This has been published in the book PEACE OR BUST. For ordering information, please click here.
This book is dedicated to Joanne
in gratitude for her love and support
of my work for peace
I am in jail for peace. Actually I am sitting in a public library which is located within the Pitchess Honor Ranch of the Los Angeles County Jail. On November 16, 1983 I was sentenced to 120 days. While I am here, I want to write down the experience I have had in my work for world peace so that I can share them with more people. 1983 has been a year for a persistent civil disobedience campaign in regard to the first-strike nuclear weapons being developed and deployed by the Reagan Administration.
Many experiences and quests led me to undertake these serious steps of nonviolent opposition to the policies of the United States Government. Brought up in a conservative family in west Los Angeles, I went to the University of California at Berkeley in 1964 as a 17-year-old supporter of Goldwater. I believed deeply in freedom, but I see now that I was very naive then about how freedom is best attained. Before classes even began, I observed a controversy over a new rule imposed by Dean of Women Towler restricting political groups from passing out literature on the edge of campus. I stood in a small group and listened to Mario Savio speak about this injustice. I even carried a sign through the aisles of an outdoor university meeting. These efforts grew into the Free Speech Movement (FSM). However, my only other involvement was as an outside observer. I watched the large crowd that gathered to surround the police car holding an arrested student in the plaza in front of Sproul Hall. My picture was even in the Oakland Tribune when University President Clark Kerr came out a side door and spoke to the press. When the University officials called a meeting in the Greek Theater to explain their position, I attended. The officials made their statements and then declared the meeting closed. Nevertheless Mario Savio walked to the microphone at the center of the outdoor stage and began to speak. Almost immediately two University Police physically removed him from the stage. To the students in the audience watching, nothing could have more blatantly portrayed the lack of free speech than that! It was obvious to me what a blunder the University had made, when, after the most eloquent speaker had been removed, the irate rabble-rousers took over. After a few weeks the FSM had grown so strong that students were allowed to set up tables and hand out literature, not only at the edge of campus, but anywhere on the campus at all!
I became absorbed in my studies and became a drama major, because I believe it is the most complete art form and because I wanted to study and experience human emotions as well as the mind. Still devoted to freedom, I spent the summer of 1967 studying Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialism at Berkeley (During the summer of 1966 my dad had gotten me a job in the drafting room at Hughes Aircraft. The work was very boring; thus very little work was actually accomplished.) I received a B. A. in December 1967 and continued in graduate school in January.
As the Vietnam War was raging my draft board in middle-class Westwood was having difficulty meeting its quota; I had to consider the probability of being drafted. When I told my parents that I would rather injure my knee than go into the army, they became very upset. My father tried to get me to apply to Officer Candidate School in the Navy. I just could not do it. I could not give up my freedom by willingly becoming part of a military organization. I gave up the notion of injuring myself as a bad idea, and decided that I would be more free in jail than in the army. In the army I would have to take orders; in jail no one could make me try to kill someone.
When hearing of my plight, an acquaintance suggested that I apply for conscientious objector (CO) status. I had not considered it, because I had thought it had to be based on religion. I had only been to church a few times in my life and was an agnostic. I got the CO form, and it asked if I believed in a supreme being, I knew that beingness exists and inferred that there must be a supremeness to it. The second question asked me to describe the nature of the supreme being. Characteristically I decided to research the question. I was 21 and had not even read the gospels in this life. I read them, the Portable World Bible, and other philosophical works. I started working on my own definition of supreme being, but when I took LSD, saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, and read Lao Tzu's Tao Teh Ching, I knew my life had changed, I had been raised to compete and strive---in sports, as an eagle scout, and for good grades. I was now discovering deep within myself a way of peace, of non-striving, of flowing with life like water. I realized that love is stronger than hatred and that war is a crime against humanity. I wrote on the CO form, "I believe in Tao (the way), and I seek Teh (spiritual or moral power)." I enclosed a copy of this little book for the draft board.
During the summer of 1968 the streets in Berkeley became the scene for riots with the police. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy recently had been assassinated, and the television was showing riots in Chicago near the Democratic Convention. A friend of mine returned to the house with blood pouring out of his head from a policeman's billy club, simply because he had taken an unfortunate route home. The students in the FSM had not been violent at all, but now, four years later, radicals were playing cat and mouse with the police by throwing things and running from the tear gas. I stayed away from it and decided to leave that violent environment so that I could pursue spiritual studies. Although I felt drama was the most complete art; now I wanted to study the essence of life, the spiritual.
I did not want to go into a monastery or join a religion. I discovered that the University of California at Santa Barbara had a Religious Studies Department where I could study all of the major religions of the world. The first time that I walked onto the campus in the fall of 1968 I saw a crowd and discovered that the black students had taken over the computer building and were threatening to smash the computers if they did not get their demands. I had moved from one hotbed of radicalism to another!
I studied comparative religion with Mircea Eliade, doing a special project on the Tarot cards. In fact, my presentation for his seminar coincided with a scheduled appearance before the draft board. I went to Selective Service before the appointment and asked for a different date; they had me put it in writing. Later my request for a CO status was denied. I appealed, explaining what happened.
That spring I visited Berkeley during the People's Park protests. Some of my friends from high school described to me how they were arrested and made to lie face down on the asphalt for several hours. The National Guard had been called out, and Berkeley resembled an armed camp. John Lennon even commented. Having studied astrology, I wrote the following poem while Mercury was in conjunction with sun opposite Mars in conjunction with the full moon on Memorial Day holiday:
A Call to Berkeley!
A daring adventure in the rights of the common man.
Thousands go and march with joy in their hearts.
Sun and Mercury shine down
On their discipline for common understanding,
Seeking change and a new day
Alert to the Beasts who tremble
The Pioneers would blaze a Park
In the Entrails of an asphalt jungle.
Love was their ally, Fear their enemy.
Venus' eye twinkled as old Kronos groaned.
Prayers grew more fervent as Energy had no release.
Laughter burst out, but the Revolution of the Many
Was on the rise, friendship curing early troubles.
John said, "Why get shot?"
Alliances were forming, the sun was setting.
Revolution was high and the Forces of Darkness
Were beginning to prowl hiding in the Black
Ignorant servitude of Anger---
Futile clashes with the servitude of Power---
May they be few.
Mars' war chariot needs only Reason
An Iron Law to enforce his will.
Rational war and rational hatred
And people not able to believe
In a deeper spiritual instinct than Reason.
Each fighting for his own.
Where is the Love which unites
Making All Everyone's?
Deep in the Soul of every Being
Rests the Love that was is and shall be Christ!
Awake! Sound the Word!
Liberate Love in the world.
They sing about Revolution
"Free your mind instead" is the Revolution.
"Don't you know it's going to be all right All
Right." The Balance of social justice
Is swinging into view.
Love and harmony may be found
By those who want to find them.
Give and you shall be given to.
Demand and you shall be demanded of.
Perhaps it is time for a new declaration of independence?
Nixon, Reagan, and Yorty---the hierarchy
Of Fear and reaction
To the natural evolution
Of a young country crying for new freedoms,
Freedom not to kill---
How stupid it sounds
How simple it is,
Freedom to turn on to joy and love---
Can there be laws against this?
I discovered that the ninth and tenth degrees of Gemini, where
the sun is every Memorial Day, is especially significant for the
United States, The planet Uranus, which signifies revolutionary
change, passed through those degrees when the Declaration of Independence
was written and signed, when Lincoln was elected and inaugurated
as President, and when D-Day was planned and carried out.
I also participated in a one-day fast for peace at UCSB; at the conclusion Bishop James A. Pike broke bread with us and spoke about the historical Jesus. During the summer of 1969 I attended a program sponsored by Bishop Pike at the Santa Barbara Mission which involved group processes and personal growth work. I gave Bishop Pike an astrological reading about two months before his strange and mystical death which was foreshadowed by the position of Neptune and Pluto in the house of death in his natal chart.
In the fall I went up to San Francisco on a weekend to attend one of the large peace rallies which helped to discourage President Nixon from using nuclear weapons in Vietnam. In December the draft board gave me another chance to appear before them. I told them how my whole life had changed. I simply explained that since all human beings are spiritually one I would no more want to kill another human being than I would want to use my right hand to hurt my left hand. Some of the board members were friendly and interested, while others sat there in a glum mood. They were more curious why I had long hair than about anything else. I did eventually receive CO status, but I was never called to do alternative service.
