From the May-June 2014 issue of News & Letters:
Peace activist veteran run down
Duluth, Minn.—Tom Gilliam is a survivor of the Vietnam War, a conscientious objector medic, assigned to a Marine Corps combat unit during the war. Throughout his time in Vietnam, he was surrounded by the disorientation and butchery of raw combat. He still has shrapnel in his body. More than a few Marines owe their lives to him, as he kept them from bleeding to death in the jungles of the night.
Immediately on returning to the U.S., Tom stripped off his military uniform and threw it into the nearest garbage can. A dedicated social activist, he is a member of Veterans For Peace (VFP) and Syndicalist Action Network (SAN). There has been more government and right-wing surveillance of VFP than any other left-of-center or radical organization in the country, much of which has been crude and abusive.
In July 2013 Tom told friends that he had been followed by “a man in a black pick-up truck.” The truck would overtake him, only to re-appear behind him. And that man, Tom said, shouted threats at him.
On Aug. 3, 2013, WDIO-TV Eyewitness News reported a solidarity rally for Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning in Duluth, Minn., where Tom was interviewed. He said in part: “We’re all in support of a great American hero and a patriot, somebody who blew the whistle on lies. And in an open society you need the truth.”
At approximately 3:00 AM on Aug. 5, Tom was pedaling his bicycle home from work when he was run down from behind by a dark blue mini-van. The impact was strong enough that the van’s side-mirror broke off and fell on the street. The driver fled.
Tom, with broken ribs and many fractured bones, was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital. The first policeman to arrive told the crowd, “We will probably never know who did this.” It was a witness who pointed to the evidence scattered on the street.
On Aug. 7 several members of SAN went to the Duluth police station but were told there was no “Incident File” for the assault on Tom. The sergeant said we should speak with the State Patrol. But the State Patrol also had nothing on file. Later that day, a police official contacted Tom at the Hospital and told him they were “starting” an “Incident File.”
On Aug. 13 SAN received a phone call from the detective assigned to investigate the attack on Tom. He said “We will probably never know who did this,” and that the Duluth police “do not have the staff or budget that would allow them to investigate.” The sergeant acknowledged that “there is more evidence than usual in this case” and said he would send out a Press Release asking for the public’s help in identifying the damaged blue mini-van.
We are still waiting for that appeal to the public. Tom’s brother hired two lawyers to investigate the attack. They told Tom that never in their professional lives had they encountered so much stonewalling by police!
In October 2013, surgeons removed much of Tom’s kidney. Unable to work because of injuries and complications resulting from the attack, the struggle of daily life for Tom is difficult. You can send an email message of solidarity to Tom at: email@example.com; you can send a complaint or protest to The City of Duluth, St. Louis County, MN, http://www.duluthmn.gov
—SAN, 323 Fourth Street, Cloquet, MN 55720–2051, phone: +218.879.8628