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The signs of war: Local businesses not afraid to embrace politics

The signs of war: Local businesses not afraid to embrace politics

April 6, 2003
Sentinel Staff Writer

Vietnam war veteran Bill Herbner arrived at his pet store in Scotts Valley one morning to find the American flags he painted on his windows, to support U.S. troops, scraped off by vandals.
To add insult to injury, he said obscenities were spray-painted in black across the scratched glass.
That was 12 years ago during the 1991 Gulf War. But visit Herbner’s store today, and you’ll find two flags one American and one black and white Prisoner of War flag flying above his entrance in honor of today’s American troops in Iraq.
Herbner’s show of support for the U.S. military, in a county known for its strong feelings against war, is clearly overshadowed by an abundance of antiwar expression.
While Herbner and other business owners with patriotic signs had some initial worries that they may offend customers, so far they say business hasn’t suffered.
The antiwar signs and messages that dominate the political landscape range from the Martin Luther King quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” on the Herb Room’s marquee on the corner of Mission and Laurel Streets to Saturn Cafe’s “F... War” sign posted above its front doors in downtown Santa Cruz.
The Saturn Cafe also offers “Impeach Bush” fries, with all profits donated to the Impeach Bush Campaign.
Dario Dickinson, manager of the Herb Room for 12 years, said the antiwar feeling is to be expected in Santa Cruz.
“In Santa Cruz, we’re preaching to the choir,” Dickinson said. “It’s very mainstream to be antiwar here.”
For most business owners who place antiwar messages on their windows, losing clientele is not a fear.
“There are a lot of people out there crying out for peace,” Dickinson said.
“People have been stopping just to praise us since we put out the last (marquee) message,” Herb Room employee Michelle Baker said.
However, Herbner’s experience during the first Gulf War shows that displaying support for troops is a riskier venture.
But Herbner is all right with that. A helicopter gunner in Vietnam for two years, he’s not easily phased.
“I will continue to fly the flag,” Herbner said in his gruff, matter-of-fact manner.
No one has tried to vandalize his business or his flags during the current Iraqi conflict, Herbner said. He adds that business has been good.
Dave Lawson, manager of San Lorenzo Lumber Company on River Street in Santa Cruz, said he has worried war protesters would tear down the patriotic sign in front of his workplace.
The banner reads “God Bless Our Troops” in thick black letters.
“We put out the banner when there were still a lot of protesters gathering at the Clock Tower,” he said. “We didn’t think it would last through the night.”
But the vandals never came. And business is better than ever, he said.
Bill Butcher, owner of the San Lorenzo Lumber Company, said he and his employees receive several phone calls a day from passers-by commending them for their support of overseas soldiers.
“War’s no good, but you’ve just got to support the young guys that are leaving their families behind and risking their lives,” Butcher said. “Right or wrong, and only time will tell that, you’ve got to support them.”
Butcher said he would not eat at the Saturn Cafe because of the antiwar messages displayed there.
Though Dickinson said he thinks war is always wrong, he doesn’t begrudge Butcher for his support of the troops.
“I have no problem with that,” Dickinson said. “Most of the people fighting are young kids trying to do their best.”
Zee Zaballos, owner of a downtown Santa Cruz marketing firm with a sign in her window reading, “Inspections work, war doesn’t,” said it all comes down to freedom of speech, a freedom she’s grateful for.
“Being able to have the opportunity to express my opinion is a wonderful right,” Zaballos said. “When I see other signs, they make me think. I hope mine makes people think, too.”
Contact Robyn Moormeister at rmoormeister (at)


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ya want impeachment with that?

Would the same people who buy "Impeach Bush Fries" today have bought "Impeach Clinton Fries" back when we were bombing Yugoslavia or aspirin factories?
Or "Impeach George I Fries" back during the time of the first Gulf War?
Or "Impeach the Gipper Fries" when we were sending troops into Panama in the name of the War on Drugs, or Grenada?
Or is this just a propaganda war against the GOP or Bush the Younger?
Why did so few join me and my friends when we called for impeachment in these earlier cases?
Why do people seem to fixate on "singing songs and carrying signs, mostly saying 'hooray for our side'"?
Stop -- hey -- what's that sound?
Why won't people acknowledge what's going down?


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