In January 1970 I met my spiritual teacher, John-Roger, and began to attend his seminars regularly. While taking LSD I had realizations of the Christ consciousness awakening within me and descending upon me from above. I decided to follow the way of the Christ as it is taught by Jesus in the gospels, and I gave away my possessions and began to wander as a free spirit wherever I was guided. Once in Isla Vista I was stopped by a policeman while I had some LSD in my pocket. I was not under the influence of drugs at the time, and I told him I meditated a lot, which was true. I was willing to be a martyr, but not for a drug. He did not search me. Most evenings I would stay in Santa Barbara with friends, which is where I was the night the Bank of America was burned down in Isla Vista. I did observe some demonstrations on the campus, I tried to be a calming influence.
After six months of this wandering life-style, I decided that drugs were hindering more than helping; I renounced them completely and have not taken any since. To my parents this was a shock, because they were not aware that I had been taking them. They supported me in my decision, while I went through hell for a few weeks getting clear of them. I went to work, completed my M.A. in Religious Studies, became a street youth counselor in Los Angeles, and was ordained a minister by John-Roger in the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA) through the consciousness of the Christ.
In the 1970s I taught college philosophy courses, gave astrological counseling, wrote and directed a musical comedy for MSIA, served two years on the MSIA Ministerial Board, started a university and Golden Age Education, edited and published Across the Golden Bridge, (a book about people's experiences in MSIA), wrote and had published the book Living In God's Holy Thoughts, wrote unproduced screenplays on George Washington Carver, Socrates, young George Washington, and the travels of Jesus, went to UCLA for a Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Education while working full-time, was the faculty advisor for teachers in an M.A. in Education program at Redlands University, taught numerous philosophy and psychology courses for the World University in Ojai, completed my thesis on Confucius and Socrates for a Ph.D. at the World University, and translated the gospels from Greek into English with a synthesis of the four together, a commentary, and a one-man play, The decade was dedicated to these pursuits and the quest for spiritual enlightenment through a series of initiations from John-Roger.
The l980s were to have an emphasis which seemed to take up where the 1960s left off. Yet a wealth of wisdom had been gained in between. When President Carter reacted to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by calling for a military build-up, I was moved to write him the following letter:
An Open Letter to President Carter
I wept for the suffering of humanity this morning as I realized that the world's leaders (including those in the United States) are still playing war games to serve their personal ambitions, even men who claim to be religious - Christian, Moslem, Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant. Are you not betraying your campaign promise to cut the defense budget by asking for a 13.5% increase? This in an era when we are suffering such inflation! You ask us to sacrifice - what? economic prosperity for the sake of various missiles and other weapons of destruction, at a time when the Russians are begging for further disarmament talks because their economic suffering is worse than ours! Why? so you can buy off the military industrial complex which is apparently running this country in order to gain political points! Why, in an age when new energy development is critical, when food and health are urgent world problems and education is deteriorating, is our government spending more money for the research and development of destructive military weaponry than for energy, food, health, and education all combined together!?
Plato warned us long ago that tyrants will face a bitter judgment in the next world. Surely Khomeini who has made himself an international criminal will have to atone for the suffering he causes, but don't forget that you also must face the judgment of God. Saber rattling may have been fun in an age of swords, but in the nuclear age it threatens the existence of future civilization. Teddy Roosevelt said, "Carry a big stick!" but don't you think the other countries of the world are tired of being pushed around by a bully? Look at their responses. Don't you think they would rather be treated like brothers and sisters of the one humanity? Why are we forcing missiles down the throats of the countries of Europe, Scandinavia, and others? If you were truly born again in Christ, why don't you follow his teachings? - the golden rule and loving our neighbors and our enemies. Would Christ "put the screws on" a country? Are Americans any more precious as human beings than Mexicans or Cambodians or Arabs or Africans or Russians?
If America is the strongest nation in the world, it is not because of military might, but because of the respect for freedom and human dignity, because of education and economic diligence. Rather the military is crippling this country - economically and morally. We do need "the moral equivalent of war" William James recommended. Let us put our national resources into energy, food, health, and education, and instead of the "arms merchant" we will become the "breadbasket of the world." Do not be counseled by the fear and sophistry of defense paranoia—it is the negative power. These vultures have turned you and Kennedy into hawks. If we put our energies to constructive uses instead of destructive, we could share so many blessings with the people of the world that we could eradicate international fear. Listen to the message of Christ: "Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with each other." (Mark 9:50) When will we learn that force is spiritual weakness and that love is human and divine strength? Did not Christian love supplant the military glory of the Roman empire? If we are to sacrifice, let it be for peace and the way of Christ, not for the sake of military greed and paranoia. We must be willing to sacrifice our lives in order to gain the salvation of eternal life. We all must decide whom to serve (as Dylan sings). I pray that you will consider these thoughts in your heart and decide to serve the way of love and peace and universal brotherhood.
Love and Light
Sanderson Beck is a writer and teacher at the World University in Ojai and founder of its College of World Peace.
I taught several courses at the World University in Ojai related
to world peace, such as the Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Psychology
of Nonviolence, Literature and World Peace, Peace Education, Global
Consciousness, and Futurology, In May 1980 I attended a conference
sponsored by the World Federalists in Los Angeles where I heard
Norman Cousins, Louis B. Sohn, and Robert Muller. I also testified
briefly at the U. S. Commission hearings on a National Peace Academy
and submitted the College of World Peace curriculum we had developed
at the World University. The founder of the World University,
Dr. Benito F. Reyes, had been President of the University of Manila
in the Philippines and was President of the World Congress of
University Presidents. This group supported the United Nations
University for Peace planned for Costa Rica. They also induced
the UN General Assembly to declare the third Tuesday in September
International Day of Peace beginning in 1982. I organized the
musicians and speakers for the rally we held that day in Ojai.
In July 1980 I began researching and writing The Way to Peace. I completed this book in October 1983. This investigation of the great peacemakers throughout history gave me an excellent background in the philosophy and methods of peace. I was to have many opportunities to put them into practice.
For ministers in MSIA John-Roger had a policy that they should obey all laws of the land. In retrospect I believe that it was providential that the Ministerial Board revoked my credential in the early summer of 1981. Their main concern was that I was not earning enough money to pay for their training course. I suggested that the real issue was the question of civil disobedience, but they paid no attention to that. Even though I was paying all my bills and not incurring debts, they revoked by credential for “not taking care of myself.”
I was in between quarters at the World University and had just completed my chapter on the League of Nations when I read in the Los Angeles Times about the nonviolent blockade of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in mid-September. I was impressed by their strict adherence to the principles of nonviolence. Since I did not know anyone who was involved, I decided to go up to San Luis Obispo myself to investigate.
I arrived at the blockade encampment at sunset on Tuesday of the first week of the action. I listened in on a camp meeting, read the handbook, and then took the six-hour nonviolence training on Wednesday, We sat on the dried grass in the sunshine, brainstormed on the concept of nonviolence, played a non-competitive game, heard about consensus decision-making and jail solidarity, and role-played discussions with workers and the drama of arrest. The trainer, James, was in the Love and Rage affinity group from Santa Cruz; he had a beard, long hair, and wore a beret, giving him the look of a serious revolutionary.
At the end of the training people formed into affinity groups depending on where we wanted to focus our action. I chose the main gate at Avila Beach; others decided to go in by sea or overland in the back country. My affinity group had eight people---two women doing support work and all the others male blockaders. I suggested the name Social Security for our group, and it was accepted. In this action (and in every other action in which I have participated) we all agreed upon the following Nonviolence Guidelines:
1) Our attitude will be one of openness, friendliness and respect towards all people we encounter.
2) We will use no violence, verbal or physical, toward any person.
3) We will not damage any property.
4) We will not bring or use any drugs or alcohol other than for medical purposes.
5) We will not run.
6) We will carry no weapons.
Although nuclear power was not as important an issue for me
as nuclear weapons, I was wholeheartedly in favor of what we were
doing and especially the way we were doing it.
On Thursday morning I took a peacekeeper training and wept with joy as I realized that I finally was going to have the opportunity to put my commitment to nonviolence into practice. This happened while we were role-playing the dragging away of bodies, and I could see that the trainer was also moved emotionally by my experience.
My group needed transportation to the main gate, and I offered to go into San Luis Obispo to get my car. I got a ride in the back of a pickup truck. When the driver got lost in the streets of S. L. O., I became more upset than I ever have since during an action. I felt the pressure of time and responsibility for the group, I shouted, "Hey, I want to get there!" When I returned to the camp with my car, the group was ready to go.
