[Marxism] DEMONSTRATION AT HOME: Antiwar protesters' battle shifts

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Thu Aug 24 08:54:49 MDT 2006


 





Oakland County


DEMONSTRATION AT HOME: Antiwar protesters' battle shifts


As driver support grows, cops pose new problems

August 24, 2006



BY FRANK WITSIL

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

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Monica Legg, 43, left, of Lewiston and Elaine Morse, 65, of Birmingham hold
a sign Monday at the intersection of 9 Mile and Woodward listing the number
of U.S. soldiers killed since the Iraq war began in 2003. Some were charged
for urging drivers to honk horns to show support. (WILLIAM ARCHIE/Detroit
Free Press)

For nearly four years, Kim Bergier and dozens of other protesters have
braved cold and heat, wind and rain, angry shouts -- and even, in one case,
fists -- to deliver a simple message: They are opposed to war.

Every Monday evening, they've been gathering at the intersection of 9 Mile
and Woodward in Ferndale to hold signs -- "Impeach Bush," "No War" and
"2,611 U.S. killed in Iraq" -- and flash peace signs.

In the beginning, the demonstrators acknowledge, they got more middle
fingers than thumbs-up.

But, now, the activists say, as the war in Iraq drags on, they're getting
more support from passersby but are getting static from the police.

"The vigil empowers us to put our feet where our mouth is and take a stand,"
said Bergier, 55, of Madison Heights, who began protesting on Dec. 12, 2002,
and has been returning to the same corner nearly every week since. "But as
the death toll goes up, there is increased tension."

Last month, two protesters -- Victor Kittila, 55, of Eastpointe and Nancy
Goedert, 73, of Ferndale -- were charged with disorderly conduct and
inciting motorists to honk. Their cases, which are before 43rd District
Judge Joseph Longo in Ferndale, were rescheduled from Tuesday to 1 p.m.
Sept. 26.

That same month a third person, Joe Plambeck, 27, of Ferndale, was ticketed
for tooting his car horn in response to the protesters.

Plambeck, who faces a $110 fine if convicted, appeared for a hearing in 43rd
District Court Wednesday and is scheduled to return on Sept. 26.

Deborah Choly, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild in Detroit who
represents all three in court, is seeking to have the charges dismissed.

"Our position is it is protected speech, both to hold a sign and to honk,"
she said Wednesday.

However, Ferndale city officials said the protesters, who have garnered
national attention through Internet chats and support from activists such as
"Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker Michael Moore, are attempting to use the
disorderly conduct charges to turn a public safety issue into something
else.

"We have no intent to stop the protest," said Ferndale's interim City
Manager Warren Renando. "We've had that protest forever."

Ferndale Police Chief Michael Kitchen, who said that the city was working to
resolve the two public-disturbance cases, added that the two protesters were
charged with misdemeanors after the city received several complaints because
protesters were blocking walkways and inciting motorists to honk, which is
illegal.

"The sound was deafening," Kitchen said of the honking, before the charges
were brought.

Since then, the protesters stopped carrying signs that urged motorists to
honk "if you want Bush out."

Demonstrators said they selected this corner of Ferndale because it was not
far from the headquarters of the Peace Action of Michigan, one of the
organizations involved in the protest.

On Monday, more than 50 gathered from 4:45 p.m. to well past 5:30 p.m.

Many said the recent charges have only hardened their resolve.

Jim Grimm added that the possibility of criminal charges are tame compared
with what he already has endured. Within the past year, he said, someone who
did not agree with his views attacked him. Fortunately, the 78-year-old
World War II veteran from Clawson said, passing motorists came to his aid,
and the Ferndale police arrested his attacker.

"I took an oath to protect this country," he said. "And that's what I'm
doing."

And Susan Alderman-Wuchte of Ft. Gratiot said the demonstration was a civics
lesson for her two children, Hayley, 12, and Clara, 8, whom she brought to
the protest on Monday.

The 46-year-old mother said, "This is our way of standing up for what we
believe in."

Contact FRANK WITSIL at 248-351-3690 or witsil at freepress.com.


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