PORT ANGELES — Mayor Sissi Bruch wants to remove the representations of guns from the new fence at Veterans Memorial Park.
She has been asked to pull her request from the Port Angeles City Council’s Wednesday agenda.
Bruch says in a memo in the agenda packet for the council’s meeting that the “two decorative outlines of soldiers with guns” have drawn objections.
“I’ve had comments from people saying do we have to do guys with guns when guns are killing our children in schools?” Bruch said Saturday, adding that she did not know how many complaints she had received.
“We can use other symbols,” she said.
The symbols should be of the democracy that veterans defend rather than the “tools of violence” they use to do so, according to Bruch.
The council will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the council chambers at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St.
The approximately $15,000 fence installed in September at Veterans Memorial Park on Lincoln Street next to the Clallam County Courthouse was privately funded.
The intention was to protect the replica of the Liberty Bell from vandalism. In recent years, Veterans Park had become a sheltered spot for homeless people and vagrants, some of whom had left trash in the park and damaged the bell and the structure that supports it.
The fence includes two representations of colonial soldiers with muskets and 13 stars standing for the original 13 colonies of the United States.
“The council chambers is going to have a few people on Wednesday,” said Karen Rogers, former mayor, who with Gary W. Velie, president of the Clallam County Veterans Association, led the drive for the fence.
“My phone has not stopped ringing since 8 o’clock yesterday morning,” Rogers said Saturday.
Rogers said she will call for Bruch to rescind her memo during the public comment period on Wednesday.
Velie and Cherie Kidd, council member and former mayor, have sent Bruch letters — copies of which were sent also to the Peninsula Daily News on Saturday — calling for her to remove the request from the council agenda.
Velie said that the design of the fence created by Port Angeles sculptors Bob Stokes and Gray Lucier was approved by the Port Angeles Parks Commission, a city building permit was issued, and a contract was signed in August.
The contract “specifically states that all of the funding for the project will be the responsibility of community donations and not negatively affect the City’s General Fund,” his letter says.
“We are certainly not going to fund the alteration and partial removal of the gates,” he said.
Kidd’s letter charges Bruch with overstepping her authority and asks where Bruch intends to find funds to alter the fence.
“Do you want to take money from public safety or roads?” the letter says.
Bruch describes the decorative elements of the fence as “two large outlines of a soldier with a gun and many small stars.”
Rogers, pointing out that the park is in an historic district, said that the fence “has colonial soldiers like they were guarding the bell, guarding liberty.”
“It has to do with the historical period of the liberty bell,” Rogers said. “It’s a beautiful artistic piece.”
Said Kidd: “The design is historically accurate. We are a free nation only because of the brave men and women who have fought for our freedom.
“Our veterans deserve respect, but this action is clearly unconscionably disrespectful to our veterans and their families who planned for and the private funds that paid for this lovely protection for our Liberty Bell from destruction by vandals.
Bruch said that her request is “nothing against veterans.”
“Can we have a symbol that celebrates what the veterans fought for, which is democracy, rather than using the tools?
“It’s about liberty and democracy. Can we find other symbols that give that bell respect? In my mind there are more creative ways of doing that,” Bruch said.
Stokes, moved to tears, said Saturday: “My nephew Capt. Joseph Schultz gave his life in Afghanistan for his country. All my relatives are veterans and this is a war memorial and we have to respect it for what it is.
“I’m not taking the soldiers off or the guns.”
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].