This past Saturday was the big Auburn Veteran’s Day Parade, and the anti-war group Veteran of Peace had 40 of their members marching in it.
The group has marched in the parade for the past six years, but this year held a special significance because they were nearly being banned from participating.
“The City of Auburn decided this year they weren’t going to let Veterans For Peace 92 in the parade,” says Veterans For Peace member, and Vietnam veteran, Mike Dedrick. “So they excluded us and we tried to talk it out with them, and argue for inclusion, and they said, ‘No.’ So we took our case to the ACLU.”
The ACLU filed suit against the City of Auburn and on Friday, a day before the parade, they went to federal court and a judge made her decision.
“Judge Pechman ruled in favor of the ACLU and the Veterans For Peace that the Veterans For Peace organization shall be allowed into the City of Auburn parade,” says Auburn’s City Attorney Dan Heid. He explains why the city wanted Veterans For Peace out.
“When you say things like ‘End the War Now’ and ‘The loss of life and the cost of the war is not worth it’ that demeans the service of those people who are put in that position of having to serve in those conflicts.”
Dan says the parade was created simply to thank veterans, not to push any political messages. But Mike says the judge’s decision was simple because it’s an issue of free speech. He says Veterans For Peace aren’t doing anything radical.
“We’re marching like everybody else,” Mike says. “We carry a peace flag, which is an American flag but in place of the stars is a peace symbol. At the head of our formation is an American flag. We don’t solicit the crowd, we don’t hand out anything. We just have our presence there to make our point.”
According to the “Seattle Times,” parade goers were accepting of Veterans For Peace, with the exception of one person who booed and a small group of uniformed men who turned their backs as they marched by. Mike says they’ve always had the support of the community.
“Almost everybody will clap or wave, come up to us afterward and say, ‘Thank you for being here.’ That was particularly so this year. Everybody knew about the issue. Even if they didn’t particularly agree with our point of view, they agreed with the point of view that we should be included and our voice should be heard.”
Mike says Veterans For Peace spend the rest of the year going into schools and talking to students about the reality of war, to counteract the messages from military recruiters.
The group was granted a temporary restraining order, so they could march in Saturday’s parade, but the issue isn’t 100 percent resolved. But Mike feels confident that the city will recognize their 1st amendment rights and allow them to march in years to come.
“I think that Veterans Day has been so politicized and so hyped that it has lost what it’s original intention was; it was Armistice Day, which was a day partially dedicated, not only to veterans, but also to discussions and furthering the cause of world peace. I don’t see how you can talk about veterans without talking about peace.”