Local veterans and peace activists marched through downtown Santa Barbara in recognition of those who have risked their lives in battle.
Veterans for Peace held a rally and march on State Street on Tuesday with speeches by Congresswoman Lois Capps, City Councilman Babatunde Folayemi and veteran Laura Slattery. The Santa Barbara chapter of Veterans for Peace was dedicated to Lt. Col. James Kennedy and his late wife Shirley Kennedy, who was a black studies professor at UCSB.
The march began at De La Guerra Plaza and ended with a rally in Alameda Park. Demonstrators carried American flags, sang patriotic songs and carried signs, one of which said, “I want my son back.”
“As discouraging as it is sometimes to look at the news and see people rally around the president, it is always heartening to see events like this one and see people who really care,” peace activist Nancy Tunnell said. Tunnell said she also participates in peace marches held downtown every Saturday morning.
The Kennedys’ sons and grandson accepted the dedication of Chapter 54 of Veterans for Peace in honor of their family. James Kennedy was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, the first black U.S. military pilots. He also fought in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam war. His son Kevin Kennedy said he has gratitude and respect for his father and other war veterans.
“Who would know better the horrors of war than the veterans who have experienced it firsthand?” Kevin Kennedy said.
After the dedication ceremony, Vietnam War veteran and peace activist Laura Slattery took the stage. Slattery said she was recently released from a three-month prison sentence for her participation in protests against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation in Fort Benning, Georgia.
“We must pay for freedom, but not with violence; not with military solutions,” Slattery said. “Only with nonviolent struggle can we bring about true freedom”
Slattery said sometimes protest has to come before patriotism.
“Patriotism taken to the extreme is what gets our nation into these problems,” Slattery said. “We ignore the fact that Iraqi lives are just as important as American lives. Patriotism is not necessarily a good thing.”
George Mitchell, a Marine Corps veteran from Woodland Hills, came to Santa Barbara with other members of his chapter of Veterans for Peace.
“I was in the Marine Corps when we used to fight against tyranny. Now we are the tyrants,” Mitchell said. “A true patriot must realize that the government that is supposed to be representing us is not.”