The plan was to stop the buses which were carrying the workers when they got off work. A few people wanted to come out of a van and lay down under the buses after they were stopped. However, other people blocked this proposal as being too much of a guerrilla tactic. I did not like it either and was glad that no one was going to try it.
Our group and about twenty other people lined up holding hands all the way across the road coming out of the plant. A crowd of supporters and media people was looking on from across the street. We stood outside the blue line and talked to the police who were lined up on the line. The policeman I faced did not respond and avoided eye contact. Nevertheless I told him why I was there. When the buses were ready to come out, a wedge of police opened a path for the buses by arresting people and pushing others back with their clubs. Our group was on the far side of the line; none of us were arrested because we were out of the path of the buses.
After the group of buses went through and the police returned to their positions inside the line, our group had a meeting and decided to sit in the road in the path of the buses. Spectators cheered when we took this strategic position. As we sat there with our arms linked together, we sang, "No Diablo! No Diablo! No Diablo over me! And before I'll be oppressed, I will stand up and protest for the love of the human family." I began to substitute the words "sit down" for "stand up." Soon more buses were ready to leave, and some police were walking toward us. I had arranged to unlock my arms from both my companions. As the officer approached, I said, "I'll go peacefully." To my surprise he took Woody, who was on my right. Then the wedge came out to clear the way. I could see that probably I would just be pushed aside again; so I stood up, walked right into the path of the wedge, and sat down again. The policeman grabbed my wrist and twisted it so that I would stand up. I said that I would cooperate and asked him not to hurt me. He kept the pressure on my wrist and commanded me to walk, which I was. He handed me over to another officer who escorted me to the bus. I thanked him for his gentleness. We were searched, booked, and handcuffed, They wrote numbers on our arms.
First the bus took us to the newly built power plant, and we were put inside a fenced area as the sun was setting. I sat and meditated and concentrated on building a great pillar of Light from the highest heaven to deep inside the earth to surround and fill the plant. As always, I asked God for the highest good of all concerned. After a while, we were put on a bus again and taken to the temporary men's jail, which was the old gymnasium of Cuesta College. We sang the "Love Round," which goes like this:
Love, love, love, love,
People we are made for love.
Love each other as ourselves,
For we are one.
Dear friend, dear friend,
Let me tell you how I feel.
You have given me such pleasure.
I love you so.
Shine your light on everyone.
We have all been given power
From the sun.
Let us tell you how we feel.
You have given us such treasures.
We love you so.
The last verse was made up by the men to sing to the women.
Whenever a new busload of protestors arrived at the gym, all of the men would welcome them by clapping and chanting, "Power to the people!" or "No Diablo!" Then the three to four hundred men would sing, "This gym is your gym. This gym is my gym, all the way from that end, all the way to this end, from the barbed-wire fences to Harvey's Honey-huts. This gym was made for you and me." Then everyone would hold hands in a large circle and chant "Om" together. These welcomes were a continual source of empowerment for the group.
I was able to take a shower that night, since they had just installed a tent with showers. However, there were no towels; so I had to use a wool blanket. In the front corner of the gym the sheriffs had their office surrounded by piles of boxes. The rest of the gym was covered with mattresses in blocks with aisles for streets.
Every night there was a talent show with Wavy Gravy dressed in a Santa Claus suit as M. C. He would get the energy going by saying, "You too can get sucked up in the tornado of talent!" The PG&E Players performed creative comedy; David Hartsough told "war stories" about civil disobedience experiences he had in the civil rights movement; and the American Indian leader Trudeau made long harangues about how the enemy was industrial civilization. On Thursday when I was arrested, Jackson Browne was taking the nonviolence training; he was arrested the next day. The sheriffs let him have his guitar, and he sang for us on two nights until he got a sore throat. "Full Cleveland" reminded us how white our movement was. However, one night Cecil Williams, a black minister from San Francisco, spoke about existentialism.
To me the consciousness of the people seemed to be a marvelous blend of environmental, political, and spiritual concerns. On Sunday we had a free-form participatory religious service representing numerous religions and even atheism. Most people were health conscious, and the white bread and baloney began to be put in tall piles. After a while the authorities got smart and let people make their own sandwiches, and they brought in peanut butter, celery, and carrots. I had decided to fast. I went two days on juices in the camp and then on water for three and a half days in jail. However, I began to feel weak, and there was constant stimulation and stress from so many people being around. I began eating a little and regained my strength.
We had meetings every day to discuss our strategy. Affinity groups would send a spokesperson to the spokescouncil. Most of the time I was the "spoke" for Social Security. I found the consensus decision-making process fascinating. The main issue at first was that people ought to be arraigned in order of their arrest so that they could not discriminate against some people unfairly. We decided as a group not to answer to our numbers and get on the bus unless the earlier people' numbers were called. By Monday this plan was fully operational. No one who was arrested on Friday or after was to get on the bus unless everyone who was arrested on Thursday or before had been called.
I had been arrested on Thursday and was planning on pleading not guilty and representing myself pro per as my own attorney. I had talked to "Berkeley Bob" Schneider who was doing the same thing, and he had been given Thursday September 24 as a pretrial hearing date. Therefore I decided to go to my arraignment and return to jail until the pre-trial hearing.
When the buses arrived to take us to court, only one other person and myself responded when they called the numbers. They put us on a big school bus and took us to the courthouse. I explained to Judge Wood why people were refusing to come to arraignment. I pleaded not guilty and made the following statement:
I plead for the future of humanity. I am deeply concerned about the dangers of nuclear weapons as well as the pollution and dangers of nuclear power. The spent fuel, plutonium, is being used by the US Government to make more atomic bombs. This nation has been moving more and more toward militarism and a possible war unless something is done to stop it. I have taken it upon myself to do everything I can to bring peace to a troubled world. I have joined with the Abalone Alliance because this movement is committed to nonviolence, as my life is committed to the way of love, or nonviolence. Nonviolence comes from the Sanskrit word ahimsa, which means literally not hurting, non-injury, harmlessness. By refusing to disperse I have injured no one. By this act of civil disobedience I am attempting to get the attention of the those people who are perpetrating a far greater wrong, or harmful action, than my supposed illegality. I love those people as I love all humanity. Therefore I want to persuade them to stop their harmful actions for the sake of all humanity and future generations. So far, other methods have failed to prevent this evil, but the situation is so serious and fraught with long-term consequences that I have chosen to place my life on the line for what I know in my heart is right.
I would like to say that the hundreds of dedicated people I have observed in this blockade action are the most selfless, altruistic, and conscientious people I have seen, and I have been involved in spiritual movements with some really beautiful people. We have all made many personal sacrifices, not for personal gain, but for the good of the earth and the future of mankind and all living creatures. The cooperation, communication, and spirit of the group have been excellent in spite of the difficult conditions. The support and sharing has shown that we are a community for a New Age.
Most of the people were pleading no contest and were being sentenced to four days in jail or $120 fine. No one was paying fines or bail, and by the time most people got to court they had already been in jail for four days. A few hundred people pleaded not guilty and attached themselves to the large group trial with the attorney Richard Frischman, who was planning to use the defense of necessity---that people had to act in order to prevent an imminent harm. These people were released on their own recognizance (OR) without bail. However, some judges were requiring that people promise not to return to the blockade before they would give them an OR release.
This "conditional OR" became the next major issue in jail. I was in the spokescouncil meeting when it came up. We decided to have a general discussion with the whole group before breaking down into affinity groups for a decision. Sean and I were co-facilitators. The issue and possible strategies were discussed, and then we took people who had objections to the idea of refusing OR if it had conditions. I think this was probably a mistake, because hearing all the objections in the large group put a damper on the proposal. When we met in affinity groups, only a few of them were able to achieve consensus, however, some of us decided to go on a 24-hour fast in quest of "unconditional OR." Some people just wanted people to plead no contest and go back to the blockade but others of us wanted to take our protest into the courts also.
As usual, the women were more together than the men, and they had achieved consensus on the issue of OR. After another day of fasting I sat in the courtroom on Thursday with some women, and we held our breath as a woman who had been arrested for a second time came before Judge Conklin. When he granted her an OR release without asking for any promise, we broke out into applause. I was given another pre-trial hearing date on October 14, and we were released.
After eleven days and nineteen hundred arrests, the action was clearly winding down. I got a ride to the camp, had a nice dinner in the kitchen there, and then headed for home.
