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Letter to the Editor: Rights threatened at protests

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

To the editor:

I want to thank the 130 people who made the Sue Niederer event a success. Thanks also to Matt Sanders for solid coverage and to the police who did a great job.

Bobby Hunsaker's comments in Sunday's paper require a response. Our group publicly protested the war every week for two years. At the time, we were regularly subjected to the vilest verbal abuse imaginable by some motorists. People also approached us on foot making taunts, which included everything short of physical violence.

Such tactics are sometimes employed by political provocateurs seeking to incite reactions that are then manipulated to discredit their opponents. One such situation occurred last year when a young, peaceful member of our group was screamed at -- with threats of bodily harm -- as he was physically backed into Broadway traffic. More recently, in the weeks prior to the Niederer event, I received multiple death threats which are now under police investigation.

So we have learned that in Cape Girardeau you'd better be prepared with every possible legal and physical protection, including the police, when exercising First Amendment rights and publicly challenging the Rush Limbaugh worldview.

Finally, Mr. Hunsaker's stated affiliation, the Protest Warriors, allegedly has an extensive history of disrupting events like ours. Their alleged actions have been described on many Web sites and in many articles.

We encourage broad debate, as stated at our event. However, we will remain vigilant in preventing any disruption of our constitutional rights.

We make no apologies for this.

ROBERT POLACK, Chair, SEMO Coalition for Peace and Justice, Cape Girardeau