November 12, 2003
Anti-Iraq war veterans pulled from parade
By J. TAYLOR RUSHING
Capital Bureau Chief
TALLAHASSEE -- A group of 30 military veterans critical of the war in Iraq hoped to use Tuesday's Veterans Day parade to call attention to the increasingly deadly conflict but instead found themselves fighting for something much more fundamental.
Members of Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War were yanked off a downtown Tallahassee street, directly in front of the Old Capitol, while marching in the holiday parade they had legitimately registered in.
As organizers allowed the parade to roll on -- including veterans from various wars, several high school marching bands and even a group of young women from the local Hooters restaurant -- the anti-war veterans were ordered onto sidewalks where they passed out leaflets and displayed a banner reading, "Honor the Warrior, Not the War."
"There's a war going on that's based on lies, just like Vietnam," said veteran Tom Baxter, an Army equipment maintenance officer in Vietnam for 16 months in 1967-69. "They were lying then, and they're lying now."
Parade chairman Ken Conroy, a Korean War veteran, said he ejected the anti-war veterans because they were offensive and because Tallahassee police also wanted them removed. He offered to refund their $10 registration fee and said he was not suppressing the group's free speech rights.
"They can have their free speech, just not in the parade," Conroy said. "They belong on the sidewalk."
So much for free speech in the U.S. huh??