Anti-War, Gay Veterans Groups Censored
Anti-War, Gay Veterans Groups Censored in Atlanta Veterans Parade
By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor, The Atlanta Progressive News
(APN) ATLANTA – The Veterans for Peace Chapter 125 (VFP) and American Veterans for Equal Rights Georgia (AVER) are being censored by the Georgia Veterans Day Parade Association of Atlanta in the upcoming Veterans Day Parade to be held in downtown Atlanta on Sunday, November 11, 2007, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
Both groups had their applications to participate in the Parade originally denied. "APPLICATION DENIED. FAILURE TO FOLLOW GUIDELINES IN PREVIOUS YEAR!" the Association wrote on a returned VFP application obtained by Atlanta Progressive News. AVER Georgia President Danny Ingram said his group’s returned application had similar language.
Yet, after first having their applications denied, the Association now says that they can march but cannot display any messages of peace, in the case of VFP, or show any "public displays of affection," in the case of AVER.
"This is not a political parade. I don't know who the hell you are. We don't allow anyone out there to promote ideas. There is no agenda allowed," Melvin Myers, President of the Parade Association, told Atlanta Progressive News in a phone interview.
"Matthew, knock it out. Are you some kind of communist or something?" Myers told this reporter in response to questions about the parade. "You’re trying to be Mr. CNN. I don’t have to answer you. We’re not a government agency!" Myers shouted.
VETERANS FOR PEACE CANNOT DISPLAY PEACE MESSAGES
"I served my time for my country, they served their time for my country also. We just view it differently," Reid Jenkins, a veteran and Member of VFP 125, told APN.
"They are saying that we can't be Americans pretty much. They're saying that we can't challenge our government. Veterans for Peace is an organization that challenges the government on this Iraq war [among other things]. We believe that the US Constitution allows the people to challenge the government," Jenkins said.
"We believe the people have a voice in this government. People have a right to challenge the President. There are different parts of our government. There’s the President, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Judiciary, and the people. We are the people," Jenkins said.
"I feel like I'm living in Nazi Germany," Jenkins said.
When asked what specifically VFP had done to violate the "guidelines" last year, "They were riding along in a float with a sign on it. The sign said BRING THEM HOME... NOW," Myers said.
"A man in the float said Bush lied, people died. And Bush was responsible for September 11th. That's not the message we want to portray to our community," Myers said.
Photographs obtained by APN show that VFP indeed had a truck with a banner that said, "BRING THEM HOME... NOW!" The truck also had a banner with a picture of Lt. Ehren Watada, who as previously reported in APN, was the first officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq because he argued the invasion was illegal.
"I cannot think of a right-thinking person who would not be in favor of peace," Thomas Unger, a VFP 125 Member, told APN.
"I can't understand. My son just got back from Baghdad. I don't take a backseat to anyone when it comes to fighting and killing. But I understand that it’s not a good thing," Unger said.
"How unpatriotic can you be! What kind of a maniac would want their sons and daughters home safe?!" Unger said sarcastically about the Association’s response. "This is through the looking glass, up is down and down is up. This is an Orwellian wet dream."
"There were some bad signs too, carried by a sympathizer. He wasn't a member of the organization," Unger said. Unger added he did not feel it was his authority to ask the man to leave, but that he reported it to Debbie Clark, another VFP 125 leader.
Another VFP 125 member told APN that they asked the individual–Will Jones–not to march with the group, but did not have the authority to make him leave either.
"We're not supposed to be sitting there worrying about this crazy stuff. We have Board Members mad now because we allowed them in the parade," Myers said.
Myers first claimed that VFP 125 violated the rules "even after we told them what the guidelines were. We told people this was not an agenda driven parade."
However, when asked if the guidelines were issued to VFP in writing, "I don't know whether I gave them all that kind of stuff." Myers admitted.
"They were let in the parade, even though they violated last year... the stipulation is they cannot have any banner or signs. I think they can have their name on there [the VFP flag]," Myers said.
VFP 125 does plan to march in the parade tomorrow with a flag showing the name of their organization, but will not show any messages of peace, they said.
GLBT VETERANS ANTICIPATE DISPUTE OVER PRIDE FLAG
"We did get a letter saying that our application was denied... [Rich] Sale, Parade Program Director, told me that some people had been offended by our presence there. He wasn't quite clear exactly what that was. I told him we were a Veterans group. We marched. We carried a US flag and a memorial flag. We marched in cadence, in uniform and everything. I didn't see what anyone could have been offended about about," Daniel Ingram, AVER Georgia President, said.
"We were there to honor veterans and to call attention to the fact we wanted all veterans to be honored including our veterans. He said that's cool. He said thank you for your service," Ingram said.
"What Debbie Clark heard from the President of the organization [Myers]," was different than what Sale told Ingram, he said.
"When Debbie told me [there were to be no public displays of affection], I was very surprised. We're a very professional group. We march in cadence. So, there could not possibly be any public display of affection while we were marching," Ingram said.
"[Clark] also mentioned something about the Pride Flag. We will have one again this year. We are the color guard for the annual Pride Parade in Atlanta. We always carry our flag in the color guard, we carried it in the parade, and we'll carry it again this year," Ingram said.
Does the Association know they will be bringing the Pride Flag again this year? "No they don't. They haven't said anything to me about it. We received no further instructions at all," Ingram said.
"But when I talked with Debbie [Clark], she made it clear they don't want gays in the parade. She said some general was screaming into the ears of the [Parade leadership] about gays in the parade. I have no doubt they didn't like us showing our presence there [unless] it would be incognito," Ingram said.
"We didn't want to do that, we wanted to show them who we are," Ingram said.
"Yes I do... [expect a problem]. We’ll have with us [City Councilwoman] Anne Fauver, she's an honorary member of our organization," Ingram said. Ingram believes having the openly homosexual member of City Council there may deflect any possible conflict, he said.
Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org