John McCain's Office Sics Police on Veterans Demanding He Reject Rex Tillerson's Confirmation

Seven were arrested after confronting the Arizona senator at his office Thursday.

Photo Credit: Iraq Veterans Against the War

John McCain refused to meet Thursday with a group of nine U.S. military veterans demanding an opportunity to express their opposition to the nomination of Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil oil tycoon who Donald Trump tapped to serve as secretary of state in his administration of white nationalists and overt racists. Instead, McCain’s office called the police, who promptly arrested seven veterans, six of them hailing from Iraq Veterans Against the War and one from Greenpeace.

“We have a real concern about an oil executive becoming secretary of state," Matt Howard, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, told Business Insider before he was arrested. "We know that this has been an industry and a person that has used the military to subsidize his own ability to make profit.”

Garett Reppenhagen, also a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, told AlterNet over the phone that it is particularly important to oppose the nomination of Tillerson “in a day and age when we have increased resource wars and the transformation of our climate.” He emphasized that “having an oil executive as the secretary of state is the wrong message we want to send to the world. There is definitely a conflict of interest. It will result in losing more lives.”

“The senator failed us,” Reppenhagen continued, explaining that before visiting his office, the veterans had sent him letters requesting a meeting. On Thursday, the veterans waited for hours to meet with the senator, who was in the building at the time, say organizers. But McCain declined to sit down with the delegation, and instead his staffers called the police. “It would have taken him two minutes to hear what we had to say, but that wasn’t the case,” said Reppenhagen.

The arrests were live-streamed on social media and captured in photographs provided by journalist Antonia Juhasz, who was live at the scene.

In an article published earlier this month, Juhasz warned that “Tillerson could be America's most dangerous secretary of state.” Tillerson worked at Exxon Mobile for 41 years, serving the last decade as CEO before retiring at the beginning of this year. The company, which operates in approximately 200 countries, currently faces fraud investigations over charges  it financed and backed junk research promoting the denial of climate change over the course of decades. It is responsible for perpetrating human rights abuses, exploiting and killing workers, spreading environmental destruction and supporting authoritarian leaders around the world, prompting protests from Iraq to Nigeria.

Tillerson’s confirmation vote is scheduled for Monday. McCain has so far refused to commit to a “no” vote, stating Monday that he “barely” supports Tillerson’s confirmation.

The arrests come as communities across the country prepare to take to the streets to protest the inauguration of Trump, whose campaign was predicated on racist incitement against refugees, immigrants and the Black Lives Matter movement among countless others. In a call-to-action released ahead of the upcoming mass protests, the Washington, D.C.-based Disrupt J20 collective declared, “We must take to the streets and protest, blockade, disrupt, intervene, sit in, walk out, rise up, and make more noise and good trouble than the establishment can bear. The parade must be stopped. We must delegitimize Trump and all he represents. It’s time to defend ourselves, our loved ones, and the world that sustains us as if our lives depend on it—because they do.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

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