans for their service. Well now there’s a new trending hashtag which is going global #VetsforKaepernick who are standing up for the quarterback’s right to sit down.

We are now joined by two of those vets who have endorsed Kaepernick’s protest. Ramon Mejia is a founding organizer for Vets Versus Hate, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and regional organizer of Veterans Challenge Islamophobia. And Rory Fanning. He did two deployments in Afghanistan with the second army ranger battalion. He’s a war resister, military counter recruiter and coauthor of a forthcoming book, Longshot: The Struggles and Triumphs of an NBA Freedom Fighter.

Thanks so much for joining us.

RAMON MEJIA: Thanks for having us.

NOOR: So I wanted to start with you Ramon. People are saying that Colin Kaepernick is disrespecting veterans. That he needs to stand up and that what he’s doing is really terrible and it’s disrespectful. How do you respond to that?

MEJIA: I think in a recent article [Dave Sherman] wrote that too many people are talking about patriotism and etiquette instead of reckoning with the substance of his critique. I as a brown Muslim veteran sit in solidarity with Kaepernick and to the criminalization and incarceration and the bipartisan government sanction violence against black and brown people here in the United States. So I think yea he’s well within his right to protest.

NOOR: And Rory Fanning you took part in your own protest in support and in solidarity of Colin Kaepernick. Talk about why you sat down I think it was at a Cubs game just a few days ago and that tweet that you sent out with that photo got thousands of retweets.

RORY FANNING: Yea I protested in Wrigley field to say that I agree both with the substance and the method of Kaepernick’s protest. Because just as the US has been killing people around the world since 9/11 with impunity, the US state is also killing its own citizens disproportionately black with impunity here at home. So Kaepernick is completely right about as far as the substance is concerned. Kaepernick’s decision to sit out of the national anthem is an act of integrity and courage as far as I’m concerned.

I don’t know how anyone can really place their hand over their heart and say this is the land of the free when so many police are playing judge, jury, and executioner against those they are paid to protect. And I ask those who are calling Kaepernick disrespectful what’s a greater disservice to veterans who died thinking they were freedom or democracy? Going along and calling this a free country when NSA monitors every email and phone call or incarcerates more people than any country in history. Kills its citizens at an unprecedented rate. Or conducts endless illegal trillion dollar wars with next to no pushback from the media. Or even undemocratically bails out Wall Street crooks while gutting public education.

Now choosing not to lie to yourself or the world or all the people who thought they would die to ensure that they would die to ensure that we would live in a free country by claiming this country is free when it’s not, I think is actually quite the disservice to veterans.

NOOR: And Ramon how do you respond to people that don’t even want to engage in the substance? They’re trying to shut this down by just focusing on his act of protest. And they’re trying to say that it’s a disrespect to you that he’s doing this. Talk more about that.

MEJIA: Yea I mentioned earlier to friends and to family that it’s not a disrespect to me. What was disrespectful to me as a veteran was engaging in an unjust war on the people of Iraq. That’s what was disrespectful. The fact that Kaepernick is sitting down during the Star Spangled Banner is not disrespectful for me at all. I think it’s important for veterans to stand up and to be honest with ourselves and say that while we thought we were fighting for freedom abroad we weren’t. And we need to stop perpetuating this myth because the reality is that veterans fight for corporations and to protect political interests of the US government. So we have to—in solidarity with the black community here in the United States to show them that state violence is happening domestically and abroad and that we support our black and brown brothers and sisters who suffer from police brutality.

NOOR: And Rory let’s end with you. You consider yourself a counter recruiter. Do you feel that it’s right for the military to spend tens of millions of dollars in the case of NASCAR something like a hundred million dollar endorsements to essentially make sports a recruitment tool? And we saw this even more during the height of the Iraq and the Afghanistan wars when the recruitment goals were falling far short. The military actually spent more recruiting each individual soldier than it actually paid them. Can you discuss that?

FANNING: Yea in an age without the draft, the US military is using sports to ensure its 700 plus military bases and endless wars are fully stocked with usually the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Chicago has the most members in the JROTC of any school district in the country, 10,000. 50% black, 45% Latino. The military is preying on those who don’t have a lot of options out there.

NOOR: When you say JROTC, you’re talking about high school students that basically become part of the military in their high schools. So just for people that don’t know that.

FANNING: Correct, correct. And we have 10,000 recruiters walking the hallways in this country working with a 700 million dollars a year advertising budget trying to keep these bases stocked and these endless wars being perpetuated. And they’re using sports to do it.

NOOR: We want to thank you both for joining us. Ramon Mejia and Rory Fanning. They’re both military veterans who support Colin Kaepernick’s protest. Thank you both for joining us.

FANNING: Thanks for having us.

MEJIA: Thank you.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.

End

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