Peace picketers attacked on 34th & Archer Rd.
Anti-war sign holding against the current war in Iraq has been going on for the duration of the war in this and other cities. When the war began many people came out, but over the last year here in Gainesville it's been a dedicated few who've committed themselves to represent the majority of us who oppose this war. Tuesday after Tuesday at either 13th and University or 34th and Archer Rd. they've been there, to largely favorable response from motorists.
The last two times at Archer Rd. things have gotten a bit unusual. The following are notes from Scott Camil, coordinator of the local Veterans for Peace, written shortly after the incident:
"At today's anti-war demo from 4 - 6 at 34th & Archer Rd. we were physically attacked by a 23-year-old man named Robert Michael Kershner (RMK) of Gainesville.
At about 6 PM, RMK started tearing the signs off of the sticks and kicking the sticks out of the ground. RMK physically rammed with his chest numerous times Ku and Gil who were trying to protect their signs. RMK also tried to bully Wendy Noon and told her in front of me that he was going to "put a bullet in" her "fucking head." RMK screamed profanities nose to nose with Wendy who stayed calm but held her ground.
While RMK was attacking Ku, he continuously called Ku "A fucking Jap" and "A fucking foreigner." RMK was extremely agitated, angry and aggressive. RMK claimed that he has been to Iraq and has to go back. If this is true, he certainly is having problems adjusting. I feel sorry for those Iraqis who cross his path. We were continuously called "Dirty Hippies."
I took RMK's picture with my cell phone and was told by him that he was going to shove the phone up my ass.He then knocked the phone out of my hand and tried to throw me to the ground. I resisted and he broke off the attack.
The GPD came but said they had no jurisdiction because we were on the county side of the street but they hung out until ASO came and took reports. ASO is filing a battery claim against me and one against RMK. ASO said that they are charging RMK as the aggressor.
By a bit of luck, there was a UF journalism student who came out of the CVS store, saw the signs and was interviewing Gil when the attack started. She told the police what she saw and will be writing an article about it.This incident raises serious questions.
At the previous Thursday demo at the same location, a red pick-up truck purposely jumped onto the sidewalk and ran down a bunch of signs, causing some of the people to step away for their safety. We have the right to be there and we have a right to expect protection from the authorities.
We can either be intimidated and give up our rights or we can stand our ground and exercise our rights. I believe that we should continue to exercise our rights and put enough people out there to let them know that we are not intimidated and to take away their incentive to attack."
At the monthly "Peace Forum", a gathering of representatives of local peace groups, it was agreed we would try and gather more support for the Tuesday sign holding. The next "Peace Forum" meeting is Sat. Feb. 10th at the Civic Media Center.
Additionally, on Saturday Jan. 27th, in solidarity with the Washington DC demonstrations <www.unitedforpeace.org>, anti-war activists will do sign holding or letter writing campaigns that day, then gather at the new County Courthouse on So. Main St for a rally from 5 pm til sunset.
If you want to participate in collecting letters to Congress contact Jacque Betz at Code Pink < >.
For signholding, make your own and go out with friends at your favorite intersection or use the stand-by usuals of 13th & Univ. or 34th & Archer. (CCAWT chose this intersection in light of the harassment there on the 10th) or contact Veterans for Peace < >, Department of Peace < > or the Interfaith Peace Center < > for suggestions on where folks might be.
Interstate overpasses are an interesting option (NW 23rd Ave., NW 39 Ave., SW 20th Ave. or Wacahoota Rd.). For sign ideas & inspiration see the website: http://www.freewayblogger.com/
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