Message to veteran groups from parade organizers: STFU

Conventional wisdom is that the men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line in combat are fighting for “our freedom” and the “American way of life”. That means that they are fighting for constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, assembly, religion and the rest of the Bill of Rights — at least in theory.

One would think that veterans, of all people, would be entitled to have their right to freedom of speech respected. But that is not the case in Long Beach,CA, for veterans who want to express their views about the Iraq war in a Veterans’ Day parade.

According to an article by Kelly Puente in the Press-Telegram three veterans groups will not be permitted to march in the 11th Annual Long Beach Veterans’ Parade this year because they are “too political” because of their opposition to the Iraq war. Many members of these groups are combat veterans and family members of those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The three groups denied a place in the parade are Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Iraq veteran Jason Lemieux might not be marching in the 11th annual Long Beach Veterans Day Parade on Saturday.The Marine, who served three tours of duty in Iraq and is now against the war, was hoping to march as a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, a national organization that calls for immediate withdrawal of troops in Iraq.

The group’s application, however, was rejected last month because of its political views, parade coordinators said.

“I wanted to march like the rest of the Iraq veterans,” said Lemieux, a 24-year-old Anaheim resident. “I served my country. I’m a veteran of a foreign war. I think I deserve that respect.”

The parade organizers screen the applications of groups wanting to participate and have decided to exclude those whose political views they disagree with. The message to veterans that do not toe the official line: STFU — and don’t march in our parade. Said parade coordinator Martha Thuente as she explained the reasoning behind the exclusion:

“They do not fit the spirit of the parade,” she said. “The spirit being one of gratitude for what the veterans have done. We do not want groups of a political nature, advocating the troops withdrawal from Iraq.”

Veterans groups are outraged and angry.

“It think it’s absurd,” said Adrian Novotny, president of the Long Beach Chapter of Veterans for Peace, a national nonprofit that advocates non-violence, VA healthcare and veterans’ rights. “It’s a violation of Democracy, the whole concept which we are allegedly dying for.”

As a footnote, it is worth noting that taxpayer dollars are being used to support this discrimination against certain veterans groups: the city of Long Beach provides the staffing, flags, banners, utilities and police protection for the parade.

Iraq veteran Lemieux says it best:

Lemieux said he just wants his voice to be heard.

“It feels like I’ve been betrayed by the very people I fought to serve,” he said. “They should be embarrassed by themselves.”

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Explore posts in the same categories: freedom of speech, Iraq, politics, Veteran's day parades, Veterans

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