At my pre-trial hearing Judge Conklin explained to me that I would have to play by the same rules as the District Attorney, even if I did not know what I was doing. Motions had to be in writing ten days ahead, etc. I appeared on the 14th and arranged for a couple of witnesses to testify at my trial on October 24. On that day I was ready, but the District Attorney had no witnesses present. He wanted to change the charges; but since he had not submitted his motion in writing, it was denied. As I refused to waive time for a continuance, Judge Conklin dismissed the case.
Meanwhile some hundred and fifty design errors had been found in the Diablo Canyon reactors. Its low-power testing license was revoked by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before the plant had become radioactive. We could not claim credit for stopping the plant from opening, but in some mystical way we had been successful. As I write this over two years later the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant still has not begun operation.
In jail the white-haired Bob Schneider, who now goes by Eldred, shared with me how impressed he was by this action. He said to me "I want to do this at the Livermore laboratories in the (San Francisco) Bay area. That's where they do the research for nuclear weapons." I enthusiastically encouraged him in this plan. On February 1, 1982 the Livermore Action Group (LAG) had their first action, and on June 20 of the same year over fourteen hundred people were arrested at Livermore.
In 1982 I worked on the bilateral nuclear weapons freeze campaign, first by circulating petitions to help get it on the ballot in California, then by attending meetings and speaking to groups. That summer I gave a series of lectures on World Peace at the World University. I regularly attended meetings of the Abalone Alliance (formed for Diablo Canyon) group in Ojai, Stop Uranium Now (SUN). I also participated in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in the Ojai chapter my friend Joanne organized. I facilitated discussion groups on the Planetary Initiative. On September 1, 1982 the following letter I wrote in response to Secretary of Defense Weinberger's views on nuclear war was published in the Los Angeles Times.
Letters to the Editor
Caspar Weinberger's letter is a typical example of the nationalistic neurosis governing American military policy which is based on paranoia, delusions of grandeur, and projection. The Soviet Union is playing the same game, reflecting a mirror image. American fears of Russia are equally matched by Soviet fears of the U.S.; thus the arms race marches on. Every charge Weinberger makes against the Soviets could also be made against the United States. For 37 years the USSR has been trying to catch up with the U.S. to protect their security; now that they almost have caught up American militarists are determined to forge ahead again.
Deterrence is more dangerous than Russian roulette, for if war comes it may be a total devastation. Deterrence only appears to prevent war by keeping the conflicts continuously seething in a precarious confrontation on the "hair-triggered posture" Weinberger fears is so dangerous. The true and effective alternatives to deterrence are infinitely safer, more humane and democratic, and wiser than the fascism of nationalistic militarism. They are the principles and techniques of nonviolence, open discussion and the democratic institution of a federal world government overseeing complete nuclear disarmament under enforceable world law. Tragically these solutions to the danger of nuclear war are rarely even mentioned in the media.
Why are Americans trusting nuclear weapons instead of democratic processes? Why do we prefer force to freedom? Can there be peace without justice? Can there be justice on earth without world law? By what right does the United States (or the Soviet Union) threaten all of human civilization? The madness must be stopped, and it is up to the people to do it.
However, they edited out the last paragraph. I also wrote and published a brochure on "World Peace Movement Evolving Principles, Purposes, and Methods" and raised the money to mail them to 2,000 organizations, 350 of them outside the western hemisphere. I was assisted in this by the Unity-in-Diversity Council and its head, Leland Stewart. We received over a hundred responses. To these groups I sent a personal letter and the following list of our immediate objectives:
WORLD PEACE MOVEMENT
Post Office Box 2 - Ojai, California 93023 - USA
We hope that all friends of peace will continue working throughout the year for the following goals:
1. Stopping the production and deployment of all first-strike nuclear weapons such as the United States' MX, Pershing II, Trident II, and cruise missiles and the Soviet SS-18, SS-20 and other comparable missiles; and transferring the funds for these to the improvement of health, food and water supplies for the poorest peoples in the world.
2. Increasing public awareness of the immense dangers and consequences of nuclear weapons and nuclear power through peaceful, mass demonstrations and nonviolent civil disobedience.
3. Preparation for an agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union to a verifiable bilateral nuclear weapons freeze to be followed by reductions.
4. Legislation to provide for studies and plans for economic conversion for all defense industries.
5. Creation of more nuclear free zones throughout the world.
6. Increasing the number of people who refuse to pay tax for military purposes.
7. Lessening of the cold war rhetoric and policies between Washington and Moscow.
8. Removal of all Soviet troops and military equipment from Afghanistan.
9. Agreement on a permanent truce between Iran and Iraq.
10. Withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon.
11. Negotiation of disputes between Israel and the Palestinians with their neighbors.
12. Nonviolent pressure by the Solidarity Union for social and economic reforms in Poland.
13. Peaceful settlement of all disputes in Africa and recognition of the equal rights of all people.
14. Elimination of all military aid by the United States to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and protection of human rights throughout Central America.
15. Restoration of a democratic, civilian government in Argentina.
16. Peaceful settlement of the Falklands-Malvinas dispute between Britain and Argentina.
17. Nonviolent resolution of conflicts in Northern Ireland.
18. Increased awareness among Catholics and other religions of the evils of nuclear weapons, and moral commitment to conscientious action.
19. Increased pressure for all countries, particularly the United States, to accept and ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty.
20. Awakening of greater public support for nuclear disarmament in the Soviet Union.
21. Greater public education on the issues of nuclear disarmament, nonviolence, human rights, and world law.
22. Whatever else you consider is important to peace in the world.
In the fall I took a workshop for nonviolence preparation facilitators
organized by SUN. At SUN meetings we began to prepare for an action
in January at Vandenberg Air Force Base to protest planned testing
of the MX missile, a destabilizing first-strike weapon. In the
fall of 1981 I had attended the Physicians for Social Responsibility
symposium on "The Medical Consequences of Nuclear War"
in Los Angeles with Helen Caldicott, Admiral La Rocque, Herbert
York, Kosta Tsipis, Jack Geiger and John Kenneth Galbraith. At
a teach-in on nuclear war at UCLA on November 11, 1981 I heard
Robert Scheer and Robert Blake, who spoke from a gut level, saying
to the students, "We shut you down. Don't let us shut you
down anymore." In the fall of 1982 I attended a conference
on Central America at Loyola Marymount and on "The Next Step"
(for reversing the arms race) where I heard Randall Forsberg and
Herbert Scoville, who said that the MX missile does not deter
a Soviet attack; it invites a Soviet attack. At a workshop there
on civil disobedience I also met Jeff Dietrich of the Catholic
In December 1982 the US Congress, in a very unusual move, voted against funding of the MX missile for testing or production while continuing funding for research. The SALT II treaty allowed the U. S. to test and deploy only one new land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM); the legislators were having their doubts about the MX because it had no reasonable basing mode. It looked like this could be the first time that the Congress would stop a major new weapon system. MX missiles were to have ten warheads each with accuracies of 200 yards, which means that each missile could destroy up to ten Soviet land-based missiles. Yet the MX missile could be destroyed in their silos by Soviet warheads. This destabilizing situation would give both sides the incentive in a crisis to launch their missiles before those missiles would be destroyed,
We were also concerned about the native people of the Marshall Islands who were being pushed off the missile test target areas into miserable ghettoes while the American military lived in country-club style. A few months before, some of the Marhalese had occupied the Kwajalein Atoll (largest atoll in the world) where the missiles tested were supposed to land. We heard about these issues at the rally in Lompoc on Sunday, January 23, 1983. Daniel Ellsberg said that the MX missile was the Auschwitz of our time.
I went to the rally with my friend Joanne and Bea Stanley. Bea, who had been arrested many times for civil disobedience over twenty years, and I decided to stay over for the action. She joined her daughter's affinity group from Visalia, and I joined some people from the Nuclear Resistance Coalition (NRC) of Los Angeles. In the afternoon several hundred people marched to the main gate of Vandenberg Air Force Base.
It rained that night at the camp, and the mud was thick. Straw had been laid out, and we had our main strategy meeting under a large tent. As usual every affinity group was autonomous, and the main choice was whether to enter the base, which would be a federal charge, or to block the street outside the base, which would be a state charge. Some groups chose to block the street inside the base, and others decided to hike in early in the morning to approach the missile launching site if they could.
