Guest Commentary

Pro-war demonstrators infringe on the rights of anti-war protesters--and the authorities do nothing

Peace activists have been protesting the Iraq war in front of the Military Recruitment Center on Speedway Boulevard for more than three years. We want our troops out of Iraq; we want peace, and we want attention.

A police officer used to be stationed on the balcony of the building, where he had a clear view of our demonstration. We're as opposed to violence on the sidewalk as we are opposed to the Iraq war, so his job must have been very boring--until about six months ago.

Our peaceful protest was invaded by pro-Bush/pro-war demonstrators, a noisy, flag-waving, rowdy bunch who clearly believe they have the right to abuse us in any and every way possible. The police officer, who had been assigned to keep order in case any trouble was caused by non-violent peace advocates, ironically disappeared when the pro-war gang arrived.

Some of us try to reason with the invaders, but their insistence that the military is fighting for our right to protest, while they do everything they can to prevent us from exercising that right, drives me to respond in angry terms. I have voluntarily put my mouth under house arrest.

Many peaceful protesters, having been pushed off the sidewalks where we had always stood, have moved across the street. Bullies now move back and forth across the street to cover peace signs with their pro-war signs and American flags (as though the flag is a symbol of their country and not ours).

I continue to stand as close as possible to the position I usually took before they arrived. I walk through the gang of invaders, determined not to respond to their remarks, with one or two bullies following me, covering my sign as I make my way down the block.

On one occasion, an angry fellow gave me a shove, saying, "Go over to the other side of the street where you belong!" I regained my balance and let my mouth out of house arrest long enough to shout, "Police!" My verbal outburst startled him, and I walked down the block to stand apart from them as usual.

The officer who used to watch from the balcony drove up a few minutes later and asked me to point out the offender.

"She bumped into me," he said.

"That's hard to believe," the officer replied. "She's never caused any trouble here."

The bully went ballistic. I walked away and let him rant about his brother who was killed in Vietnam, hoping the policeman would understand that we are surrounded by people whose grief has made them irrational and dangerous.

The officer walked over to me and asked if I wanted to make a formal complaint.

"No, I want to use my time to end this war, not in a court battle," I said, "but these people want to start a confrontation, and we need you to keep an eye on them--especially that guy who just assaulted me."

I asked for police protection then, and I have been asking for police protection ever since, to no avail. The harassment has become more violent.

While we do our best to "turn the other cheek" out there on the sidewalk, I'm asking Mayor Bob Walkup and Police Chief Richard Miranda to answer these questions:

Do you realize the only purpose of the counter-protesters is to prevent us from expressing our opinion? How can we reason with people who hate us for questioning the self-serving authorities who have tricked them into sacrificing their children? How can we encourage them to give up their pride and face the truth?

Are the police no longer ordered to protect and serve the rights of the individual in our community? Are they ordered, instead, to help suppress anti-war demonstrations in Tucson? And to help silence the opinion of the majority of the people in our country?

Are the bullies who are tormenting us on a public sidewalk working for the military?

Is the police force taking orders from the military?

Are we all being trained to take orders, without question, from the Trickster-in-Chief?

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