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  • 'Tea Party' location irks veterans

  • For 17 months during the Korean War, Bob Roberts took part in combat missions as a soldier in the United States Army.


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  • For 17 months during the Korean War, Bob Roberts took part in combat missions as a soldier in the United States Army.
    After reflecting on his time in uniform on Monday, Roberts said, “That makes me a really old geezer.”
    It also makes him something else: a veteran. And it’s for the latter that he has a problem with tomorrow’s “Taxpayer Tea Party” to be held at the Veterans Memorial at Pittsburg State University.
    It’s not the message he takes issue with, but rather the location.
    “This is something that really upset me,” he said. “The Veterans Memorial, as far as I’m concerned, is hallowed ground. To have a partisan, political ‘tea party’ there really offends my sensibilities.”
    These “tea parties” have been going on across the country and close to 30 are scheduled to take place in Kansas on Wednesday. The purpose of the rallies is to protest against government spending, including Wall Street bailouts and the recent stimulus bill, which supporters said was necessary to begin to fix the economy.
    Pittsburg’s event is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and will feature Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, as well as members of the Patriot Guard Riders.
    Since it was announced that the rally would take place at the Veterans Memorial, several local residents have expressed displeasure with the site choice.
    Bob Torbett is the director of the American Legion Riders and a member of the Kansas Patriot Guard, which is different than the PGR who will attend the rally. He also is the son of a World War II veteran. He opposes having the “tea party” at the Veterans Memorial.
    “It’s everybody’s right to have a protest, but our complaint is that it’s at the Veterans Memorial,” he said, speaking on behalf of the ALR. “Most people think of the Veterans Memorial as a sacred place. It’s a place to reflect, to remember why we’re here today and the people who have sacrificed for that.”
    Charles Heath, Commander of American Legion Post 64, said, he believes in the right to free speech, but he also takes issue with the site of the upcoming rally.
    “I’m not so sure the Veterans Memorial is the appropriate place for a tax protest,” he said.
    The main argument among those who oppose the event’s location is that a “political rally” should not take place at a site that is meant to honor veterans of the U.S. military.
    However, the “tea parties” are being billed as apolitical, non-partisan events. They are open to anyone who wants to attend, regardless of political party affiliation.
    Page 2 of 3 - Organizers of Pittsburg’s rally did not return calls seeking comment for this article. However, one supporter of the rally, and its location, said the “tea parties” are not meant to be at all political.
    “People coming together to let their voice be heard is always a good thing,” said John Minton, head of the Crawford County Republican Party. “This is not a political event. They’re inviting everyone who is sick and tired of the government spending being out of control, taxing being out of control and government being out of touch with the real world.”
    Minton said he doesn’t have a problem with having the rally at the Veterans Memorial, as he believes it is one of the few places in the city that could accommodate a large crowd.
    “We are kind of limited on places in Pittsburg,” he said. “I don’t think it’s being held there to make a statement.”
    Minton’s counterpart across the political aisle, however, doesn’t see it that way.
    “I think the choice of the local Veterans Memorial to hold what appears to be a partisan, political group is not such a good idea,” said Crawford County Democratic Chairwoman Beth Bradrick. “Those pavers were paid for by local people, and now they are being used as a pathway to a right-wing, partisan event.”
    Jenkins was not available to comment for this story. However, her press secretary, Mary Geiger, said the congresswoman, by speaking at the rally, means no disrespect toward the veterans.
    “The congresswoman has the utmost respect for the veterans,” she said. “That can’t be questioned. What’s going on in Washington now, with spending and taxes, affects everyone – from veterans to small businesses and single moms and working families. The congresswoman feels it’s important to talk about these issues.”
    Torbett said he and many other upset local residents have sent multiple letters to PSU expressing their anger over the use of the Veterans Memorial for Wednesday’s rally. University officials said the Veterans Memorial can be used for nearly anything, as long as it’s peaceful and legal.
    “It’s not our event at all,” said Cassie Mathes, assistant director of public relations. “The Veterans Memorial is a sacred place, but as long as it’s a decent, clean event, they can get permission from Pitt State to have it out there. But just because it’s out there, that doesn’t make it a Pitt State event.”
    To make their grievances well known, Roberts said several local veterans and their supporters plan to stage a demonstration of their own during Wednesday’s “tea party.” He said it will be their way of protesting the use of the Veterans Memorial for the “partisan event.”
    Page 3 of 3 - “Soldiers are not Republicans or Democrats,” Roberts said. “They’re Americans.”

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