Peace group barred from Anchorage parade

Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A group called Alaskans for Peace and Justice were thrown out of the Fur Rendezvous Parade before it started Saturday because parade organizers received complaints it was too political.

Members of the peace group said their plans called for street puppets and included nothing political. The plan was to have a couple of 16-foot moose and a 14-foot baby one dancing down the street behind a 16-foot planet.

The group had also asked people to bring leashed dogs as part of a ''Puppies for Peace'' brigade. They'd made 200 paper cranes to hand out to children.

''It was going to be marvelous,'' said Doug Frank of Alaskan for Peace and Justice. ''We had numerous people, some from Girdwood, from all over the city, who were going to be drumming. There would be drummers and these three wonderfully creative moose dancing.''

But Fur Rondy officials started receiving calls and e-mails from people upset about peace activists being in the parade. The parade is supposed to be fun, the complainers said. It was supposed to be a family event; if they wanted to go to an anti-war rally they'd go to one.

Fur Rondy spokeswoman Sarah Hobart wondered if those complaining were confusing the group's participation in the parade with a rally planned for later that afternoon.

Nevertheless, executive director Mary Pignalberi decided to yank the group's entry. Fur Rondy headquarters then released a statement:

''The Fur Rendezvous Festival has decided in the best interest of the festival to pull the parade entry of Alaskans for Peace and Justice. In light of current events it is appropriate to remain as politically neutral as possible.''

As far as group organizers were concerned, their entry was neutral. They just wanted to introduce themselves to the community, they said. They'd picked their slogans carefully, like ''Sow Justice, Reap Peace.'' They'd asked people not to bring ''No Iraq War'' signs. They knew the rules and felt they were complying.

Frank noted that Alaskans for Peace and Justice were to be 19th in the parade lineup, following The Arctic Warrior Band from Fort Wainwright, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, an ROTC group from Chugiak, an Air Force ROTC group from West High, the Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Territorial Cavalry.

Dick Reichman, another member of the peace group, said that if parade organizers wanted to be politically neutral, the armed forces organizations should be weeded out as well.

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