Libertarian activist Adam Kokesh, who admits to a history of mental instability and post-traumatic stress disorder, is calling for an armed march on Washington, D.C., to protest against “tyranny.”
Kokesh proposed a march with loaded rifles from Virginia in D.C. on July 4. D.C. police have promised to block the march from crossing into Washington.
“This is now a call for mass civil disobedience on July 4th anywhere in Washington, D.C.,” he wrote on a Facebook page for the event. “We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny.”
Kokesh, 31, who served as a non-commissioned officer in the Marines and reservist, wrote a 2005 college thesis entitled “Hot, Dirty, and Dangerous: Seven Months of Civil and Not-So-Civil Affairs In And Around Fallujah.”
He mentions PTSD in the thesis, writing “I had a number of anxiety attacks those first few days back [from Iraq].”
“I didn’t feel comfortable getting drunk, and the crowds made me nervous. When dealing with crowds in Iraq, I was always armed and I always had someone watching my back, usually with a machine gun. A cardinal rule for interacting with crowds was to never let anyone get behind you,” Kokesh wrote. “We had all heard the horror story of a Marine who was killed with his own pistol. When crowds got close around me I would often just leave one hand on my pistol and let my rifle dangle on the sling in front of me.”
Used to getting his way, Kokesh eventually got his college to let him carry a gun to class, despite its firearms policy.
“Every time someone bumped into me from behind at a party I instinctively reached down for my pistol and had a moment of awkward panic before realizing that I was being absurd,” he wrote in his thesis. “I had developed such a strong habit of waking up two or three minutes before my alarm that I often woke up thinking I had to be somewhere. I was so used to being on guard when in public that it was hard to truly relax at first.”
The idea of loaded weapons at a protest march was met with disdain from pro-gun groups.
“That’s a good way to provoke something, and that’s not likely to end well,” said Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America.
Former prosecutor Jeffrey Scott Shapiro of the Second Amendment Foundation also thought the protest was risky.
“It’s a very dangerous thing to do because the bridges that connect Virginia and Washington are under the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia where carrying firearms are illegal,” said Shapiro.
Others say it’s just a nonviolent way for Kokesh to feed his ego.
“The thing about Adam is he’s a publicity hound. He loves the attention. He’s got a huge ego,” said Codepink co-founder Medea Benjamin, who worked with Kokesh in the past. “And I think he’s really enjoying this one.”
Kokesh has organized on issues ranging from peace in Iraq to support for presidential candidate Ron Paul. He ran for the Republican congressional nomination in New Mexico in 2010, during which he mentioned his PTSD. In a December 2011 interview with Las Cruces Sun-News, Kokesh said he used medical marijuana to deal with “flashbacks and nightmares.”