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La Habra Memorial Stirs Strong Emotions

March 30, 2003

Re "Flags Are Burned at Sept. 11 Memorial," March 13:

Your description of the site as a memorial to the victims of Sept. 11 is a bit inaccurate. The site may have started out as a response to those events, but it soon turned into Tracey Chandler's private political soapbox on issues far removed from sending out our sympathies to the victims and their families. Soon after the recent debate opened in our courts concerning whether children should be made to utter "one nation under God" in our public schools, a large sign in the middle of the "shrine to 9/11" appeared with the Pledge of Allegiance and "one nation under God" set apart from the rest of the text in bold red ink.

How does entering into the argument concerning the separation of church and state help memorialize the events and victims of 9/11? I would like to know how signs proclaiming "If you hate America, get out!" memorializes and helps heal the wounds? By removing the few symbols of peace that have appeared from time to time at the site, Chandler and her supporters have built a shrine to divisiveness, censorship and their own narrow view of the world.

Mark P. Mealey

La Habra

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As a former resident of La Habra, I am saddened and outraged over the national publicity my hometown has suffered as a result of the brain-dead judgment that local law enforcement officers demonstrated in dealing with the violent and disruptive behavior of the individuals who destroyed private property.

I recall instances during my youth of vandals being arrested and prosecuted for far less criminal acts in La Habra. I always took pride in the patriotic spirit resonant in La Habra and deeply rooted in Orange County.

The brave men and women in law enforcement are supposed to be the blue line that separates public good from criminals. If private property was damaged or destroyed, that is criminal. If police stood by and did nothing, they were protecting criminal behavior, not free speech.

To the police chief, I suggest that the demonstrators who burned the flags and desecrated the private property of others should visit the Police Department and City Hall and share their gestures of free speech there. Perhaps they could burn police cars and raze City Hall because, according to the chief, free speech has no limits when it conflicts with the personal, civil or property rights of others.

Thomas R. Steinback

Dubuque, Iowa

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