Group protesting warcraft as entertainment during Thunder Over Louisville


Posted on April 14, 2011 at 12:37 PM

(WHAS11) - The Thunder Over Louisville air show is recognized as one of the best in the country. But, is it family entertainment?

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A group calling itself the Silence over Thunder Coalition says warplanes are no such thing.

"The excitement, the noise is one thing," said Sam Avery of the Louisville Peace Action Community, "It's another to feel very proud of the power of our country. But, we feel there is a deeper truth that people are missing."

The peace activists know they can't stop the air show -- at least this year.

But they want the hundreds of thousands of people who will watch the show at Waterfront Park to think about what they're watching.

Thunder made its name on pyrotechnics, but while the fireworks last only about a half hour, the air show is six and a half hours of twists and turns, deafening flyovers and military might -- which to local peace activists is anything but family entertainment.

"The aircraft we see flying overhead is designed to do one thing and one thing only," Avery continued, "And that is to kill human beings."

The coalition says the air show started as filler -- to entertain the crowds waiting for the fireworks -- since then, they say it has become an unnecessary controversy.

Chris Harmer, the coordinator for Silence Over Thunder, spoke to WHAS11's Joe Arnold.

"The Kentucky Derby Festival has inadvertently politicized Thunder by defining patriotism as this show of military hardware," Harmer argued at a news conference.

Kentucky Derby Festival President Mike Berry acknowledges, "If we didn't have the military involved in the air show, it would be reduced by about 80%."

But Berry disputes the group's depiction of the military's role, calling it a "respectful disagreement."

The festival and peace activists have negotiated one fewer practice flyover day this year -- and - with Silence Over Thunder upset about the presence of military recruiters, the Peace Corps will have a booth this year.

"We're getting hung up I think on just the air show itself," Berry explained, "there is so much more to Thunder. Thunder on the ground includes interactive exhibits, there's a kids area, there's Thunder boomtown down at Tumbleweed. There are concerts going on at the stage of the chow wagon."

But no one can avoid the roar of the fighter jets - which the activists say forces people who have survived war to relive past terrors.

"This is a celebration of the machines of death," said John Wilborn of the Kentuckiana Viet Nam Veterans Against War, "That's what they're designed to do. This technology is designed to deliver death."

"We do not see this event as a glorification of war," countered Berry, "Is it a support of the nation's military? Yes. There is military involvement and the festival appreciates the involvement of the military. There's a big difference between support of the military and the men and women who are helping to keep our peace, and the glorification of war."

For a third year, the peace activists are planning an alternative to the military flyovers -- at the Peaceful Skies Picnic at the Americana Community Center in the South End.

At Waterfront Park, activists wearing t-shirts that say "War is No Future" plan a silent walk in formation through the crowd on Saturday.