Kokesh, a passionate Ron Paul supporter, is 26 and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He served in Fallujah in 2004, grew up in Santa Fe, and currently lives in Washington, D.C. He has a website.
At the beginning of McCain's speech, Kokesh held up a sign reading, "McCain Votes Against Vets" and yelled, "Ask him why he votes against vets!" I followed as Kokesh was escorted out of the Excel Center by security, handcuffed by local police, and then briefly questioned while security debated whether or not the Secret Service would get involved. They did not. He was then escorted off the premises and allowed to go free. I interviewed him just outside the security gates, where he was greeted happily by antiwar protesters.
Why were you here in the Twin Cities? And how did you get into the Excel Center?
I was here in Minneapolis for the IVAW convention and thought I’d stick around for this.
Well I’ve been a Ron Paul supporter since the beginning of this campaign. Since before this campaign started, actually, I’ve been a fan of Paul. So I’ve got a lot of friends in the Ron Paul crowd. And he’s got a lot of delegates in there. More than the Republican Party is willing to admit. And the fact that I got into there is proof of that. One of Paul’s alternate delegates got me a guest pass.
Were you surprised to be handcuffed? Or are you just relieved you were not arrested or detained longer?
I was actually expecting to get manhandled much sooner. [During the heckling], someone was grabbing my belt and pulling on me. And then someone pulled the sign out of my hands.
Do you feel your protest was effective?
Well I wasn’t so much trying to interrupt the speech as make the point that McCain has a horrible voting record on veterans. What the Republican Party is doing with their take on the war in Iraq is spinning it in such a way that it’s about victory or defeat. But they can’t face up to the fact that you can’t win an occupation. In an occupation, everybody loses. What we’re calling for is an immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq.
Who will you vote for in November?