For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Tarak Kauff, 845-679-6189 or 845-706-0187

Veterans Tell Cuomo: Don't Touch the First Amendment

 Joining Albany Protest Against Executive Order 157, Noon, June 15

Where: Governor Cuomo’s Office
State Capitol 2nd Floor
110 State St, Albany, NY 12207

St. Louis, MO - Members of Veterans For Peace (VFP) will join a demonstration at the Capitol Building in Albany, NY, June 15 to express opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s June 5 executive order that would create a blacklist of groups, institutions, businesses that support or endorse boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) as a tool in the struggle against Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people; the order would withdraw state funds from those groups. The action is being organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

Calling the order a direct assault on the First Amendment’s fundamental guarantee of free speech and a blatant McCarthy-like attempt to suppress that right, the veterans plan to hand deliver a letter from VFP President Barry Ladendorf and Executive Director Michael McPhearson urging the governor to rescind the order.

VFP national board member Tarak Kauff of Woodstock, N.Y., says, “For nearly 70 years Israel has been oppressing Palestinians—denying fundamental rights such as freedom of movement, equality, self-determination—through military occupation, ethnic cleansing, and discriminatory laws and practices, and now Governor Cuomo wants to deny and suppress New York residents’ right to nonviolently address this decades-long oppression.”

World War II veteran and Woodstock Town Councilman Jay Wenk adds, “The right to express solidarity and join the BDS movement is a fundamental right of all people. It is also a clear expression of the First Amendment.  Veterans took an oath to defend the Constitution and to stand for the right of free speech, and many died thinking they were protecting those rights for all people.”

South African civil rights advocate Archbishop Desmond Tutu drew a parallel with the international boycott and divestment movement that played a central role in ending apartheid in his country, saying, "I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces . . . Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government."

Referring to Gov. Cuomo’s statement that “this state will not stand for the politics of discrimination in any form . . . and will do everything in its power to end the hateful, intolerant campaign,” Brian Trautman, a VFP national board member living in Albany said, “This is the height of hypocrisy. The governor is ignoring the ongoing daily discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel and in the illegally occupied territories.”
Members of VFP will join the June 15 protest to let Gov. Cuomo know that veterans who served this country in war and peace will not abide any attempt to quash free speech.

Link to VFP Statement on Preserving The First Amendment


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Veterans For Peace is a national organization founded in 1985. It is structured around a national office in Saint Louis, MO and comprised of members across the country organized in chapters or as at-large members. The organization includes men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations including from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary.

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