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Brookside Parade Deems Peace "Too Controversial"

A local activist questions why minors on a brewery float pass muster, but NOW members and local Greens with peace signs were deemed too controversial for the Brookside St. Patrick's parade.
Local KS and MO chapters of the National Organization for Women were registered as entry #31 in the Brookside St. Patrick’s Day parade Saturday March 15. As we attempted to maneuver our convertible into the lineup, we were joined by NOW members already present who were told their “ERA Amendment – Simple Justice” signs were “too political” and couldn’t be carried in parade. No problem – we decided to fasten them to our car so we wouldn’t be carrying them.

Just a couple of entries ahead of us were individuals with NO NEW ARENA in green on the back of their t-shirts. Wasn’t that a political statement? Maybe it was OK because it was green? We were wearing pink, not exactly the color of the day, and the volunteer parade organizers did seem a bit overwrought with the enormity of trying to control the chaos.

Soon a group of youngsters who knew one of the NOW members walked up and told us their entry had been kicked out of parade before they even arrived due to the “attitude of the two who showed up first.” They appeared to be around 12 to 14 years old and were wearing green face paint, hats and carrying signs saying ELVES FOR PEACE and ALE NOT OIL. “No problem,” we said, "march with us and carry NOW signs". (NOW members have learned to be quite adaptable.)

Our group, now larger by the eight youngsters, was waiting for the parade to start rolling when a male parade official approached us and told us we couldn’t carry our PEACE NOW sign. At this point, everything got a little fuzzy for me as I went ballistic. “What about the NO NEW ARENA t-shirts in front of us?” I asked. Their message wasn’t considered ‘controversial’ but our PEACE NOW was – in his mind anyway – and he was the person in charge of the moment.

I continued to tell him we had the right to free speech and didn’t want to be in the dumb parade anyway if we couldn’t carry our signs. He then told us we were out of the parade and he was going to get the police to remove us. I guess he didn’t like my attitude about his parade. (I’m not Irish and have never gotten into the hullabaloo and usually refrain from wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day) The “elves” decided to take their signs and stand along the parade route.

Unable to believe this was really happening and still inflamed, I was willing to carry signs anyway when the police didn't come to escort us out of parade lineup. But my cohorts in crime were intimidated and told me I would be in the parade by myself if I got the signs out of the trunk where we had stashed them. It didn't help that one of our members kept telling the rest of the women that civil disobedience needed to be planned. She warned that they would only allow me one phone call, my cell phone would be confiscated and my dogs (in the car in pink bows) would be homeless, etc. By this time, my NOW friends thought everything was my fault and that if I hadn’t shown the sign everything would have been OK.

I found our ouster particularly irksome given that directly in front of us was a Boulevard Brewery Beer truck full of minors. Hellooo … is anybody paying attention? Instead of labeling our peace signs as controversial, why didn’t the controversy monitors weigh in on sending such a mixed message to underage drinkers?

Regrouping, we decided to approach the NO NEW ARENA folks, who turned out to be mayoral candidate Stan Glazer and his supporters. They were stunned that we were told we could not participate because they had not been admonished for their message. Stan seemed to relish the idea of us being evicted from parade because of the possible publicity. They were sympathetic and told us they would testify in our behalf if we were arrested. Somehow we weren’t consoled.

In the end, NOW joined the parade, minus the peace signs. We had four large NOW signs displaying our logo, one CODE PINK: WOMEN 4 PEACE on the front windshield (which the monitor overlooked because we had it face down when the parade began) and a bumper sticker that read “America’s problems won’t be solved in Iraq”. After all this, we did manage to make a statement and met with much support along the route.

“Pick your battles” is the cliché we acquiesced to in Brookside on Saturday. By late Saturday evening, our courage had returned and we regretted not taking our PEACE NOW signs out of trunk.

As it turned out, we squeaked by. At Sunday's Peace Vigil the first person I told about almost being kicked out of the parade said her sister was kicked out. When Greens, Elise Kline and Patrice Cuddy, arrived at lineup dressed in appropriate attire for the occasion, they were confronted immediately by 3 monitors and 2 police officers who told them they couldn’t carry PEACE IS GREEN signs decorated with shamrocks. They were the ones told they had an attitude and were ousted before the ‘Elves for Peace’ could connect with them. They dealt with their removal quite amicably but were still in disbelief on Sunday as Brookside Parade organizers had only told them that no "insulting" signs would be allowed.

Could peace be insulting, controversial and political? Let’s see--- Opponents in a heated mayoral campaign, controversial political statements on t-shirts and signs, open beer drinking, ROTC Reservists marching, beer truck filled with minors. Hmmm...I must be missing something?

In light of the times we are in – with the Patriot ACT and Patriot ACT II in the wings – this appears to be an issue worth fighting for. As small as it may seem, there are no free speech issues too small to matter. If we capitulate on the little things, we will soon forget how to stand on the big issues.

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Re: Brookside Parade Deems Peace

This article is right on. The moment we stop risking it all is the moment we loose it all. It takes a huge amount of courage for women to step outside the "Good Girl" role. You go women!

Re: Brookside Parade Deems Peace

Thanks, Sharon, for letting us know about this issue. Janet

Re: Brookside Parade Deems Peace

i was working down in brookside the day of the parade and i saw sign after sign that had some sort of political message, mostly for the mayoral race. my friends were told that their peace signs were too political and were not allowed in. i guess it's ok to parade for votes, just not for peace.

Re: Brookside Parade Deems Peace

Sharon and others, we'll just keep hammering away with our message of "there's a better way to run this world". Peace!!

Re: Brookside Parade Deems Peace

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Re: Brookside Parade Deems Peace "Too Controversial"



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