Veterans for Peace president Leah Bolger talks about why she attended and interrupted the hearing, celebrity, law enforcement, media and public reaction to her act of civil disobedience, why she plead guilty, her sentencing and her plans to protest the May NATO summit in Chicago, in Part 2 of this candid interview (32:18).
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.
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Retired Navy Commander: End the Wars, Tax the Rich
• Leah Bolger faced jail time for speaking out in D.C.
By Dave Gahary
On October 26th, 2011, during a hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or ‘Super Committee,’ the testimony of Douglas Elmendorf, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office was interrupted by 20-year U.S. Navy veteran and Veterans for Peace president Leah Bolger. A resident of Oregon, Bolger was in Washington, D.C. taking part in the Occupy D.C. movement, and took advantage of the chance to attend a hearing while in town. Though she had no plans to disrupt his testimony, Elmendorf, a Zionist-approved puppet promoting more wars for Israel, had spewed enough pro-war propaganda that she felt compelled to act.
Although almost 90-minutes earlier the co-chair of the Committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) had stated, “Let me just remind all our guests that the manifestation of approval or disapproval, including the use of signs or placards, is a violation of the rules which do govern this committee,” Bolger was prepared to break the law to speak for the citizens of this country that Congress had no intention of representing, as was evidenced by poll after poll disapproving of the endless wars and Congress itself.
At 1:27:32 into the hearing, wearing a ‘Greed Kills’ sweatshirt, Bolger stood up, walked forward and straddled the desk Elmendorf was sitting at giving his testimony, addressing him and the congressional panel. Elmendorf kept his head down throughout Bolger’s words, while Murray attempted to restore order. When Murray was unable to stop Bolger’s speech, 22-seconds after she started speaking, the Chair stated, “I would request that the Capitol Police restore order.” After 40-seconds the Capitol Police approached, and less than a minute, 57-seconds, after she began speaking, she was out of the room.
Here is exactly what Bolger said, which can be viewed on C-SPAN:
“Tax the rich and end the wars. That’s how we fix the deficit. And all this obfuscation with percentages of GDP, this is just trying to confuse the issue. The vast majority of the public want you to tax the rich, end the wars. We spend more on war commitments than the rest of the world combined. And this history of this vast, grotesque spending on wars and the war machine has depleted the base of this economy. We would have enough money for housing and healthcare and everything that we want if we stop spending our money in this black hole of the military machine. It’s very obvious. I speak for the 99%. End the wars and tax the rich.”
When news of Bolger’s speech and arrest spread via various websites on the Internet, celebrities such as Ben Cohen co-founder of the ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney Ralph Nader, and filmmaker, author, social critic and activist Michael Moore spoke out in support of the retired U.S. Navy Commander.
Cohen, who appears on an Internet video of Bolger’s action, makes a plea to “Spread this video far and wide. Tax day is coming up. The 99% pays their fair share. The rich and the corruptions don’t. I support Leah because she’s speaking for the 99%.” Nader, a member of Veterans For Peace, stated, “Bolger showed what active citizens should be doing peacefully, confronting the corruption head on and making sure the public knows what is really going on. She should be honored for her actions.” Michael Moore, using the social media website Twitter, “tweeted” his support of Bolger to his over one million followers.
Bolger was arrested and released and had planned to plead guilty to the charge of Unlawful Conduct — Disruption of Congress at a hearing, to make her point, and appeared before Judge Stuart Nash in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Thursday, April 12th 2012.
On April 16, AMERICAN FREE PRESS conducted an exclusive interview with Mrs. Bolger to gain further insight into her act of civil disobedience.
Bolger said in her statement to the Judge, “I have come to understand what millions of Americans already know—that the actual majority will of the people is of little concern to those in power. We can demonstrate and petition and write letters until we are blue in the face, but those actions are virtually worthless, as we can’t compete. Our voice is drowned out by the power of the money coming from the lobbyists and corporate interests. Money equals speech.”
Judge Nash sentenced Bolger to a suspended 60-days incarceration sentence, although the maximum penalty for her charge is six months in jail and/or a $750 fine. Nash ordered her to perform 20 hours of community service and sentenced her to nine months’ probation. The judge also fined Bolger $50, but she resisted.
According to a Veterans for Peace press release, “Nash’s imposition of such a minimal sentence was greeted by cheering from the packed courtroom and by multiple offers to pay the $50 on Leah’s behalf. Bolger does not view the $50 paid to a victims’ fund as a fine. She asked the court to impose no fine, as she believed no one should pay for permission to speak to our government. Following the hearing Bolger said, ‘I’m gratified that the judge agreed I should pay no fine.’ The judge also imposed no ‘stay-away’ order barring Bolger from Capitol Hill, despite the government’s request for one.”
Bolger “is committed to continuing to speak out and protest, including when NATO comes to Chicago in May,” although she risks of having the 60-day sentence imposed while on probation.