The NRC group took the name Armij which means homeland in the Marshalese language. We elected to go onto the base at the main gate. Most people chose to risk federal charges because we were challenging the policies of the federal government. A couple other people also joined our affinity group; one of them, Gail, was Chinese and a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). I believe that she was perhaps the only Communist to join the action, and she had no more influence than any other individual. As long as a person agreed to the Nonviolence Guidelines, we did not discriminate against anyone.
We arrived at the main gate early on Monday morning. Some of the affinity groups were sitting on the street and being taken away under arrest. We wanted to spend some time communicating with the Air Force personnel first. After a while our group of seven met together and then walked up the road a little and crossed the string-marked borderline and walked out into a grassy arca while holding hands. One Air Force officer told us to stop as he walked backwards in front of us. After we were about a hundred feet onto the base, Bob Landry suggested that we stop so as not to provoke any violence. We formed a circle holding hands and were soon approached by media people (who had passes to be on the base) with their cameras, tape recorders, etc. This impromptu press conference lasted nearly a half hour. In addition to the usual issues, I said that we were the dissidents of the United States and were being treated as enemies by our government. The U. S. Government considers Soviet dissidents as allies and us as allies of the Soviet Government. Thus the two governments have two enemies and only one weak ally, but the dissidents are also allies with each other, thus having two allies and only one enemy, from the governments' point of view. We were representing the people of the world who want to live in peace.
Finally an Air Force officer came over to us and began reading a law from a piece of paper. The first person to be arrested in our group, André, was sitting in a lotus position. He was carried off the field to a bus by two officers. Bob and John Murphy were also carried away. I chose to walk with the two officers. As we approached some ice-plant, I asked if we could walk around it; they said no. I replied, "That's all right; it's a holy cause."
I was searched; they wrote a letter and a number on the back of my hand; and then I was put on a bus. Also on the bus was Bea and her group. They took us to a gymnasium area on the base and put us in an enclosed handball court. We sat around and talked. Then one man started singing the round, "Row, row, row your boat." There was something sublime about singing that in this situation. They took people into booking one at a time. However, the last two or three of us were put back on a bus nearby.
For about four hours I sat on that bus and tried to read a little of Orwell's 1984. Our society seemed perilously close to its newspeak slogan "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." Soon President Reagan was to dub the MX missile the "Peacekeeper." The women on this bus were quite experienced in civil disobedience, and most of them held a continual discussion on strategies for alleviating their concern that some people were being separated and treated differently. We saw one man, Brad, being taken away in a car. We later discovered that he had an outstanding warrant in Texas. We also saw a couple of people dragged along the cement by the Federal Marshals because they refused to walk. These women decided not to get off the bus. Bonnie and Robie (whom I had just met) and I felt that they were creating problems based on speculation. One of them, Starhawk, has published books and was influential in the large group. Several of these women were as intensely concerned, and largely through their efforts we did get a chance to see one of our lawyers, Bill Simpich, who explained to us what was going on. Most people were simply being released with a letter banning and barring them from the base. Months later Bonnie and Robie sent me some money they had raised to help contribute to my trial.
When the time came, everyone got off the bus. During the booking I saw two native-looking officers, and I asked them if they knew that the Marshall Islanders were not allowed to use the "white" hospitals. As I told them these things, the white woman officer sitting between them sank into her chair. After booking, those people who had refused to give their names were required to give a name before they would release anyone. I, like everyone else who went on the base, was given the following letter:
DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE
HEADQUARTERS 4392D AEROSPACE SUPPORT GROUP (SAC)
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CALIFORNIA 93437
SUBJECT: Prohibited Activities on the United States Military Installation at Vandenberg AFB, California
TO: Sanderson Charles Beck, Case G-2, 546-72-3936
1. You have been observed on or in the immediate vicinity of the United States military reservation at Vandenberg AFB, California. The purpose of this letter is to ensure that you are aware of the regulations governing demonstrations on this installation.
2. Given the vital mission of the Strategic Air Command and peacetime military requirements levied on the 1st Strategic Aerospace Division, Vandenberg AFB is a closed base. This means that all personnel seeking to enter the base must be screened by Air Force Security Police. Individuals not having legitimate business on the installation will be denied entry. You are advised that Air Force regulation 35-15, paragraph 3e(1) prohibits "demonstrations or other activities within an Air Force installation which could result in interference with or prevention of orderly accomplishment of a mission of the installation." As the installation commander, I have determined that any political or protest demonstration taking place within the boundaries of Vandenberg AFB could interfere with the mission of the 1st Strategic Aerospace Division.
3. Entry onto the federal property at Vandenberg AFB for the purpose of engaging in any such demonstration or similar activity is thus prohibited by lawful regulation. Your attention is therefore invited to 18 U.S.C., S 1382 which states:
"Whoever, within the jurisdiction of the United States goes upon any military, Naval or Coast Guard reservation, post, fort, arsenal, yard, station, or installation for any purpose prohibited by law or lawful regulation; or whoever reenters or is found within any such reservation, post, fort, arsenal, yard, station, or installation after having been removed therefrom or ordered not to reenter by any officer or person in command or charge thereof shall be fined not more than $500.00 or imprisoned not more than six months or both. June 25, 1948-C. 645, 62 Stat. 765."
4. You are being removed as a trespasser from Vandenberg Air Force Base, a military reservation, and ordered not to reenter the confines of this installation without the written permission of the Commander or an officer designated to issue a permit of reentry.
EARL J. FARNEY, Colonel, USAF
I certify that on 24 of Jan 1983 the original of this letter was given to the addressee.
(Signature of Michael Bowling SSgt
Bea and 37 others were charged with obstructing a roadway, and pleading no contest they were sentenced to twenty hours of community service. All together over two hundred people had been arrested on that day. Some people had woven yarn on the gate of the fence around the MX launching area. I was released about nine that night, stayed at the camp overnight, and went home the next day.
When I heard that Jeff Dietrich of the Los Angeles Catholic
Worker had been sentenced to six months for a year-old civil disobedience
action, I wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times stating
that I would stand with him. There was so much public outcry in
reaction to his sentence that he was released after 31 days.
On February 7, I went to a march and vigil in the rain at the Disneyland Hotel; Jeff spoke to us at the start of the march. My brother Tom, who lives in Orange, accompanied me. The next day I held a sign at the vigil outside the Winter Conference on weapons in front of the hotel. The Catholic Worker had organized a civil disobedience action for Wednesday on the roadway into El Toro Marine Base. The night before, I talked Jonathan Parfrey into letting me participate in the action, even though I had not taken the entirety of their particular nonviolence training.
Early in the morning we went out to the desolate roadway leading into the base. We waited for the buses to bring in the people who were attending this security clearance meeting. However, the buses went around to a parallel roadway. At that time we walked out onto the road in two rows as a symbolic action. I was in the first line, and one car actually ran into the two people standing next to me before fully stopping. To me this was a microcosm of our society. This American driving a big machine with the touch of a foot found it difficult to make the psychological adjustment to stop this machine so as not to hurt a human being. Even the danger to millions of human beings is not enough to stop or even slow the momentum of the military industrial complex.
We were arrested and taken to the Orange County Jail. Most people were planning to stay in jail until arraignment and then plead guilty or no contest. Some of us needed to cite out on our own recognizance. I did because Leland Stewart had asked me to moderate a panel discussion on nuclear disarmament on Friday, February 11 at the Mind-Body-Spirit festival in Los Angeles.
The panel included Daniel Ellsberg, Danaan Parry, Richard Moss, and Yogi Bhajan. When I mentioned my arrests for civil disobedience, many people in the audience applauded. The most interesting moment came when Richard Moss criticized Daniel Ellsberg and the protest movement for acting out of fear. Ellsberg responded by asking the audience how many people thought he was speaking or acting from fear. No one did. To me, this illustrated the lack of understanding of many "spiritual" people about the direct action peace movement.
When I went to my arraignment in Orange County, I pleaded for peace on Earth (not guilty) and declared that I was there in protest of the crimes of the United States Government. A pre-trial hearing was scheduled for March 23. On that day I was under arrest for Vandenberg. I told the authorities, but they did not transport me. Later I went to court, and a trial date was set.
