Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin will skip a Veterans Day memorial to attend an Occupy rally, a decision that is drawing criticism.
Chevron and the Richmond Museum Association are sponsoring a Veterans Day salute Friday featuring a re-enactment of the launch of a World War II-era ship at the Richmond shipyards.
McLaughlin noted that the city is not sponsoring the event, and said that the Occupy rally will honor Scott Olsen, the Iraq War veteran injured while protesting with Occupy Oakland.
"I choose to honor our veterans, not only on Veteran's Day, but daily, by supporting an end to military warfare to prevent further fighting and dying in needless wars," McLaughlin wrote in an email. "I am a strong supporter of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Vets Against the War."
The Occupy rally, which organizers are calling a "speak out," is scheduled for 11 a.m. That is the same time as the Veterans Day events, which are always held at the eleventh hour on the 11th day of November to commemorate the end of World War I.
Jeff Rubin, who organizes Pinole's Veterans Day memorial, denounced McLaughlin's choice and criticized an email blast she sent over the weekend urging residents to attend the rally with her.
"She has very little respect for the country and traditions," Rubin said. "Everything with her is political. I think the day was picked on purpose."
McLaughlin did not call the rally and does not know why organizers chose the date. Rubin notes that she is closely associated with the Richmond Progressive Alliance, which organized the event with a coalition of local activists.
"As mayor, she has a responsibility to everyone in our community," Rubin said. "Not only the disenfranchised and the unemployed, but to the veterans as well."
Michael Klasno, director of Gold Star Dads of America, said that McLaughlin's actions are a "slap in the face" to veterans and to grieving parents like himself.
"You don't blow off the veterans of the United States for anybody, and you certainly don't blow if off for Occupy Wall Street," he said. "As somebody who's paid the ultimate sacrifice, that to me is beyond the pale."
McLaughlin said exercising freedom is respectful of veterans.
"I think a good way to show respect for our veterans is to put all our energy into promoting the values that veterans fought for and some of them died for."
Other elected leaders such as Councilman Tom Butt and Supervisor John Gioia are promoting the Veterans Day salute.
McLaughlin has participated in the city's two previous Occupy rallies.
Contact Hannah Dreier at 510-262-2787. Follow her at Twitter.com/hannahdreier.