Viet Nam veterans, Joe Bangert, from Brewster, MA, as seen in photograph above was one of 18 protesters including 4 women veterans who all were arrested in front of City Hall Plaza on Veterans Day. Falmouth US Navy veteran, Mike Tork, and former USMC Capt. John Niles, from Barnstable, were the three Cape Codders arrested as well.
Arrests Made At Veterans Day Event
City Hall Ceremony Sparks Controversy
BOSTON -- Several anti-war veterans were arrested Sunday when they protested their exclusion from a Veterans Day event outside Boston City Hall.
The Boston chapter of a group called Veterans for Peace estimated that 15 of its members and supporters were arrested when they refused to move away from the podium at an event sponsored by the American Legion. Boston Police said several arrests were made, but did not have an exact number.
"We're opposed to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we're opposed to the planned invasion of Iran," said Winston Warfield, a Vietnam War veteran and member of the group. "A lot of veterans view us as traitors."
Warfield said the American Legion rejected their request to have a speaker at the event on City Hall Plaza. An after-hours call to the American Legion office in Boston was not immediately returned Sunday.
"From our point of view, it's a public affair," Warfield said, despite U.S. Supreme Court precedent that allows private groups that obtain proper permits to choose who can participate in their events.
Earlier Sunday, Gov. Deval Patrick and U.S. Sen. John Kerry honored five surviving members of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen, the first group of black fighter pilots allowed into the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Patrick presented the men with their Congressional Gold Medals. They are William M. Bennett, Charles Diggs, George W. Giddings, James McLaurin, and Willis Saunders.
"It is an honor to formally recognize these heroic pioneers," said Patrick, the state's first black governor. "Their bravery and ability to rise to the challenges of the time and of war will be forever remembered, as will the great courage of all the men and women who have served our country in the past and who do so now across the world."
The Statehouse event included a tribute to women veterans, led by Air Force Capt. Jenny D'Olympia.
“They do not want to adhere to our rules of conduct,” James Lawler, commander of the American Legion in Suffolk County, told the Herald, suggesting the protesters’ time would be better spent in Washington, D.C., fighting for benefits and better VA hospitals.
“This is not a political parade,” said Lawler, an Air Force veteran of the Korean War and former Boston police officer, “it’s to show our veterans respect.
Veterans for Peace member Winston Warfield, a veteran of the Vietnam War, acknowledged Lawler was right about his organization’s political motives, but said, “We’re all servicemen. Some of us have wounds to prove it.”
Both sides were met with applause, whether by tots in strollers waving flags, Marines calling out “Semper Fi!” or modern-day hippies chanting for peace.
Cynthia Johnson-Smith, on behalf of 9,000 members of the Massachusetts American Legion Auxiliary, said the turnout alone “means that we appreciate our freedom at the price these veterans have paid.”
Brookline native Sue Gracey, 73, who calls herself “a raging granny,” chose to march with the war protesters, but said she still supports the troops.
“Our country’s in trouble,” Gracey said. “I love the flag, but it needs to be shown with humility.”
Kristine Galeota knew her kids’ thoughts were on hot chocolate after the parade, but before they left the ceremony there was so much more she wanted them to drink in.
“With children, you never really celebrate the holiday the way that it’s supposed to be,” Galeota of Townsend said, her daughter, 8, and son, 10, at her side, their cheeks stung pink by the cold.
“Whether you agree with the war or not, you should still support the veterans,” she said. “There are opposing sides. You need to deal with it. It’s the United States of America.”