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Local protester assaulted

People have called him a traitor, a terrorist and a coward. And those are just the printable epithets. But Jeremy Steinsiek, 22, said emphatically he is not a coward.

“That’s definitely not true,” he said. “If I was a coward I wouldn’t be out here.”

Steinsiek has been on the corner of Highway 20 and Barrington Drive every day since the bombing started in Operation Iraqi Freedom, flashing peace signs and waving a homemade sign that reads, “Drop Bush, Not Bombs.” A small American flag waves from one corner of the cardboard sign.

People have not taken kindly to his war protest.

Drivers have been yelling and throwing things at Steinsiek and his small group for days, but Monday it escalated to violence. First a woman yelled, called him names, and threw a cup of ice water out her car window at him, soaking his shirt. Later a man stopped, got out of his car and assaulted Steinsiek.

Steinsiek said the man, who had “Bud” written on his hat and shirt, yelled at him from his car that he was stupid. Steinsiek, who admits he has a “mouth that tends to run off,” yelled back. Steinsiek said the man then got out of his car, more words were exchanged, and “Bud” shoved him from behind, yelling, “I fought for your freedom,” Steinsiek said. Steinsiek’s reply of “You fought for my right to be here,” apparently incensed “Bud” who grabbed him by the back of his “Anti-flag” shirt and threw him to the sidewalk.

Steinsiek said another man in a car stopped and pulled “Bud” off, and the police arrived rapidly to take his assailant to the police station, where he was arrested on suspicion of 4th degree assault.

Police identifed the man as Franz Noble, 51, of Anacortes. He was cited and released.

“It was crazy,” Steinsiek said. “There’s a lot of aggression in this town.” After going to the police station to press charges, Steinsiek was back at his post.

“I don’t believe we should be doing this,” he said of the war with Iraq. “We’re setting a dangerous precedent with this preemptive strike, and violating all sorts of international laws.”

While anti-war protesters are a common sight on the south end of the island, and a regular group has been out for months on Highway 20 in Coupeville, Steinsiek is often the lone protester in Oak Harbor. At most he has been joined by a few friends.

“It’s easy to get 30,000 protesters in Seattle. I have a hard time getting five here,” he said.

The young man can only shake his head when people call him stupid, or worse.

“I am not stupid,” he said. He admits he dropped out of Arlington High School after an altercation with the principal, but says he took his college SATs in seventh grade, and was labeled a “talented and gifted” child. He now lives with his parents in Oak Harbor, and has time to be on the street protesting five or more hours a day because he doesn’t have job.

“My mom’s always saying ‘get a job,’ but she also says I should stand up for what I believe in,” he said.

He also has lots of time to research the war and international issues on the Internet, and what he finds makes him sick.

“Anyone who says this is not about oil is kidding themselves,” he said. “If broccoli was the main export (of Iraq) we wouldn’t be there.”

The Internet is also a gauge of world opinion, most of which is against the U.S. actions in Iraq.

“This sham of a war is making the world hate us. It’s cool they agree on something, it’s just too bad it’s this,” he said.

Many of the people who seem incensed by his presence say he should be supporting the troops, especially in this Navy town.

“I do support the troops,” he said. “I think they should be home. I’m pro-troops and anti-war.”

Two people who vehemently oppose Steinsiek’s viewpoint have also taken to the streets.

Richard Mann and his daughter Michelle Mann have been on the opposite corner from Steinsiek’s group every day, waving large American flags and pro-troops signs.

“He has a right to protest, but I think it’s shameful in Oak Harbor. We should be proud of our friends and neighbors,” Michelle Mann said.

She felt she had to do something after seeing the protesters last Wednesday.

“Even if we don’t support the war, we must support our troops. We have to remember the families. They need to know we support them and their loved ones,” she said.

“When we see anti-types we come down to counter them,” Richard Mann said.

The Manns support the war and feel President Bush is doing the right thing. Michelle Mann felt Bush made a good case for taking out Saddam Hussein, and believes Hussein could be at least indirectly involved in terrorism.

Richard Mann said he too stays informed via the Internet, and cites an Israeli intelligence website as one of his favorites.

Whidbey Island Ford provided the Manns with one of the large flags they wave at passing cars, which mostly honk in support.

“We’ve had things thrown at us too,” Michelle Mann said, “But we’ve had people offer us hot cocoa too.”

The Manns said they have not spoken to the group across the street.

Nancy Eby of Whidbey Island Ford comes out regularly to check on the Manns, to see if they need anything.

“It’s awesome,” she said of their flag waving. She had less kind words for the young protesters.

“Most of them don’t know what war is about,” she said, gesturing across the street to Steinsiek, now alone in the growing darkness, still flashing peace signs at passing cars. “They’re just out here to make noise. They need to learn what the American flag stands for.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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