Three Iraq war protesters were arrested Sunday evening after crossing onto Fort Benning property.
Liam Madden and Nate Lewis, both 24, were taken into custody by military police shortly before 6 p.m. for stepping onto federal property, according to post spokeswoman Monica Manganaro. A third unidentified protester was also detained for committing the same infraction approximately 30 minutes after Madden and Lewis were arrested, Manganaro added.
Lewis and Madden, both members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, were charged with criminal trespass. They, along with six other members of the anti-war organization, are currently on a bus tour protesting military bases around the country and speaking to soldiers. The group's tour bus was parked outside the stone gate on Fort Benning Road off Victory Drive, Manganaro said.
Michael Blake, 24, of Iraq Veterans Against the War, said his comrades didn't break the law intentionally. They simply crossed a line that wasn't clearly marked, he said.
"What they were doing is they were going to step up to the guard and ask him if they could come onto base," Blake said. "It was a complete accident."
Manganaro said she didn't know the specifics of the incident, but the law is clear when it comes to protesting on military installations: It's illegal.
"If individuals are protesting outside a military installation and they come onto the installation, they've broken a law."
Manganaro said the protesters were given a verbal warning not to come onto the property.
Blake said Madden and Lewis are both veterans with valid Veterans Affairs cards and should be allowed onto the post. As soon as the protestors crossed the line, Blake said, two military police officers approached them, cuffed them and charged them.
This isn't the first incident of Iraq Veterans Against the War protestors being detained for bringing their message to military installations.
According to the group's Web site, five members were handcuffed Saturday morning at Fort Jackson in South Carolina after attempting to meet a fellow member on base for lunch. They were wearing T-shirts with "Iraq Veterans Against the War" and because of that they were considered protesters, Blake said.
None of the members were arrested that day, but they were removed from the base, Blake said.
In addition to the handful of anti-war Iraq veteran protestors traveling from base-to-base, a small crew of film makers from the Showtime Network is also on hand to document their journey. Blake said their presence, however, had nothing to do with Sunday evening's proceedings.
"We had no plan to go on base unauthorized," Blake said. "We're all pretty upset. We didn't come here to make trouble."