Controversial group joins Auburn veterans parade

AUBURN, Wash. - The 47th annual Grand Veterans Day Parade rolled through the streets of Auburn on Saturday - and it included one controversial group of veterans that the city had tried to ban.

Veterans for Peace won the right to march in the parade through a court ruling and with help from the American Civil Liberties Union. And the reaction from spectators was varied.

For the most part, the parade provided a chance for people to express their gratitude for those who served long ago, for those serving now - and for all those who never came back.

One group of veterans, however, nearly lost its chance to march in this parade.

"We are no less veterans simply because we believe peace is the proper approach in this world and not wars," says David Kannis, a member of Veterans For Peace.

Veterans for Peace won a last-minute court battle to participate after the city of Auburn tried to exclude the organization. The city argued that the group's anti-war message ran counter to the purpose of the parade.

"They just had to be told by a federal judge that they're wrong," says Kannis.

Along the parade route, some said they believe the city was right.

"It's just not fitting," says Connie Hill, who found the presence of the Veterans For Peace a distraction. "They can have their own parade. ... They come from an opposite view of what this whole parade stands for."

It's a point of view that frustrates Kannis.

"They have forgotten what the First Amendment is all about," he says.

But along the crowded sidewalks of Auburn, you saw mostly expressions of support for the Veterans for Peace - and the idea that free speech is one of the fundamental rights they all fought for in the first place.

The mayor said Auburn believes in abiding by court rulings, and it's time to move forward. He thought the dispute took nothing at all away from the splendor of the day.