U.S. Park Police arrested Iraq War veteran and GW graduate student Adam Kokesh Friday in Lafayette Park for hanging signs advertising an upcoming anti-war protest.
The U.S. Park Police charged Kokesh with defacement of public property and held him until Saturday afternoon.
A court date is set for Oct. 4, though Kokesh hopes to have the charge dismissed. Kokesh called his charge “absurd and groundless,” adding that the true extent of his actions was “defacing property with a biodegradable water-soluble adhesive paste.”
“Welcome to the police state,” Kokesh said in an interview.
In preparation for the large anti-war demonstration that is to take place in the District Sept. 15, activist group ANSWER – Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism – hung signs advertising the march throughout D.C.
Acting under federal sign regulations, the city detained a group of ANSWER members and confiscated their materials. In response to the ANSWER members’ arrests, Kokesh and several others staged an action of civil disobedience by hanging their own signs.
“We decided we weren’t going to stand for that,” he said. “We were going to assert our right to free speech and not back down in face of draconian policy.”
Kokesh and others held a news conference in Lafayette Park and promised to put up more signs regardless of police actions. Within minutes, Kokesh and two others were arrested by the Park Police for placing two signs in the park.
“We were ready to get arrested, but I really wasn’t expecting that level of brutality,” Kokesh said.
Kokesh made headlines earlier this year when he staged a mock-patrol in front of the U.S. Capitol and received an official reprimand from a military judicial panel for violating the United Code of Military Justice.
He was charged with violating the “wearing the uniform” and “disrespect towards a superior officer” regulations. The panel claimed Kokesh had violated the rules of the Marine Corps by wearing his uniform during the “street theater” protest.
A Marine Corps officer sent a letter to Kokesh threatening disciplinary action over his activities, and Kokesh responded with a profanity-laced e-mail, thus bringing about the second charge. Though Kokesh is no longer on active duty, he is still a member of the Individual Ready Reserves and thus subject to the rules of the military.
Kokesh maintained that he did not violate any regulations and that he is being prosecuted because of his status as a noted anti-war activist.
“If anything, this case proves how effective we are,” he said. “It shows how dangerous the government really thinks we are.”
As a result of the official reprimand, the military downgraded Kokesh’s honorable discharge to “discharge under honorable circumstances.” He later lost an appeal to overturn the decision.