Stopping arms in space

Citizens for Peace in Space
It’s called the 2006 Space Symposium, and this year it is seeing a record number of attendees. But the participants are not space explorers, they’re arms manufacturers. Space exploration is for NASA I guess, the symposium is about coordinating the militarization of space. Near space. The space from which whoever owns the hardware can rain terror upon whoever is beneath.

Bill Sulzman has been running the Citizens for Peace In Space efforts for several years now. He has organized a splendid action this year in which we are calling for attendees to step out as whisleblowers. We are also admonishing the Defense Department for justifying the arms buildup in space as necessary for “defending freedom.” IT’S BALONEY we shout!

This is the summary of day one. Read about the ensuing days:
    day two, a visit to Minuteman missile silo N-8,
    day three, accosted by a rabid jogger at Broadmoor protest,
    day four, bike path hijinks.

Day 1: Monday
On Monday we stood, nearly two dozen of us at the corner of Lake and Lake Circle, we sang our song to an Oscar Meyer melody, we held banners, we blew our whistles and we handed out our baloney sanwiches. And nearly got arrested.

The Broadmoor had cordoned off the majority of the sidewalk in front of their new Convention Center. Our protest was relegated to only the corner. True, it was a very visible corner, and we could offer flyers to nearly everyone walking to the Convention Center from the Broadmoor Hotel. But we thought we could accomplish a little more if we paraded our banners more visibly.

Dave Therault noted that all the Harris security personel were bunched up around us. Dave proposed a plan to excercise their legs a little. He suggested that he and I parade a banner along Lake Circle, walking in the marked bike lane adjacent to where the Broadmoor had blocked off our pedestrian sidewalk. Our banner would then be seen by the attendees inside the center, not just those milling about the entrance. Our banner read STAR WARS RESEARCH: A WELFARE SYSTEM FOR TECHNOLOGY.

Sure enough, as soon as we began we heard the security radios squalk. “Stop them” was the gist of the messages. A nearby guard told us to stop but we looked at him and asked why, while still moving forward. He responded with a smile. Each time we passed somebody with a radio, we could hear the supervisor ask why they were not containing us.

When we returned from our first pass, we added another person to our parade and another banner. It was a Henry Ford quote: TAKE THE PROFIT OUT OF WAR & WE’LL HAVE PEACE TOMORROW. This time more security officers joined us. When we returned we noted that they were now quite spread out.

On our third pass, the head of security came down himself. He approached us from the street, simply to tell us, in no uncertain terms and not calmly or with civility, to get back to where they were permitting us to stand. We answered that we didn’t work for him, actually and would proceed how we pleased. He repeated his command and threatened to call the cops and have us taken away. Certainly everything accelerated from there.

Suddenly we were surrounded by a half dozen policemen. They listened and interjected in calm terms that we were on Broadmoor property and had to do what the man said. We argued public thoroughfare, pedestrian right-of-way, to no avail. Dave diffused the confrontation, I assumed my role as hothead.

I wonder, I know why we are so vociferous in our condemnation of the military complex. What is it that drives their enthousiasm to stop us? We’re holding banners. They are killing babies, ruining lives and subjugating unsuspecting masses. We’re holding banners. Who should be the more indignant?

On the way out, walking into the Broadmoor neighborhood to retrieve one of our cars, I encountered a soldier walking the other way. He’d just parked his car perhaps and we crossed paths on this tree lined street. He wore a full dress uniform, lots of medals and a beret, and he carried himself with informal dignity. I was wearing a bright green t-shirt enblazoned with a large peace sign and my Camp Casey cap. I was carrying several rolled banners over my shoulder and walked like I was returning from the front line.

The soldier and I nodded to each other and smiled. I couldn’t help but feel we had communicated a solidarity. He has been doing his job, I have been doing mine, both on the periphery of those making the decisions. The war mongers aren’t the soldiers. The war mongers are the guys in suits, sporting golf tans. Our common adversaries. And boy are there a lot of them. Three more symposium days to go.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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