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Article damages cause
I was very disappointed to see the Independent critique the recent Crape Myrtle Festival Gala held on July 30 ("Capital Seen," Aug. 3). I understand that people can get different viewpoints out of a news piece, but this article was way off target about the event and did not keep in perspective that this event was raising money for HIV/AIDS-related nonprofits in the area. We have received a lot of positive comments from people about the gala and the venue. I felt that it was not a good coverage piece of an event that was in its 25th year of helping so many people in our community.

It would have been great if the article was based on people in the community becoming complacent toward AIDS, but instead the article was very catty by critiquing the entrance, food and silent auction. I honestly could not tell if this article was focused on a social issue or an entertainment review. I wish, if it had been a piece on the social issue, that it would have featured comments and real-life stories from the nonprofits who provide services in the community and use the funds raised from the event.

When you publish a review like this, it is not like reviewing a movie or a restaurant. They are private ventures that can invest money to improve their product. We are an all-volunteer nonprofit that watches costs closely so that we can help people who need it. A review like this only discourages people from attending in the future.

As a co-chair for next year's Crape Myrtle Festival, I would welcome comments and suggestions from anyone about what they liked or would like changed next year for this event. I would also like everyone to know that the Crape Myrtle Festival is committed to building community, and I was very disappointed that the Independent was not more supportive in covering this long-running and successful community fund-raiser.
Chris Smith
XXVI Crape Myrtle Festival Co-Chair

The limits of freedom
On July 7, an individual charged into a Raleigh restaurant, created a disturbance and insulted customers during the lunchtime business hour. An employee chased the intruder out of the business. You'd never guess it would make the papers, except this individual happened to be Peter Eichenberger.

I am the employee who humiliated him in front of the regular lunchtime customers ("When the messenger warns about the message," July 27). When I and four of the seven customers who were there that day read his article, we could not believe how out of touch with reality the description was of that day's events. Peter Eichenberger came in shouting, "Karl Rove will do anything to get his name out of the papers." He leaned down toward a customer (the "tweedy acquaintance," an NCSU professor who didn't know who Peter was), stuck his hands in the man's face, twirled his fingers and said, "Oh, but everybody will blame it on al Qaeda." Peter then twirled to an open spot at the counter, looked at me and slammed both his hands upon the counter screaming, "But everyone knows Bush did it."

Before he came in, customers were quietly watching the coverage of the London bombings. The news anchorman had just announced there were 33 confirmed deaths so far. In hindsight, I should have just come around the counter and thrown Peter out the door. Unfortunately, the scenes on TV of mass murder affected me emotionally. I was slicing up a cucumber for a sandwich, so I put down the knife and threw a two-inch piece of cucumber at Peter. I was aiming low and nailed him in the right leg. While I was throwing I yelled, "Thirty-three people were just murdered, you sonofabitch." That should have been it, but Peter thought it was some big joke. He started to giggle and dance like some moronic court jester. That's when I grabbed a napkin holder from the counter and yelled, "Get the hell out of here, you sonofabitch." Peter was out the door before I ever finished the sentence.

It was then out of anger and frustration that I threw the napkin holder onto the floor. Contrary to Peter's tale, no napkins popped out. As far as me being in hot pursuit, that's another lie. When I came around the counter to pick up the napkin holder, Peter was far up the street. Approximately 20 minutes later, a police officer arrived and we had a nice conversation. I told him exactly what happened and several others added their say. One regular who happened to be present handed the officer that week's Indy opened up to Peter's article. The officer laughed and said he thought he saw what he was dealing with. We shook hands and looked over to see Peter sitting outside of the business next door and staring at us with an angry facial expression. Perdition is not pretty. The officer assured me that nothing would probably come of this, then he went outside to give Peter a lesson in civility, manners and common respect.

As for Peter consulting with other law enforcement agencies, I seriously doubt that, as his whole description of what transpired that day is totally untrue. In fact, a second police officer came by that afternoon, while Peter was there, and had a nice conversation with me about him. The officer suggested that I just refuse Peter service and ban him for life. I let him back in and kept that suggestion in mind for the future.

Finally, Peter's grasp of the First Amendment is selective. Freedom of speech is more than a right, it's a responsibility. In a civilized society you cannot walk into a crowded movie theater, scream "Fire!" and claim freedom of speech. Nor can you walk into a restaurant at lunchtime, create a planned disturbance and insult customers. You just might leave humiliated.
John D. Wolf
Raleigh

EDITOR's NOTE: The length limit for letters was waived so the writer could give a complete response.

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