Space Symposium protest 2006 part 3

Tennis courts in the shadow of golf balls
Day 3: Wednesday
Was it because I hadn’t had any non-violence training? Is that why everyone jumped in to enforce a stand down from my assailant?

Our protest was just getting started, I was holding half of a banner in one hand and passing out fliers with the other when a very angry man zeroed right in. Maybe it was the bright green peace sign. He was jogging along Lake Circle and he had not even passed us. He shouted “I know people who died for you” and before I could answer, though I must not have looked sufficiently repentent, he repeated himself while leaping to clutch my collar and push against me to I don’t know where. I had time only to ask him if he knew that he was committing assault before the Police officers peeled him off and led him away for a discussion.

I regret not having requested that he be allowed to state his piece, minus the physical aggression, but instead we simply instructed the officers that there would be no need to press charges. I didn’t see it but eventually he must have jogged off. Our banner read BEWARE THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous warning.

I am a non-violent person, even a pacifist, though perhaps I am not much of a verbal pacifist. I had no intention of matching this guy’s blows, but I had every intention to stand up to being pushed.

I would have liked to call him on his much mistaken, sentimentalist, flag-hugging, bullying world view. Jogging in the Broadmoor area, this red-shorted, military-coifed assailant had probably commanded some soldiers who had been killed. I do mourn their loss. But it sounds like he should have thrown his life into the ring instead of beating his breast about the sacrifice made by others. Who knows how voluntarily their lives were offered? It always amazes me to hear military commanders brag about the casualty rate faced by their units. When ships sink, we expect captains to go down with the ship. Why? Because we expect them to save the men for which they were responsible or die trying.

Am I being harsh? I didn’t try to knock him down. That’s what we’re protesting: people who are knocking others down, and calling it “defending our freedom.”

Day 4: Thursday.
The Broadmoor had the police explain that we would not be permitted to walk in the bicycle path as we had tried two days before. So this time we brought bikes. I got to the protest late, at nine am instead of eight, just as several of our participants had to be shuttled to the airport. So I was left to peddle my bike up and down Lake Circle alone. If ever I have felt like a big dweeb, this was it. And it got on the news.

There was too much wind to trail a banner. I had selected WILL YOUR CHILDREN SURVIVE YOUR WORK? Instead I waved a large peace pirate flag. The peace sign with crossbones beneath it. A peace sign Jolly Roger. Or symbol for poison. Either way it’s a message the war makers do not want to hear. If there was a symbol for what sunshine represents to vampires, maybe that would be appropriate too.

Our protest of the SPACE SYMPOSIUM had everything to do with the fact that space is being militarized out of sight of the American public. How can there be oversight in a democracy if the citizens aren’t told what is going on?

Each day we would see schoolbus-loads of kids parading through the symposium. The event is billed as something much more benign. But did we see any scientists? I doubt it. We only saw men with military haircuts, in uniform and out. I should say that I did see the odd Brit, and they often gave us a closely held thumbs up!

The flag I waved today was to demonstrate that the message of peace has been relegated to renegades. What a perfect example at the Broadmoor! The hotel had closed its sidewalks to keep our protest from being seen from the Convention Center windows. We had to use the bike paths in order to give our message visibility.

So I pedaled up the designated bike lane on one side and down the bike lane on the other. I had to navigate past hotel employees and delegates who were sometimes skirting the security cordons themselves. I had to steer around the security chief’s pickup as he alternated between following me around, or parking and calling out to me each time I would pass. He was counting my laps, starting at zero arbitrarily. At one point, having reached to ten, he held both hands out the window as if to signal to someone that he’d counted ten. I looked but couldn’t see who was supposed to be watching him. Every so often policemen would appear to loiter near to where I would pass, but they would only nod in greeting.

I stayed until past the lunch hour surge out of the center. A friend has informed me that the bicycle act was on the local KKTV news. “Broadmoor protester nearly arrested,” but I didn’t see their camera. Perhaps they were filming through a window in the center. I was busy catching the eye of the conventiongoers on the street. There were smiles and thumbs up, but mostly the attendees rushed past. There was also a “enjoy your freedom there buddy.” As if these very-well-paid guys in suits want to be paid credit for our freedom too. “Freedom can be hard work, actually” I told them.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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