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Updated Monday, November 12, 2012 at 08:18 AM

Anti-war group participates in Auburn Veterans Day Parade

By Erik Lacitis
Seattle Times staff reporter

Along the one-mile parade route, somebody at one point booed the 35 or so members of Veterans for Peace. And, there also was a handful of uniformed guys watching from the sidewalk who silently turned their backs as the vets walked by.

But, otherwise, after a federal judge Friday ordered the city of Auburn to allow the anti-war vets to participate in its popular, 47th annual Veterans Day Parade, it was a just a nice, crisp, sunny fall Saturday enjoyed by thousands of onlookers.

But some wondered why the city had gone to such great lengths to deny the vets a parade permit.

After all, VFP had taken part in the event for the past six years.

"I think everybody has a right to be here," said Josh Paligo, 39, an Auburn resident who was there with his fiancée and her son.

The fiancée, Stephanie Lewis, 38, who works in a dental office, said she didn't mind the anti-war vets.

"They have every right to say how they feel."

In their legal brief, in which they were joined by the ACLU, the vets asked why they were excluded while Auburn welcomed to its parade the Classical Glass Corvette Club, Point Man International Ministries and the Daffodil Festival Traveling Float.

Auburn claims its Veterans Day Parade, with 5,000 participants, is one of the largest in the country.

The city's mayor, Peter Lewis, a Vietnam vet, responded in a court declaration that Veterans for Peace was "not in keeping with the intentions, goals and the purposes" of the parade to "positively express appreciation for the sacrifices made (by) our veterans. ... "

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman pointedly disagreed with the city, saying that protecting unpopular speech "is what the First Amendment is all about."

She said it was a stretch to conclude that the group's message that "peace is a good thing" somehow dishonored vets.

Certainly, random interviews with other vets at the parade didn't result in anyone feeling dishonored.

Driving a restored 1943 Jeep was Denny Sapp, 67, of Gig Harbor, a Navy veteran who served 23 years, and flew 367 combat missions in Vietnam.

"I don't care, it doesn't make any difference to me," he said about the anti-war vets marching with U.S. flags embroidered with peace symbols where the stars should be.

"I'm anti-war," he said. "I was there and seen too much of it. I'm not going be out there demonstrating, but the guys who've been in combat, face-to-face, we're anti-war."

Added late to the parade roster of 184 participants, the anti-war vets were given slot No. 125A.

It was an hour after the start of the parade before they were called to start marching on East Main Street.

Michelle Kinnucan, president of the local VFP chapter, who served with the National Guard and the Coast Guard, urged the members to make sure they had taken the time to use the portable toilets. With some of the guys in their 60s and 70s, and a mile trek, she just wanted to remind them.

The vets were pleased with how their battle with the city turned out.

Mike Kearney, 73, of Tukwila, who was in the Army Infantry from 1962 to 1965, said, "We're sarcastically thinking of some way to honor the city for doing this for us. Everybody got stirred up. We had a lot of people being supportive."

Kearney said, "Even my ex-wife came to the parade."

Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or elacitis@seattletimes.com


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