At the trial I had Jonathan and Marilyn (who had been hit by the car) as witnesses, but again the prosecution did not have the sheriff there. They said he could come the next day. Since I was all the way from Ojai, the judge said for one day only he would offer a suspended sentence for a no contest plea. Since it would have been a hardship for my witnesses and me, and because Bea had told me how terrible the Orange County jail was, and because everyone else in the action had pleaded no contest or guilty, I told the judge that in solidarity with what the others had done I would plead no contest. I walked out a free man. When the judge realized it was protest case, he said he would not have done that if he had known. The people who had stayed in jail until arraignment had gotten time served, but the few, like Marilyn, who had come in later had to pay a fine and accept two years probation unless they wanted to spend thirty days in jail.
In response to the ban-and-bar letter I had been given at Vandenberg, I wrote the following letter indicating my intention to return to Vandenberg:
WORLD PEACE MOVEMENT
Post Office Box 2 - Ojai, California 93023 - USA March 14, 1983
Subject: Immoral and criminal activities of the United States Military Personnel at Vandenberg AFB, California
To: Earl J. Farney, Colonel, USAF Commander
1. You are directly involved with the United States military at Vandenberg AFB, California in the deployment and threatened use of the Minuteman missiles and in the preparation for the test flights of the MX missiles. The purpose of this letter is to ensure that you are aware of the international law and universal ethics governing the use of or threat to use nuclear weapons against any people.
2. Given the vital mission of the World Peace Movement and the urgent necessity for nonviolent peacemaking activity by the Vandenberg Action Coalition, Vandenberg AFB is an open base. This means that all people seeking to enter the base for nonviolent peacemaking purposes have a moral right to do so. Military personnel working on the installation are being asked to cease their immoral and criminal activities. You are advised that the United Nations Charter Article 2 Section 4 prohibits "the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state" and Article 2 Section 3 requires all governments to "settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice are not endangered." As a person of sound moral conscience, I have determined that any participation in the research, production, or deployment of the Minuteman or MX missiles could interfere with the mission of the World Peace Movement.
3. Entry onto the federal property at Vandenberg AFB for the purpose of persuading military personnel that they are committing war crimes against humanity as part of a conspiracy to commit genocide is thus the duty of any conscientious world citizen. Your attention is therefore invited to Article 6 of the Charter of the two War Crimes Tribunals held in Nuremberg and Tokyo which declares the planning, initiation, or waging of a war of aggression to be crimes against peace, and which attributes responsibility for it to individuals and to the Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter and Judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal which states:
Principle I. Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.
Principle II. The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.
Principle III. The fact that a person committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.
Principle IV. The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.
Principle V. Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.
Principle VI. The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:
a. Crimes against peace:
i. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of
aggression or a war in violation of international treaties,
agreements or assurance;
ii. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the
accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
b. War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the sea, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
c. Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.
Principle VII. Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.
4. You are therefore urged not only by principles of international law but also by your own moral conscience to stop your criminal and immoral activities at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and I fully intend to reenter the confines of that installation in order to continue my nonviolent work for world peace.
SANDERSON BECK, Coordinator, World Peace Movement
I facilitated a couple of nonviolence trainings in Ojai before
the next Vandenberg action, and we formed an affinity group called
the Peacemongers. Six of us went up to the rally in Lompoc on
Sunday, March 20 and stayed over at the camp for the action on
Monday. The other five were all women, including Bea and Donna
Dolinger, who was pregnant and whom I had met for the first time
in the courtroom during the Diablo Canyon action. Again it was
drizzling at the camp. In the meeting under the tent there was
a strong sense of solidarity on the issue of equal sentences for
first- and second-timers. Starhawk facilitated, and a fish-bowl
role play was performed, where a few participate in the middle
while others watch. As a tactic for refusing to cooperate, the
locking of arms seemed to precipitate violence.
Our group went to the main gate on Monday morning. The situation looked very similar to the January action. We decided to walk up the road about a half mile and to cross onto the base. Then we walked down a mall road toward the main gate. The six of us hooked our arms together and walked toward the main gate, singing, "Let there be Peace on Earth." Soon some Air Force officers saw us and began walking toward us. One of them had a dog on a leash. When we met, we all stopped. Officer De La Cruz began to read the law to us. I informed them that they were in violation of international law according to the Nuremberg Principles and the United Nations Charter.
All of our group cooperated with the arrest. When we got on the bus, I responded to an instruction by saying, "I know; I've been here before." They immediately took down my number. Obviously they wanted to identify the second-timers. They took our group and the others to some small classrooms on the base near the gym. About fifteen of us were put in one room. We immediately started to have a meeting. Within five minutes the person who had volunteered to facilitate was taken out of the room. We selected another facilitator, and he was soon removed also. At that point we adopted the method of rotating facilitator by having each person speaking call on the next person. Our movement, aware of this kind of decapitation tactic, has emphasized giving as many people as possible the experience of facilitation. Even the facilitator has no more influence than anyone else. We try not to place any leaders above anyone else.
We were taken into the gym one at a time for booking. One tactic decided upon for assuring equal sentences was to refuse to give our names or other information. I have always followed a policy of openness and honesty without trying to hide or evade the responsibility for my actions. Thus I had my drivers license with me. Nevertheless I just said, "I have the right to remain silent," and they copied the information out of my wallet. After booking we were put back in the school rooms.
They began releasing people with a ban-and-bar letter if they would identify themselves and if it was their first arrest at Vandenberg. Our group decided to stay. Ellen wanted to leave, but she wanted to stay with her pregnant friend Donna even more. Donna was firm. "Solidarity is what it's all about," she said. About ten at night they released Karen, Christina, and Donna, even though they did not give their names. Now Ellen really wanted to go. We finally convinced the authorities that this was her first time; they had confused her with someone else's picture from January. About midnight she was finally released. That left Bea and me to spend the night on a hard floor with wool blankets. As she was allergic to wool, she slept on some cardboard, and I used the blankets.
The next morning we were taken into another room to consult with our lawyers. In the afternoon we were taken before a federal magistrate for arraignment. In a federal case everyone has the right to appear before a federal judge, but one can waive that right and accept a magistrate. The federal judges for this district were in Los Angeles. Until we knew our demand for equal sentencing was going to be met, virtually everyone was refusing to plead before the magistrate; of course, many already had been released with the ban-and-bar letter.
In spite of the magistrate's warning about not making speeches, both Bea and I brought to the magistrate's attention our bad treatment and the reasoning for our demands of equal justice. The U.S. Attorney said that he was demanding a more severe sentence for us because we both had a previous conviction at Vandenberg. I pointed out that this was incorrect; I had never been convicted of anything. Then the attorney admitted the correction; but he stated that because I had written a letter to the base commander, they would ask for a harsher sentence. When I informed the magistrate of my hearing date on Wednesday in Orange County he told me I was getting myself involved in too many court systems. To that I replied, "Frankly I would like to take this to the International Court."
That evening I was taken to the gymnasium at Lompoc Federal Penitentiary where I joined over a hundred men from our action. The next morning about three dozen men were transferred to Terminal Island. They all went willingly except one or two. A new-found friend, Rob, simply did not go when his number was called, and he was allowed to remain. This happened before we had had very many meetings.
We had spokescouncil meetings every day and evening with affinity group meetings in between. Occasionally lawyers would come in to brief us and bring messages from the women. Like at "Hotel Diablo," we had a talent show each night. Some of the people had become involved in pagan rituals because, like Starhawk and other feminists, they felt that the patriarchal Judeo-Christian religion ignored the importance of nature, the earth, and the feminine side. One night as they were chanting a powerful song about the feminine goddesses and the murder of millions of witches, suddenly Peter stood up and shouted, "Fuck!" He then gave an emotional speech about how he was upset to see Christianity so denigrated by people in the movement. Everyone listened to him attentively and then began sharing their thoughts and feelings informally. On Sunday morning I gave a workshop on the Sermon on the Mount as it applies to our movement. Some people were moved by the parallel, but I could see that others had much negative conditioning in regard to the Christian religion because of its many abuses throughout history.
I also took an excellent facilitator's workshop given by Jack Rabbit and Eric. On Friday night I facilitated a spokescouncil, and I felt myself to be much more skilled than I was at Diablo. However, we felt some pressure on time because Gunther was eager to M. C. the talent show. Gunther was a natural clown and entertainer. Once when people in a circle were reciting lofty quotes and the name of the person who said them, Gunther became disgusted and said, "'I am going to take a piss.' --Gunther." Then he walked off.
