Judge rules anti-war veterans group can march in Auburn's veterans parade

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SEATTLE - A federal judge ruled on Friday that an anti-war veterans group that was banned from marching in the city of Auburn's Veteran's Day parade can participate.

 

The group called Veterans for Peace has marched in the huge Auburn parade for the past six years, but the group was barred from participating this year -- until Friday.

 

Keith Orchard, who paid his price during a tour of Vietnam nearly half a century ago, is a member of Veterans for Peace.

 

"We try to make people aware of the costs of war," Orchard said.

 

The group wanted to take its pro-veteran, but anti-war message to the streets of downtown Auburn on Saturday for the city's annual parade, which honors all U.S. veterans.

 

But the city of Auburn didn't like the group's message to end war and bring the troops home.  Earlier this year, city officials declined its application to participate in the parade. 

 

The city's attorney argued in court, "if you have a dog party, you don't invite cats."

 

So with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, Veterans for Peace sued the city in federal court, claiming it had the right to participate under the First Amendment.

 

"Veterans for Peace honor vets and certainly should be allowed to march," said Doug Honig of the ACLU.

 

The judge agreed.  In a scathing ruling against the city, Judge Marcha Pechman overturned the city's decision, saying "Our veterans fought for our freedoms.  One of the most important is the freedom of speech."

 

After the ruling, Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis -- who supported banning the group -- declined to say whether he was unhappy with the decision.

 

"Either way, we're going to have a great parade and we welcome everybody to the City of Auburn," he said.

 

The parade gets under way at 11 a.m. Saturday in the heart of downtown Auburn, and "Veterans for Peace" will be among the dozens of groups taking part.