HEMPSTEAD, New York - A group of Iraq war veterans and their supporters who were arrested outside last month's third presidential debate at Hofstra University pleaded not guilty Monday to disorderly conduct.
The 15 defendants, including 10 veterans, came to Nassau First District Court in Hempstead
surrounded by supporters, some carrying poster-sized photographs of one
man, Nicholas Morgan, bleeding after being hurt during the Oct. 15
conflict outside the Hofstra gates. Morgan, 24, who was in court
Monday, said he was stepped on by a police horse.
The protesters said the police violated their constitutional rights by
arresting them and used excessive force when they used horses to hold
"I'm sorry that Nassau County has stopped fighting for the
Constitution, but that is something I will never do," said Mathis
Chiroux, 24, of Brooklyn, who helped organize the debate-night rally
for the group Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Police spokesman Det. Sgt. Anthony Repalone said officers showed as
much restraint as possible given that a large crowd was vowing to enter
the debate hall without tickets.
"We were very tolerant with the protesters as they tried to breech the
entrance," Repalone said. "We were not looking to infringe on anyone's
right to demonstrate."
Morgan, an Iraq War
veteran from Washington, D.C., was knocked unconscious and suffered a
fractured cheekbone. He and other protesters contend he was kicked in
the head by a mounted Nassau police horse. Repalone said police are
still reviewing the incident.
"It's kind of sad when a veteran who was discharged honorably can't
come here and peacefully assemble and redress our grievances," Chiroux
Jonathan Moore of Manhattan, a lawyer for the 15, said he was disappointed that the protesters were given six different court dates.
"Giving us six different dates was an obvious effort to dissipate the protest," he said.
A Nassau courts spokesman could not be reached for comment.