In facilitating this meeting I tried to move it along by synthesizing the feeling of the group. At one point someone said, "I think we're being over-facilitated," and he looked at me with concern in his eye. When I responded by saying I thought he was right, he broke into a smile. The next person, whose turn it was to speak, then said that he was going to say what I had just synthesized. This made the point obvious. We decided to let the talent show go on and move to the other end of the room. I backed off some, and the meeting went very smoothly. Eventually consensus was reached that if they called a list of numbers which we determined was clearly discriminatory, then everyone would refuse to cooperate. Even so, many people were opposed to any people being separated and wanted to stay on their mattresses and hide their faces. The final step of the meeting was finding someone to call the lawyers to inform the women of our decision.
The next morning they called two or three dozen numbers. Most of the people called went up to leave. The list appeared to be a random one. A few people took off their clothes and put a T-shirt over their face. The rest of us either sat on a mattress or walked around. The marshals ordered everyone to move to one wall. Many of us continued to mill around. Then they announced that they had handcuffs. As I walked by Jack Rabbit, I said, "I'm not crazy about hand cuffs." Most of us then walked to the wall. The others were dragged to the wall, several of them handcuffed so tightly that the flow of blood was stopped in the wrists. Using photos they identified the people with the numbers called and took them out. We sang, "We are singing, singing for our lives" At that moment I knew what the Jews must have felt in Nazi Germany. Then they began dragging out the mattresses. However, after a while they stopped, apparently having taken the number of those who had left. We recovered from this trauma fairly quickly and began cleaning up the room and arranging the mattresses as we wished. The affinity group I had joined in jail put ours in a star with our heads together. Later we discovered that the women had also resisted this separation. Several women had undressed and gathered in a circle. About eight naked women had been dragged out by male marshals. The men were transferred to a prison in Arizona, and the women were moved to Orange County Jail.
Of the eight hundred people arrested on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, about half had stayed in jail for a week. Of these, about three hundred were first-timers who could have gotten out any time, but they elected to remain in solidarity with the second-timers, asking for equal sentences. On Tuesday they took us before a magistrate again. Since no one was getting a sentence of more than two additional days, everyone was pleading before the magistrate. People had to swear to their true name. First-timers were given time served for a no contest plea. By Friday everyone had been arraigned (even those who had been transferred) and served their time.
I was one of about six people who pleaded not guilty. As far as I know, I was the only one to insist on a trial by a federal judge. I knew that the federal courts do not grant a jury trial if the maximum sentence is six months or less, but I wanted to take it to the highest court I could. I was released on my personal recognizance. Ellen and Donna met me and gave me a ride home to Ojai.
I felt that the action was a tremendous success, similar to Diablo Canyon. I saw the Spirit working through us. Often affinity groups spontaneously came up with the same idea. On the other hand, I saw a meeting get completely bogged down in process controversies because there was no real purpose and because inexperienced people were trying to dominate the meeting. Even this was a learning experience. In a week of intense jail experience I made some close friends, including a professor from Stanford. As usual I got a heavy cold. At arraignment I informed the magistrate that we had gotten hardly any green vegetables and very little fruit.
I appeared before a magistrate once more in Los Angeles before I was sent before a judge later that day. Judge Rafeedie, a Reagan appointee, allowed me to act as my lawyer, but he would not let the public defender help me in the courtroom if I was pro per. The trial was scheduled for June 7.
I went up to Berkeley for a Vandenberg Action Coalition (VAC) statewide evaluation meeting on May 1 with Bea, Bud Booth, and the elderly Glafko Sikelianos. Most of the meeting was spent in sharing feelings about the previous action. Congress was going to vote on the MX sometime in late May. Since we had no intention of planning an action before then, I felt we had the credibility from our previous actions to exert some pressure on this vote by means of a letter. In the last half hour of an all-day meeting I proposed, and a consensus decision was made, to send the following letter to every member of the U. S. Congress and the major newspapers.
VANDENBERG ACTION COALITION
300 West Mountain Drive
Santa Barbara, California 93103
Dear President Reagan,
We are a coalition of people and groups of which 207 people in January and 800 people in March were arrested at Vandenberg Air Force Base for acting in obedience to our conscience (sometimes called "civil disobedience").
We are deeply and firmly committed to the following principles and goals:
* that nuclear weapons are immoral, illegal by international law, and an obscenity against the human race;
* that all nuclear weapons must be abolished in order to preserve the life of the earth and her people;
* that the MX missile is a destabilizing first-strike weapon which only an oppressive power bent on perpetrating its domination over other countries would even consider using;
* that all Congressional funding for the MX missile must immediately stop.
Therefore we declare that unless the United States Congress stops all funding for the MX missile, there will be a mass nonviolent occupation of Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Vandenberg Action Coalition
cc: United States Senators and Representatives and major newspapers and media networks
In spite of our efforts and those of 242 people who were arrested for praying in the halls of the Congress in an action organized by the Sojourners, the House and Senate both voted for funds to test the MX missile. At our next statewide VAC meeting in Santa Barbara I facilitated, and we decided that the next action at Vandenberg would be determined by an alert action network to coincide with the first test launching of the MX missile.
I arrived for my trial in Los Angeles with my two witnesses,
Bob Landry and Bea Stanley. Judge Rafeedie was involved in a trial
and was replaced by A. Wallace Tashima. I began by requesting
a jury trial and quoted the U. S. Constitution, Article
III, Section 2: "The trial of all crimes, except in case
of impeachment, shall be by jury." Also the Sixth Amendment
protects the right to trial by an impartial jury. As expected,
Judge Tashima denied my motion on the basis of previous Supreme
Then Terree Bowers, the Assistant U. S. Attorney prosecuting this case, moved to quash the subpoenas I had authorized for General Watkins and Colonel Farney, the commanders of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and of the Vandenberg Air Force Base. I especially wanted to question Col. Farney about the ban-and-bar letter that had his signature. I wanted to question both of them about the activities at Vandenberg AFB which I considered to be violations of international law. Gen. Watkins had made a public statement that the MX missile is a first-strike weapon. Also both of them could testify as to the effectiveness of the protest in preventing what I believed to be an immense danger to the human race. Judge Tashima granted the motion to quash the subpoenas for both Watkins and Farney. He said he would reconsider the subpoena of Col. Farney if I could make a case for the defense of necessity.
For this reason I decided to make my opening statement before the prosecutor called his witnesses. My complete opening statement, as taken from the official transcript, was as follows:
Your Honor, I have a deep belief in the judicial process, and that is why I am here. I believe that human beings ought to be able to settle their differences peaceably and without trying to kill each other. And it is because of that belief, or the fact that I do not believe in violence or killing or nuclear weapons that I am also here.
I would like to describe briefly then what the evidence will show. I believe the evidence will show that I was not only justified in my actions, but that I was in fact doing my duty as an American patriot, as a world citizen and as a person with moral conscience, and that in fact there was no other motive.
I feel that I was expressing the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances as stated in the First Amendment in the Constitution of the United States.
The land on which I entered is public property. It belongs to the government and, therefore, to the people of the United States. My actions were eminently peaceful, and non-inflictive, non-injuring to any person or property.
I believe that I had valid grievances for which we are in desperate need of redress, and that this was the most available option available to me in the circumstance. And those grievances I would like to describe in terms of two aspects: one is the immense danger that is threatening not only myself, but the entire human civilization, particularly in the northern hemisphere; and international law violations involved at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
This argument has essentially been called the defense of necessity and in prior cases has been recognized by courts. In this I feel that I had an obligation to act. It was like a moral obligation; in other words, it was not just a choice or a whim or a good idea. It was like I felt an actual need or necessity or obligation to act.
There are five elements of this defense, and I believe the evidence will show all of these elements. The first is that there is a danger. And the evidence will show that there is a danger of tremendous destruction and disaster. That missiles involved with nuclear weapons threaten us and that Vandenberg Air Force Base is involved in the research and the development and the testing of these missiles.
Also, that the effect of nuclear weapons are horrendous on civilians. I will call an expert witness who will testify to the medical consequences of these weapons and to indicate, to show the evidence of the danger and that there are tremendous numbers of deaths, destruction, and injuries, pollution to the environment, disease of all kinds and mutations to even future generations involved in this danger.
The second element is that this danger is imminent. Webster's Third International Dictionary, which is probably the most authoritative, describes imminent as usually meaning, "hanging threateningly over one's head; menacingly near."
I believe that with missiles that can go from one continent to another in less than half an hour's time, that this is an imminent danger threatening, hanging over our heads, as many people have said.
I believe that it would be futile to try to stop the disaster once the war has begun when these weapons can do their immense destructive power in such a short amount of time.
