Anti-war marchers allowed in parade
Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out were prohibited from marching last November because organizers said they didn't fit the spirit of the parade. The act sparked an emotional city-wide debate.
But after careful consideration, parade coordinator Martha Thuente said organizers and the groups finally reached an agreement last month.
She said the groups will be allowed to hold one banner each, but cannot make any political statements or pass out pamphlets.
They can wear their T-shirts but are "encouraged to wear their uniforms, which makes more of a statement," Thuente said. The event takes place along Atlantic Avenue in North Long Beach.
They will also be required to submit their parade applications separately. Last year, the three groups submitted one application under the name "Military Patriots."
Councilman Val Lerch, a member of the parade committee, said the application was unanimously rejected because organizers feared the group wanted to raise political issues at a parade meant to honor veterans.
Since they've reached an agreement, Lerch on Sunday said the groups can even ride a vehicle in the 12th annual parade on Nov. 8
"If they come in a Humvee, they're more than welcome," he said. "Just as long as they agree not to make a political statement."
Alviso said they have always supported the troops. Her son, Beto Alviso, is a gunnery sergeant in the Marines and has served two tours of duty in Iraq. He may be deployed to Afghanistan by the end of this year, she said. "You can support the troops but not the war," Alviso said. "There's a few of the old-timers who still do not get that."
Although they were banned from marching, more than 25 members from all three groups attended the parade anyway, standing peacefully and cheering for the veterans.
Alviso thinks their positive behavior had an influence on the organizers' decision.
"We do not want to make this parade anything more than a parade to celebrate and honor those who have served this country," she said.
Jason Lemieux, a Marine who served three tours of duty in Iraq and is now a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, was one of several veterans who stood on the sidelines last year.
"It feels like I've been betrayed by the very people I fought to serve," he told the Press-Telegram in November.
Lemieux, an Anaheim resident, was one of hundreds of soldiers and Marines to testify in the "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan" anti-war conference that took place Thursday through Sunday at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md.
There he said he testified on atrocities he witnessed in Iraq and called for an immediate withdrawal of troops.
Reached by phone on Sunday, Lemieux praised parade organizers for "making the right decision" and hopes to march this year.
"I think it's exactly what they should have done right from the beginning," he said.