Iraq war veteran Emily Yates has become something of an Internet celebrity after video of her violent arrest on Independence Mall on Aug. 31 went viral. The reason for her dustup with federal Park Police? She demanded to know why she was being forced to stop playing her banjo following an anti-war-on-Syria protest. Yates, an Oakland, Calif., resident, singer-songwriter and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, was in Philly for a gig. Detained for three days, she was charged and released with a black eye and wrist injuries. Her right hand remains numb and unusable; she had to cancel the rest of her tour as a result. She spoke with CP on her way back home to recover.
City Paper: Was there a moment when you turned from soldier to peace activist?
Emily Yates: I joined [the Army] shortly after 9/11, but it wasn’t because I was like, “Let’s go get those fuckers!” I wanted to be a journalist. … I thought, “I can go and cover the shit that’s about to go down.” I wasn’t joining to be a fucking soldier. I was joining the military so I could be a reporter on the frontline of whatever was happening — and then it turns out that in the Army a journalist is a public affairs specialist. I was seeing not only that the Iraqi people didn’t want us there, and not only that my own well-being was being placed in danger for something I didn’t believe in, but also how much of a huge financial waste was happening. … And I’m making this newsletter to the troops, telling them how awesome of a job they’re doing.
CP: You’ve joined dozens of protests. Ever had an experience like you had in Philly?
EY: I’ve never been arrested at a protest before. … I have had interactions with police that are positive. But at Occupy Oakland, I witnessed a fellow Iraq Veteran Against the War member get shot in the head by the Oakland PD, so I’m aware that police can and often do take really aggressive action against people protesting. But I’ve never in my life experienced aggression like I did that Saturday. I went to war two times, and I’ve never experienced aggression like that.
CP: What’s next?
EY: I’m hoping to get back to my music, as much as I can, and activism. … All I want to do is get back to some semblance of normality, so I can be a good wife and a good person — not an angry one — and not constantly closing my eyes and thinking about getting beaten and feeling like the world is a shitty, shitty place.
Read the full interview on our blog.
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