Boots on the Ground for Freedom

On Saturday, Sept. 7, at 10 am in front of Limerick Prison, where they were incarcerated, Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff, both U.S. military veterans will begin Boots on the Ground for Freedom, a series of walks through Ireland to promote peace and, as Kauff has written, "freedom to return home to our families, freedom from war, and the freedom to respect and affirm a strong and peaceful Irish neutrality." 

The two veterans were arrested at Shannon Airport on St. Patrick's Day for attempting to inspect an Omni International aircraft they believed were carrying U.S. troops and weapons in direct violation of international law. The plane was on its way to Kuwait. Mayers, 82, a former Marine Major, and Kauff, 77, a former U.S.Army paratrooper, were remanded to Limerick Prison where they spent 12 days before being released on 2500 euros bail each and surrender of their passports. Five months later, the two  peace activists are still here, but they are not silent.

"The U.S. military is using this civilian airport as a U.S. base, thereby contributing to death and destruction throughout the Middle East and North Africa. What I find particularly heart-rending is that some of this material goes to support the Saudi attack in Yemen where there are over a million people on the verge of starvation. After the starvation that devastated Ireland in the 19th century, it is particularly tragic and bitterly ironic that this nation should be complicit in the starvation of over a million people." said Mayers.

"It's hugely important to us here in Ireland that these two veterans did this. It internationalizes the situation. These two gentlemen didn't commit a crime, they were trying to prevent crimes being committed and crimes being facilitated at Shannon Airport. The following day after they did their action, ten children from one extended family were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan. According to our research up to one million children have died as a result of these wars." Edward Horgan, retired Irish Army Commandant 

The walk in September will go from Limerick to the most northerly point in Ireland, Malin Head. The first section of the walk will go from Limerick Prison to the steps of the Ennis Court House, arriving on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The courthouse is where the two men were remanded to Limerick Prison. 

Clare Daly, a member of European Parliament commented, "Instead of allowing the case to go to trial, we had the judge denying them bail which is an absolute violation of human rights. It's an appalling treatment of two elderly gentlemen, to take their passports and effectively almost intern them in Ireland. If you compare that to the treatment myself and Mick Wallace got when we did essentially the same thing, to try and exercise our public duty to do what the government won't do, to examine U.S. aircraft to see whether the undertaking that we are told exists, if they are unarmed and not involved in any military action is indeed true. We had a trial, we were issued with a fine, which we didn't pay and in defiance of that we were sent to prison, supposedly for a month but we served about 2 hours of that. The discrepancy in their treatment and ours is really regrettable." 

From Ennis Courthouse, Ken and Tarak will then walk from Ennis to Eyre Square in Galway, arriving there on Monday, Sept. 16. 

From Galway they will be driven to Manorhamilton on Sept. 18 to speak at 8 pm at the Caife Bia Slainte.  

They will then walk to Sligo, a distance of 24K, arriving there on Friday, Sept. 20. 

From Sligo they will be driven to Letterkenny and from there will walk to Bridgend, arriving on Monday, Sept. 23. 

The final section of the September walk will be from Buncara to Malin Head, where the two freedom walkers will arrive on Friday, Sept. 27. Malin Head in Donegal is particularly significant to the two veterans because of the WW II Eire neutrality sign that has been restored there. 

For more information contact shannonwatch@gmail.com or phone 087 8225087.

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