More than a dozen members of an antiwar veterans group were arrested yesterday as they protested the exclusion of their message from Boston's Veterans Day parade.
Members of Veterans for Peace lined up in front of a podium at City Hall Plaza holding antiwar placards, as color guards from Massachusetts military units and JROTC bands from across the state filed into Government Center for a ceremony, sponsored by the American Legion, to honor veterans after the parade. Some protesters wore gags, which they later said symbolized the fact that, while they were permitted to march in the parade, they were prevented from carrying signs opposing the war in Iraq.
"We were exercising our First Amendment rights," said Winston Warfield of Dorchester, a member of the group. "The First Amendment protects free speech, even when you don't agree with what's being said."
When Boston police asked the demonstrators to move from the front of the podium so that the Veterans Day services could continue, they refused. As the Boston Firemen's Band played The Marine Hymn, several protesters were placed in plastic handcuffs and led away.
"Our free speech and civil rights are being abridged here," said Nate Goldschlag, a Vietnam-era veteran who was among those standing in front of the podium. "We are veterans, too, and we should be allowed to express our opposition to this war."
American Legion officials declined to comment.
Boston police said that 18 people were arrested - 15 men and three women. All were charged with disturbing a lawful assembly of people.