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March 11, 2003

'Antiwar Protesters' Trash 9/11 Memorial


by Jeremy Sapienza

From the Tuesday, March 11, 2003 Whittier Daily News:

"LA HABRA -- Antiwar protesters burned and ripped up flags, flowers and patriotic signs at a Sept. 11 memorial that residents erected on a fence along Whittier Boulevard days after the terrorist attacks in 2001 and have maintained ever since."

The first question that enters my mind is, what good is done for the antiwar movement when vandals trash a memorial to thousands of slaughtered civilians? The answer is none, and that's why it seems like less an antiwar protest and more the act of saboteurs. This incident can be seized upon as a defining characteristic of the antiwar movement (a bunch of anti-American vandals) by the War Party and pulled out whenever a point needs to be made about our convictions.

This whole thing smacks of COINTELPRO-type tactics. It seems to me that someone really wanted to smear the antiwar movement...how do we know that this wasn't a horde of pro-war thugs with "Peace" buttons on their shirts and some time to kill?

Another curious side of this already-odd story, is the fact that this was done in plain view of La Habra police officers. And they weren't stopped or warned – they were protected. La Habra Police Capt. John Rees said the vandals were "exercising the same freedom of speech that the people who put up the flags were." The problem is that destroying private property isn't free speech, and the memorial's builders and caretakers had the permission of the site's owner.

No comment as of right now from the La Habra Police Dept., but I am waiting for a callback.

So cops hurl obscenities and throw us in jail if we open our mouths or slip off the sidewalk in a herded protest, but if you actually destroy someone's property, they stand by and call it free speech! Is this what we have police for? To beat the peaceful and protect the violent!?

We condemn this action no matter who is responsible, but the bottom line is, we have no evidence that these are actually antiwar protesters. It simply doesn't make sense. As peace activists try to gain recognition from mainstream America as something other than just a bunch of anti-American patchouli-drenched semi-communist granola-crunchers, an incident like this has the potential to throw a giant wrench into the gears of the Antiwar Machine.


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Jeremy Sapienza is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com and has been on the team since 2002. He also runs a website about his neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn at BushwickBK.com.

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