An article was published in the November 18, 2011 issue of Army Times, Navy Times, et. al. (Gannett-owned publications that serve the military community) that highlighted how off-duty servicemembers and veterans are participating in the Occupy movement across the country.
‘Occupy’ protests lure veterans
Joining the ranks of hundreds of Occupy offshoots that have sprouted up in cities across the country, veterans are enlisting in the grass-roots movement in increasing numbers, even ascending to leadership positions.
They are also among the movement’s first casualties.
A sidebar article offers insight into the rights of military personnel and veterans to protest.
Military officials said troops are free to participate in Occupy rallies but are prohibited from wearing their uniforms or presenting themselves as official spokespeople for the military.
That goes for those who have been discharged from active duty or drilling Reserve units but are still in the Individual Ready Reserve. All service members incur an eight-year obligation to the military — regardless of contract length — and are subject to involuntary recall from the IRR at any time during that period.
While it’s rare for veterans in IRR status to be charged for violating uniform rules, it’s not unheard of.
MLTF Executive Director Kathleen Gilberd was interviewed for this piece, and her contribution helped clarify the the concerns of troops and commanders alike.
Even when they aren’t technically breaking any rules, troops can find themselves facing repercussions, legal experts said.
“Commanders can sometimes get a little overzealous when they see someone at a protest on TV that they don’t like,” said Kathleen Gilberd, executive director of the Military Law Task Force, a San Diego-based advocacy group. “The rights are pretty clear, so often what happens is commands will informally harass them.”
Troops should be especially wary of attending protests where violence is likely, she said.
“The regulations say you shouldn’t go to a demonstration where violence or a ‘breach of the peace’ is likely to occur. But that’s pretty vague,” Gilberd said.
And commanders shouldn’t use that rule as a catchall to keep troops from attending rallies they don’t like.
“They can’t just say ‘don’t go there’ because they think something might happen,” Gilberd said.