May 29, 2006

Hawk bullying

UPDATE: this story got written up in today's Register-Mail.

A letter to the editor:

One of the many groups that marched in this year's Memorial Day Parade was the Knox County Peace and Justice Coalition. We leave our actual protest signs at home for Memorial Day; instead, we have a batch of smaller "Peace" and "Knox County Peace and Justice" signs, and one big posterboard sign. That sign remembers the 2,464 dead of the current war as well as the 17,648 wounded; they may be injured, they may be gone, but they are not forgotten.

Or at least, they wouldn't have been. As we were lining up for the parade, a man from the motorcycle group a few places behind us came up and notified us that "some people" would not be happy with the sign. We acknowledged the possibility, but kept the sign out, so he left and came back with five or six of his friends, who surrounded our group and very aggressively insisted that we not use the sign with the numbers on it, as this parade was "hallowed ground". They made vague legal threats on the basis of the new funeral protest law, and there was an implication that someone might get hurt.

We then edited the sign to make it even clearer that it was meant as a memorial: in its final form, it read "We remember/2464 dead/17648 wounded/Never forget!" But this was not enough, as a few minutes later this group came back again, actually grabbed one of our leaders by the shoulders, and made us put the sign away. Various members of their group (not by far the entire motorcycle group; I estimate there were less than a dozen harassing us) kept coming back up the line to check on us.

Not willing to be completely bullied by these thugs, I hastily made some smaller signs that just said "2464" to tape in my windows, which I didn't put up until the line had started moving. Nevertheless, the situation was entirely unacceptable. Though we had every right to protest, we did not, out of respect; and yet we were harassed, intimidated, and assaulted just for not being willing to sweep our thousands of war dead under the rug.

I understand that these men are veterans, and that they are politically in favor of the war, and that is their right. But it is shameful for them to use a show of force to silence those who would remember the losses of families in Galesburg, in Knoxville, and across the country. Not on Memorial Day; not on any day.

"Maybe it's time for real artists with the English language to replace a few Latin I students on ICEL." --Todd

Posted by blahedo at 1:56pm on 29 May 2006
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