Yesterday I once again was proud to March and participate in our Remembrance Day ceremony with many of our Police Officers, Firefighters, Paramedics and Correctional Officers. We proudly follow the Cadets and Veterans in a ceremonial march to and from our cenotaph and stand behind our Veterans during the ceremony.
Unfortunately there continues to be controversy about my opinion as to who should march. I very much regret this and have apologized to the Legion for any issues this has created for them.
Let me explain how we got to this point. Remembrance Day 2010 as we formed up at the Legion, for the first time a number of “Bikers” lined up as well, and I was surprised to see them stay and walk along in the parade, I thought was very unusual and maybe a onetime thing, but they returned in 2011. That year a few of them walked up to us as we stood in formation taking head shots (pictures) of our officers. This is a practice of criminal biker gangs to develop an inventory of officer’s pictures for intimidation and intelligence purposes. Many of my officers complained to me and asked “why are they allowed to march?” I wondered too, as I felt the parade portion of the ceremony was limited to the group I have mentioned (occasionally elected officials join in), for me the march is a visual reminder of the men and women that marched off to war. I explained to the Legion that in my opinion that it was inappropriate for them to walk in the march and that if this continued I would attend the ceremony but not march.
A few days before Remembrance Day 2012 the President of the Charity Riders called me complaining that I wouldn’t let them march, I explained my concerns and reiterated this was a Legion decision. They complained in the media and some followed up with a story, I responded to those that did.
This year a week before Remembrance Day the president of the Charity Riders called and we spoke again. I again explained my position. I found it inappropriate for them to march and that they should in my opinion continue to participate by attending the ceremony and laying a wreath, any veteran including any of their members should march. Later in the week media showed up while I wasn’t in the building and were told, as I had instructed, I responded last year and would not be doing so again.
Unfortunately members of the Charity Riders have given interviews saying:
• “They have members that are Veterans and they should be allowed to march.” Every Veteran, including members of the Charity Riders is welcome to march, the Charity Riders know that;
• “They were not allowed to participate in the ceremony or lay a wreath.” They participated fully and like many other organizations, community groups and family members do, laid a wreath.
I recognize that saying otherwise makes for a better story, a fictional story.
Many may still not agree with my opinions, but I reserve the right to express them, it is that freedom that our Soldiers fought, and continue to fight for.