Peaceful protest held at local Veterans Day parade

PADUCAH, KY — Vietnam Veteran Michael Swinford was holding the Mississippi flag in honor of his father. He says the city of Paducah wouldn’t let him carry it in this year’s Veterans Day Parade. So, he was flying it from the sidelines.

Next to Swinford, standing in solidarity, were other veterans and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Most of them held Confederate flags as part of a peaceful protest.

“Even though we were not allowed in the parade by the city of Paducah, we stood our post and we paid honor to all the veterans in the parade,” says Swinford.

Ricardo Harding says the Confederate flag does not belong at the Veterans Day Parade.

“For those children in those elementary schools, to see them marching through the parade and not be aware of what the flag stood for, it just felt like a huge injustice to me,” says Harding.

Harding says he encouraged the city to approve a new resolution that limits who can participate in the parade and what flags can be flown. The city put the new rules into action at this year’s event.

“I see a lot of veterans who were marching with American flags, throwing candy to them, and hugging them. They showed them a lot of love, and that caught me off guard,” says Harding. “I feel like it was a just thing to not have them participate in Paducah’s Veterans Day Parade, but I didn’t see hatred when I looked over on the other side.”

Soldiers and veterans at Friday’s parade had mixed reactions to the peaceful protest.

“I think that’s an insult and a degradation to the flag of the United States,” says local veteran Raymond W. Gliva.

“That’s a good thing about our country. You have freedom of speech, freedom to wear whatever you want, say whatever you want, and then everybody else has the freedom to react how they want,” says Jocqui Closson with the U.S. Army.

Swinford says the peaceful protest was a victory for the First Amendment. He hopes the city will allow the Confederate flag, and other flags, back in the parade next year. If not, he says, he may be out protesting again.

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