Parkland kids inspire a veteran to march

This won't be his last protest.

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Image credit: Zach D. Roberts / NationofChange

The March for Our Lives brought over 800,000 people out to the streets of our nation’s capital… hundreds of thousands more across the country as well. Like the Women’s March in January of 2017 or the March for Science a couple months later – the March for Our Lives brought a new contingent of people out to the streets.

I’ve known Bill Fulton personally for a little over a year. But the first time I met him I was in Alaska working for an Alaskan political blog called TheMudflats.net. That was the site that broke nearly every single Sarah Palin related news story you heard on the nightly news during the ’08 campaign – except the writers of the site, Jeanne Devon and Shannyn Moore never got any credit for them.

When I was up there, it was 2010 and Tea Party darling Joe Miller was running for U.S. Senate. Fulton was working security for the Miller campaign and due to an incident with a reporter which all the media got wrong (including us) we be came familiar with the then private security professional.

Years later we would find out that our understanding of the incident was wrong and that Fulton had been working undercover to stop a militia from killing government employees. Well, at least that’s the long and short of it. You can read the full story in the book he co-wrote with Jeanne Devon, called The Blood of Patriots.

So, when Bill Fulton told me that he was going to be attending the March for Our Lives in Washington DC, I was more than a bit surprised.

While he has a strong disdain for the NRA, something I interviewed him about previously, he’s not the protesting type. Nor was he someone who ever would have considered himself a progressive. In fact, he often spoke of being something along the lines of a libertarian.

But the last rash of shootings and the gun lobby’s reaction to them seems to have moved him. The fear tactics that that the National Rifle Association uses really gets to him, especially their claims that every piece of gun reform legislation is just a slippery slope to confiscation. Says Fulton:

“Well, it’s ideological messaging, which the NRA is beautiful at. They have a set ideology of fear and you have to have the ability to resist your government, and a lot of things that are based in nothing but someone’s worst nightmares. They keep the debate based on fear and we’re saying, let’s get facts, not fear.”

The fact that the people that the NRA speaks to are the same that he still investigates is top on the list of why he’s here today.

He still works counter-terrorism, following right-wing militia groups like the one that he helped take down in Alaska. These groups have a love for the types of weapons used in Las Vegas and Parkland; you see them on the flags they wave with “Come and Take it” emblazoned across it.

Fulton told me, “…in these we find this huge attachment to these types of weapons, and the fact that they’re available to people that literally want to murder innocent people is ridiculous. We have whole groups of these people all over the country, not just Alaska.”

Before he moved to Alaska he was Army Infantry for over a decade, so he knows guns. In fact he owns firearms very similar to the ones used in Parkland. It’s why it’s important that he and the group he came with made a showing at the marches across the country.

Fulton says it’s “because we do know the language. We know the guns. When you want to shut down the debate about gun violence because somebody doesn’t know the difference between a clip or a magazine, we’re standing up and saying, ‘Okay, we know the difference.’”

Fulton joined the group of veterans, Common Defense, at the Navy Memorial along Pennsylvania Ave. The plan was originally to march with banners that read #VetsVsHate but as the march turned out to be too massive to move, they stayed in place, catching the attention from many journalists and lots of kids who posed for photos with the diverse group.

Image Credit: Zach D. Roberts / NationofChange

Pam Campos, the executive director of the group, described the relatively newly formed org as a “grassroots national organization that was born out of the Vets vs Hate Movement in 2016.”

Common Defense is a PAC that not only fights for veterans issues, it endorses veterans for political office. But most importantly, they use the national respect that people have for veterans to speak out on issues like gun reform.

Campos told me they represent, “Veterans who are tired of being used as political props, who want our own political voice, and who do not stand for the politics of bigotry and hate.”

I didn’t specifically ask, but it was pretty easy to assume that these men and women weren’t Trump voters. They also weren’t the stereotypical anti-war vets in wrinkled and tattered battle dress uniforms – they were clean cut and wearing matching black t-shirts with the hashtag #VetsForGunRefrom.

One of the big arguments on the right against the idea of respecting a student led movement is their age.

Campos scoffed at the idea, telling me,  “These children are bigger leaders than our politicians…. So, I grew up in Boston. I have seen violence, gun violence, in my communities. I enlisted when I was 18. I enlisted out of high school. A lot of these children could enlist in the military themselves. And so, how is it that we can say that children can handle weapons of war, and enlist in the military, and yet also not listen to them now, when they’re demanding better and safer schools?”

The group rallied around the signs numbered a couple dozen, but dispersed throughout the crowd there were another 200 or so. But this is only the start, even Bill Fulton the previous activism cynic told me it wouldn’t be his last protest.

Next up on Bill and Pam’s slate is a bill that’s co-sponsored by Republican congressman Don Young and Democratic Vincente Gonzalez. The bill, HR 3429 “Repatriate Our Patriots Act,” will bring back home ‘alien’ veterans who served honorably, but because of a minor offense were deported.

If they can bring Don Young, Alaska’s lone congressman, a man that believes that if German Jews in the 30’s had guns they could have prevented the Holocaust on board for a bill like this… I’m not sure what they can’t do.

Image Credit: Zach D. Roberts

 

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