Anti-war veterans decry parade snub
Sponsor says group ‘ineligible’ for holiday event; appeal to Phoenix mayor planned
By Eugene Scott The Republic | azcentral.com Tue Nov 5, 2013 10:16 PM
A veterans group denied a spot in Monday’s Veterans Day Parade plans to protest the decision outside Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s office today.
Richard A. Smith, spokesman for the Winter Soldier Chapter (Phoenix) of Veterans for Peace, an international non-profit that promotes alternatives to war and often opposes military action, said his group’s application was denied by Honoring Arizona’s Veterans, the parade’s presenting sponsor, because it did not approve of a quote the group wanted read during the event.
The quote is: “Members of Veterans for Peace use their military experience to testify to the brutal consequences of war and seek peaceful and effective alternatives. As veterans, they embrace a heightened sense of responsibility to serve the cause of peace through non-violence as exemplified by Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez.”
Honoring Arizona’s Veterans also requires participants to sign a waiver releasing Phoenix from responsibility if anything were to go wrong.
Phoenix does not sponsor the parade, but the city provides support, such as police, traffic control, street sweeping and other staffing related to street closures and traffic control, said David Urbinato, spokesman for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department.
Veterans for Peace submitted its application with the waiver blacked out, said Katherine Brooks, chairwoman of Honoring Arizona’s Veterans.
“They were not willing to meet the guidelines of the parade when they submitted the application,” she said.
The group denied Veterans for Peace’s application, she said, “because, just like any other organization whose applications are accompanied by threats and demands, deem themselves ineligible to participate.”
Brooks would not share details of the demands and threats, saying “that’s a private matter between us and Veterans for Peace.”
Smith filed a complaint with the Phoenix office of the American Civil Liberties Union in October, accusing Honoring Arizona’s Veterans of violating Veterans for Peace’s free-speech rights. Smith, an attorney, said his group will sue Honoring Arizona’s Veterans and Phoenix if they are not allowed to march in the parade.
“We’ve told them on several occasions we’re going to be in the parade one way or another. We’re entitled to be in the parade,” Smith said.
Brooks said Veterans for Peace’s forcing their way into the parade is a violation of Honoring Arizona’s Veteran’s rights.
“The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees that as a private entity, we have the right to determine who is going to be a part of our parade,” she said.
Because Phoenix provides taxpayer-funded services at the parade, Smith said, he considers Phoenix a co-sponsor.
“I told the mayor and City Council if they don’t immediately repudiate and denounce Honoring Arizona’s Veterans for the comments that they made about us, that we will conclude that the city of Phoenix agrees with them,” he said.
Representatives from Veterans for Peace spoke at last week’s City Council meeting and asked Stanton and the council to force Honoring Arizona’s Veterans to allow the group in the parade.
Because the group’s request was during the public-comment section, the mayor and council members could not respond.
Brooks said Veterans for Peace is mischaracterizing the city’s involvement with the parade.
“The city has done nothing for our organization, which is a privately funded non-profit, other than what they normally do in line with the responsibilities they have to make sure it is a safe event,” she said.
Urbinato later told The Arizona Republic that the city has no power to intervene in Honoring Arizona’s Veterans’ decision.
“We’re not a sponsor, so the event producer maintains control over the entries into their event, which is true of all privately produced parades and events on city streets,” he said.
Regarding the waiver that parade participants must sign, Urbinato said all private-event producers, including Honoring Arizona’s Veterans, sign Letters of Understanding that clarify that the city is not a sponsor/co-sponsor of their events and assumes no responsibility or liability for their event.
The city provides public-safety services and traffic control for any privately produced parade on city streets, he said.
According to city documents, Phoenix will spend up to $85,000 a year for logistical support. The city spent $38,000 in police overtime staffing for last year’s APS Electric Light Parade, Urbinato said. He said he could not estimate the total cost for the Veterans Day Parade.