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Protesters Try to Remove Maine Peace Flags
Protesters Try to Remove Maine Peace Flags Fri Nov 11,10:24 AM ET
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WATERVILLE, Maine - Protesters led by a veterans post tried to remove a flag display placed by peace activists at a veterans cemetery, and five were charged with criminal trespass.
The display remained intact Friday, Veterans Day, despite a threat by at least one of the protesters to return later to finish yanking up the flags.
The display of 2,000 white flags, meant to remember U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, was set up at Veterans Memorial Park cemetery Oct. 30 under a permit issued to Waterville Area Bridges for Peace and Justice.
Members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post complained, saying they wanted the flags removed before Veterans Day. The permit allows the flags to remain in place until the first snowfall.
On Thursday, about 10 people went to the cemetery and, under the glare of television camera lights, some began removing the flags as eight peace group members and sympathizers gathered nearby. Police moved in quickly to make the arrests.
Wayne Elkins, the VFW commander who led the protesters and was among those detained, said he had no problem with the peace group, as long as it stays out of the cemetery.
"They desecrated our veterans' grounds. If they want to protest, let them protest. We don't mind. But to desecrate hallowed ground is wrong," he said.
He and the four others were released on the condition that they stay away from the park until Sunday, police said.
The peace activists stayed out of the fracas.
"Obviously, I don't want to fight them for the flags," said Bill Lord, a Vietnam veteran. "Really, I think that the VFW and Bridges for Peace and Justice have a lot in common. I believe in peacefully working things out."