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Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Not this war. Not this time."- The Chester County Victory Movement

In March I wrote about Chester County, when a blogger/citizen journalist was slapped by an anti-war activist, while reporting on protests between anti-war activists and pro-military supporters. Chester County is back in the news with an article called "Protesting the Antiwar Protestors"

The blogger/citizen journalist that was slapped went by the name of "Skye" and is now known to be Tania Ciolko of Philadelphia. The anti-war protester that slapped her and was subsequently arrested was John H. Meicht and as a quick update on that particular case, the man signed a plea agreement in front of Magisterial District Judge Gwenn Knapp, agreeing to write a formal letter of apology to the blogger, complete 30 hours of community service and stay out of trouble for the next 60 days.

According to the plea deal, if he does what is required of him, the charges of assault, resisting arrest, harassment, recklessly endangering another person and related charges with be withdrawn by the district attorney's office.

In their place, Meicht, 62, of West Goshen, would be allowed to plead guilty to a summary offense of disorderly conduct and pay a fine.

If he fails to complete the terms of the agreement, the charges against him would go forward.

Skye aka Tania Ciolko stated she was satisfied with the result, saying, "I’m very happy about it. I think justice was served. I got what I wanted, an apology.”

What Tania was reporting on were weekly protests that had been held on the corners of the Chester County Courthouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Today, in a report from the Wall Street Journal, we see how the protests started and how the pro-military supporters stood up to make sure that support was shown for the U.S. military by protesting the anti-war supporters.

The story is of a man, Rich Davis, a 20-year Navy veteran that moved to Chester County in 2001 to retire and by 2006 he started seeing the anti-war protesters from Chester County Peace Movement (CCPM) standing outside the courthouse by his apartment, every Saturday morning.

He says that he hoped to see someone stand up and show support for the troops until one day he decided that someone was going to be him.

Davis states that his goal was not to stifle dissent but to not let signs and protests that in his mind, encourages the enemy and demoralizes the U.S. Troops, go unanswered.

In September of 2007, Davis made his sign, marched to the corner and determined that someone showing support for the troops would be seen. He says he was pushed, shoved and challenged with comments like, "Do you live in fear?" and "Why don't you go and serve?"

Davis says, "They had that corner for five years, every Saturday, unopposed. They couldn't stand the thought of one person having a sign they couldn't tolerate."

An amazing thing happened though, his lone figure, his one sign, grew into the Chester County Victory Movement.

The Gathering of Eagles, an organization that supports the troops, joined him and from one man, there became 40 people, waving flags and holding signs that showed support for the troops.

(Chester County Victory Movement stands up every Saturday at the Chester Country Courthouse to show support for the U.S. Military- Photo from Armed Forces Day Rally on May 17, 2008.)

From this one man's efforts, the Chester County Victory Movement was born, and their website provides the opportunity to "share information about welcoming troops home, sending care packages, and joining discussions at West Chester University."

Mr. Davis notes that he has been accused of being part of a vast right-wing conspiracy that trains and pays pro-troop advocates. Asked about that, he offers an answer that may inspire others to join his efforts.

"In a way they're right," he told me. "I was trained by a family that taught me to love our country, not blame it. And I am paid by troops and their families who say thanks for doing this, thanks for being here."

As Memorial Day approaches in the United States, formerly known as Decoration Day, we are reminded of what it represents, which is a way to commemorate the U.S. men and women who perished while in military service to their country.

Rich Davis was guided by a personal memory of how the Vietnam war veterans were treated and his deep respect for his sister's boyfriend, Marine Lance Cpl. Alan R. Schultz from Levittown, Pa, who died in 1967 by mortar fire in Vietnam.

He says that every time he sees an anti-war protest, he thinks of Schultz and his "modern day counter-parts", whom in his mind, are being disrespected.

What started his personal one man stand to show his military brother and sisters in arms the support he felt they deserved, was but one thought.

"Not this war. Not this time."