Some Go By the Book; Others Follow Their Conscience

Sylvia Taylor, 15, left, of Kent, Ohio, and her mother, Sheri Leafgran, find common ground during the protest. Leafgran said she feels a sense of hopelessness in the nation.
Sylvia Taylor, 15, left, of Kent, Ohio, and her mother, Sheri Leafgran, find common ground during the protest. Leafgran said she feels a sense of hopelessness in the nation. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
Sunday, September 25, 2005

When Words Collide

Organizers of the National Book Festival found themselves sharing the Mall yesterday with antiwar demonstrators. So they stationed volunteers in green T-shirts at the Smithsonian Metro station to make sure everybody got where they meant to go -- readers to nearby white tents, demonstrators to the Washington Monument grounds.

But Martin Freed of Fairbanks and his wife, Ruta Vaskys, were both. Toting his protest sign -- with "Alaskans Against War" on one side and something much less polite on the other -- Freed accompanied his wife into the Pavilion of States tent to check out authors at the Alaska table.

He was promptly surrounded by festival-goers, including a guard.

"I object to your sign," one said.

"Why don't you go outside?" another asked.

A woman declared, "You're crashing the wrong party."

"The war is a lot more offensive than the sign," Vaskys replied, reluctant to be dismissed.

But they had a protest to get to, and as the couple departed, Freed called over his shoulder, "This is the state the country has come to: You can't even have free speech at a book festival."

-- Karlyn Barker

* * *

Pounding the Pavement

Lots of speech was literally free. Relief for sore feet wasn't.


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