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Removal of bus from parade in Newport provokes boycott.

Byline: Winston Ross The Register-Guard

NEWPORT - Here's a riddle: When is a vehicle not a vehicle?

When it's a biodiesel-fueled peace bus, according to the organizers of this year's Newport Loyalty Days parade. Which is why Springfield resident and Veterans for Peace member Gordon Sturrock was banished to preach peace in a parking lot at the 51st annual event, then to mope along Highway 101 only after all of the approved parade entrants had done their thing.

It's also why a movement to boycott the coastal city's merchants is gathering steam. Almost 600 people have signed an online petition blasting the decision to exclude Sturrock's message-laden vehicle from the parade and promising not to do business in Newport until there's some reconciliation.

All this fuss over a bus? Here's the back story:

To be perfectly clear, the bus wasn't officially registered in the May 5 parade - not as a bus, anyway. The Lincoln County Democrats only scribbled "vehicle" on their application. They then called parade organizer Patty Louisiana to let her know it was a bus. But when the actual contraption showed up at the staging ground - two hours early by Sturrock's watch and a half-hour late by Louisiana's - there was a problem, she explained in an event captured on videotape.

"I'm going to have to ask you not to be in the parade," Louisiana said.

"What's wrong with the bus?" Sturrock asked.

`As the spirit of the parade is `Loyalty to the community - ' ' Louisiana said.

"Why is this not loyal?" Sturrock interjected.

"You did not declare this on your application," Louisiana said. "I'd like you to respect the spirit of the parade. You called and said there would be a bus. But to me a bus is a van, with supportive signs."

Sturrock had trouble understanding how a bus could be a van. But the debate was over a few minutes later, when a Lincoln County Sheriff's deputy weighed in.

"The vehicle was not registered on your registration," the deputy said.

"We registered a vehicle," said Dan Beck, chairman of the Democrats.

"A vehicle," the deputy said. "Not a bus."

More back story: The bus wasn't the only part of the Democrats' entry that Louisiana had a problem with. She also kicked several members of the coastal chapter of CODEPINK, an anti-war group, out of the parade, noting that they'd riled the community last year by toting pictures of injured Iraq war veterans. The CODEPINK members said they were marching as Democrats, but that didn't matter. Once they admitted to being CODEPINK members, they were deep-sixed.

"The Democratic Party is a big umbrella," said Alice McCain, who organized the Democrats' parade entry. "We want universal health care ...'

"If universal health care had put in an application ...' Louisiana said, then stopped.

The problem wasn't just the application issue, Louisiana later told the Newport News-Times. It was also about the content.

"In my opinion it was anti-troop, anti-war, anti-many different things," she said.

In an interview with The Register-Guard, Louisiana said that even if the Veterans for Peace or CODEPINK had put in a separate application, it would have prompted a "discussion." They wouldn't necessarily have been allowed in the parade.

"I'm guessing they were trying to circumvent our entry process," Louisiana said. "I don't regret my decision; it has a lot to do with the attitude they presented that morning. They were quite rude, vocal and threatening."

Now there are threats on the Web, from a slew of free speech advocates who say rights were trampled that day.

"I plan (to) go deep-sea fishing off the Oregon Coast soon and had been considering Newport as an ideal place to charter a boat for a weekend party of family and friends, rent hotel rooms, do some dining, shopping, etc., and otherwise enjoy the local attractions," wrote Steven Amick, one of the petitioners. "There is nothing attractive, however, about fascism. We'll go somewhere American, instead."

Added Martina Rutledge: "It is absolutely shameful that you would deny the presence of veterans who have honorably served this country at your event. What a sad excuse for a community it is that doesn't honor those who have sacrificed for it. Traditionally, I spend many weekends in Newport over the summer. I had, in fact, planned on spending a week there next month, but I will be taking my money elsewhere from now on and will make sure everyone who will listen is aware of how poorly our veterans were treated by your city."

And Michael Stearns: "May the merchants of Newport regret this decision a hundred times over."

Trouble is, the merchants of Newport had nothing to do with the decision. Nor did the local chamber of commerce, said Susan Huntington, the organization's executive director. Huntington has gotten a few calls and e-mails about the parade, but she patiently explains that the chamber didn't organize the event. She hopes the discussion will lead to some clarification about the purpose of Loyalty Days.

"I don't think anybody's happy that it happened," Huntington said. "But it gives the community a chance to examine it."

Beck, for one, isn't joining the boycott. The Democrats haven't taken an official position, either.

"If it's successful, it hurts people on their side, too," Beck said. "I look at Cuba, and what our boycott of Cuba has accomplished, which is zero. It's one way to express anger about a situation, but I don't know if it's necessarily productive. Part of me wants to believe the best in everybody, that it was just a breakdown in communication. We were standing there arguing about whether it was a bus or a vehicle."

Winston Ross can be reached at (541) 902-9030 or rgcoast@ oregonfast.net.
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Title Annotation:General News; Controversy erupts when the Loyalty Days march rejects the entry of a veterans group
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 30, 2007
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