In one message sent to Bussell, Morris warned of a growing controversy: “This afternoon I’ve been dealing with veterans who are upset about the Veterans for Peace flag dedication. They feel it’s saying that our fighting men and women in Iraq are baby killers.”
Lussier wrote, in an e-mail to Morris that was forwarded to Bussell, “while we understand that these peace groups have rights, we are the men and women who fought to protect them. I wonder how you would have reacted to a flag in memory of Adolph Hitler?”
Morris then wrote to Bussell, minutes after receiving Lussier’s complaint, “The legion, VFW, and AMVETS will pull their donations and support and may in fact cease to support the parade.”
Bussell says the Portland Downtown District, after initially accepting the donation and listing the sponsorship online, removed it from the list soon after the e-mail exchange, and sent back the $100 sponsorship check. (Bussell also says the PDD never returned his phone calls seeking an explanation for the reversal.) Peter DeWitt, spokesperson for the city of Portland, says neither the city nor the PDD ever told the MVFP that their dedication was rejected.
Representatives from American Legion and VFW posts involved with the flag project were not available for comment prior to press time or declined comment.
At their October 16 meeting, the city council will likely consider the Andrews Post’s request for a parade permit. Mayor Jim Cohen hopes to meet with the Andrews Post before the permit review to “discuss their position” but says the city does not “have the ability to say, ‘No, you can’t hold your parade.’” That he believes, would violate the Post’s right to free speech.
On October 2, Rawlings wrote a letter to Wright and Morris asking them to reconsider their decision banning the MVFP from the parade. If nothing changes, the MVFP plans to gather in Portland on Veterans Day anyway, possibly in a separate parade, though at least one member thinks that is an unacceptable form of “segregation.”“We don’t want to protest a day that’s important to other vets,” says Rawlings. “However, we would protest a parade that is a glorification of war.”