Peace Group Criticizes Outsider's Crude Tactics - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Peace Group Criticizes Outsider's Crude Tactics

Burlington, Vermont - May 25, 2006

A Burlington peace organization says it is being harmed by the crude tactics of one unwelcome demonstrator. At issue are the protest signs and behavior of Steven Ekberg. He is a Burlington resident who claims that four-letter words are an effective way to recruit new members to his political party.

Ekberg, of the Burlington Green Party, spends many days at home making protests signs. He makes a lot of them. Some contain four-letter obscene words like the home-made sign Ekberg carried last week when first-lady Laura Bush visited Vermont.

"It is totally appropriate in a protest to have strong language like that. That's what the first amendment is there for," said Ekberg.

Ekberg claims that the profanities, obscenities and crude language attract new members to his Green Party.

"Our target audience in the Green Party is not the people already in the system that are offended by those words. We are trying to target the 50 million people that have been alienated by the system, because they do use those words. That's who the Green Party is trying to appeal to," added Ekberg.

"I mean, I'm always telling my kids manners will get you everywhere and obviously he doesn't believe in that," said Wendy Coe of the Vermont Peace and Justice Center in Burlington. The Center organizes many political protests in Vermont, including the one for Laura Bush. The Center wishes Ekberg would stop showing up at their protests with his obscene signs, because he discredits their efforts and passers-by mistakenly assume he is part of their organization.

"It's unfortunate that he taints the entire action and the people who take time off work to be at these protests," said Emma Mulvaney-Stanak of the Peace and Justice Center.

"It's a free country. He has a right to be there. He has free speech," said Coe. "Our mission is to educate people and to reach people and you don't reach people if you offend them when you are swearing and having bad manners."

Ekberg says he will continue to join in any protest he wishes to.

"I hope to build a new bridge where they can be more open-minded and be more tolerant of other people's viewpoints," he explained.

Ekberg says he is a founding member of the Green Party in Vermont, but other members we spoke with, say they do not support his protest tactics.

Ekberg has also had some legal problems with the Peace and Justice Center. In 2004, he attended several meetings at the Center but was asked not to return after members say he followed some female members. The Center obtained a no trespass order against Ekberg from the Burlington Police.

Eight years ago, Ekberg was convicted by a jury of the crime of stalking after he ignored restraining orders to stay away from the director of the Burlington marathon. Police say Ekberg ignored court-issued restraining orders and stalked and terrified the director for two years after he was banned-for-life from entering the marathon due to cheating.

Ekberg maintains his innocence, claiming both of those incidents were simply misunderstandings.

Brian Joyce - Channel 3 News

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