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Compromise Allows Signs on Iraq War at July 4 Parade

July 04, 2006|From Newsday

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Marchers in today's Fourth of July parade will be able to carry signs reading "Support Our Troops ... Bring Them Home Now," according to a compromise decision hammered out Monday among the village, the marchers and a federal judge.

After complaints about those signs last year, the village's parade committee ruled that no "political propaganda" or advertising could be carried by marchers, and that signs should only reflect the themes of the parade -- "Let Freedom Ring" and "Support Our Troops."

Mayor Mark Epley said Monday night that the village never intended to muzzle free speech and that the marchers who took Southampton to court were never expressly told they could not march.

Still, members of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bridgehampton who wanted to carry the signs said they never received permission to march. The federal court ruling Monday allows them to march and carry signs.

James S. Henry, attorney for the church, responded to the decision saying, "Can you imagine a court order that tells people they have the right to engage in free speech on the Fourth of July and signed by a federal judge?"

For the last three years, the church group and other marchers carried banners urging support for the 1st Amendment and for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. But this year, the village's parade commission said it would ban any "political propaganda," without defining what constituted such propaganda.

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