Also, the MX missile poses a first-strike threat, and this evidence will show, if I am allowed the witnesses that there is research and development on this missile, and that, because of the immense danger in the amount of time that it would take through protest to stop this overwhelming momentum towards a nuclear holocaust, I believe that this would be considered within the realm of imminent, and with these first-strike weapons being developed, we would be going on to more of a launch-on-warning system, and that in fact these weapons are not deterring weapons, but in fact invite attack from a foreign power.
I also will show evidence that political protest actions do take time to achieve remedy of such an immense danger and therefore, it would be foolish to try to wait until the war was about to start.
The third element in the defense of necessity is that other methods have been ineffective to present evidence of my efforts involved in the nuclear freeze campaign and the standard traditional political processes. (transcript omissions)
I will also describe my efforts in public education. And this evidence will show that these methods have been inadequate to the immensity of the problem.
The fourth element of the defense of necessity is that what I did was a lesser harm or a lesser evil, and the evidence will show that my actions caused absolutely no personal harm nor property damage, and that in fact my action inconvenienced only myself and other people's action that are involved with me; we inconvenienced only ourselves and those who chose to arrest us. And when you compare the minimal quality of this inconvenience to the immensity of a nuclear war, I think it becomes rather obvious that it is the lesser harm.
The fifth element in the defense of necessity is that this is the most effective method of prevention given the circumstances; in fact, the most effective. The evidence will show that the President and Congress have been intransigent to efforts at arms reductions, even arms reduction which have been promised in treaties signed by the United States, which have the force of law -- at least they are supposed to according to the Constitution -- and that the only available, or the most available recourse present at this time is why I am here in court, and is the judicial system.
And that the evidence will show that if the Executive and the Legislative branches are involved in crimes, one can only go to the Judicial branch to get redress against those grievances. And if that fails, then you are in a situation like the founding patriots with a revolution, although I do not advocate violent revolution.
There are precedents that this method of nonviolent protest is a very effective way of reforming wrongs in society. There is the evidence of the women's suffrage movement, Indian independence led by Mahatma Gandhi, the civil rights movement, movements for the black people in this country, and the Vietnam war protest.
The evidence will also show that this is a way of demonstrating a greater personal commitment in these efforts, in that it does have a very strong effect on public opinion and, therefore, is in fact part of the democratic process, and that it has an effect upon military personnel who are contacted, and the courts and every person who hears about it.
The second aspect of my defense is that I was attempting to prevent or stop violations of international law and United States treaties. The United States Supreme Court in 1900 Paquete Habana said that the United States courts must apply international law when applicable.
The United Nations Charter, Article II, Sections 3 and 4, the evidence will show that they are being violated at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Section 3 says that all members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not in danger.
And I submit the evidence will show that the activities at Vandenberg Air Force Base endanger peace and security.
And, "Four: All members" -- this means all nation members, "shall refrain in international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations."
And one of those purposes, of course, is prevention of war.
Also, the Nuremberg Principles, particularly number six and seven, the evidence will show that they are being violated. Principle No. VI reads, the first part of it, "The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law.
"A. Crimes against peace.
1. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war of violation of international treaties or assurances.
2. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under No. 1."
And number four -- excuse me -- Principle VII.
"Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law."
I would just like to mention that I'm not seeking the punishment of the people involved in these crimes. I'm simply asking them to stop.
The principles of the Nuremberg charter were expressly reaffirmed by unanimous resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946, and according to the international law authority, J. L . Brierly, they are now undoubtedly accepted as part of international law.
I believe that the evidence will show that my action is the most effective way of challenging these international crimes, and I will cite further treaties and legal precedents in my closing remarks.
After I sat down, the judge said that he would not allow any
evidence that my action was an attempt to stop violation of international
law by the United States, even if that were to be a fact, because
he did not recognize my "authority to act as a posse comitatus
or vigilante." On the defense of necessity he said he needed
more proof of the imminence of the danger and of the causal relationship
between my action and the stopping of the imminent threat.
The prosecution's first witness, Airman Jerry Alexander, testified that he had his picture taken with me when I was arrested on January 24. Sergeant Michael Bowling testified that he gave me a ban-and-bar letter on that day. Then Sergeant Mark De La Cruz stated that he arrested me on the base on March 21. His description of where and how the arrest took place was rather inaccurate, which defense witnesses later showed. However I was not contesting these facts.
My first witness was to be Jimmy Hara, an M. D. and expert on the medical consequences of nuclear warfare. However, the judge would not let him testify unless my offer of proof on the defense of necessity would satisfy him. After much arguing back and forth between Judge Tashima and myself, he asked me to show how my action would result in termination of the MX program. I argued that by going on to the base in large numbers we could bring about a change in public awareness so that Congress would vote against the MX program. I also stated that I felt that through my moral and spiritual presence there a spiritual power could alter consciousness in a mystical way. Also if there were many people on the base in the launch area, they would not be able to test a missile for reasons of safety. On the precedent of the May case involving protests against the Trident submarine, Judge Tashima again ruled against me.
My first witness was Bob Landry. He testified about our action in January, the conditions of the Marshalese people and their previous civil disobedience, and why so many people chose to stay in jail in March. Then the judge asked Bob if he thought that our movement could stop the first test launch of the MX missile. When Judge Tashima asked him how long he thought it would take for us to reach our goals, Bob replied that if the nuclear arms race was not reversed within two years, the destabilizing technology would make agreements too late. We then recessed for lunch.
In the afternoon I called Bea Stanley to the stand. She spoke of her concern about a nuclear war, her viewing of films about Hiroshima victims and how terribly painful burns are. She described how hard she has worked for peace in many different ways. She told how we were arrested on the little frontage road in March. Again Judge Tashima was curious about our purpose and motives, and he asked several questions of the witness. Bea talked about how the workers at Diablo Canyon were encouraged by protestors to speak up about the design errors. She noted how the people of Utah prevented the building of underground tunnels for the missiles. She mentioned how this action enabled her to speak to prisoners in jail, attorneys, guards, and judges in order to touch their hearts.
The last witness was myself. Most of what I said has been covered in this narrative. After describing my background, efforts for peace, and the details of the arrests, I said,
This experience was a very deep and moving experience because the commitment of the people involved is just awesome. These are people who have sacrificed jobs, who have sacrificed time off, who are doing this at their own expense without a selfish motive at all, but just for the good of the human race.
Our processes are more democratic than even majority rule. We talk things out until everyone agrees.
Most of the people who stayed in custody more than one day stayed for more than a week in support of our action and of our protest.
Although the coverage in the media may have been scant, we feel in many ways that is not our responsibility and in many ways beyond our control; that we can only act for ourselves personally; that we can influence people we talk to and we can set an example in our personal lives that other people can witness and see, and that can work in transforming as a converting power, and that the growth of this movement shows that these converions are taking place.
And, in terms of how long it will take before the right for peace or goodness or whatever you want to call it -- kindness -- triumphs in the world, will be depending upon every person's personal choices, and all of us in this courtroom today have been making these types of choices. Each of us has the power to speed up or slow down that process.
I referred to the analogy of the civil rights movement which used civil disobedience to protest the injustice of state laws and appealed to the federal government; this led to new civil rights legislation. I concluded my testimony as follows:
Now in the case of nuclear weapons when it is the nation state which can be oppressive, it is very difficult in our current, like I say, lawless world, to appeal to a higher court, although there is always the higher court of the spiritual and moral law. But I believe that there is and must be the higher principles of international law which should keep the nations from being criminal against each other and against mankind; and, therefore, I appeal to this Court and I will appeal to the appeals court, if necessary, and the Supreme Court and to the provisional world court for redress of these grievances.
I believe that these methods are necessary because there is a commercial system in our society which in many ways is as limiting and maybe more limiting in terms of getting true peace than even the Soviet system, and that commercial system depends on money and how much money you have, and how much influence you can buy with politicians, and how much you can buy with the media, and that these are just essentially unjust principles which are resulting in the power of the greedy over the goodness of the human race.
I also feel that there is a tremendous mass programming in this country not unlike that of Nazi Germany; that the attitude of Americans toward the people of the Soviet Union and Communist countries is psychotic, or neurotic. It is perhaps even psychotic in terms of the paranoia and the scapegoatism, and the prejudices, the extreme prejudices based on willful lack of information about those people in those societies; that anyone who even speaks for them is immediately labeled a Communist or a Communist dupe without even -- or just to say that they have been influenced by propaganda -- without examining the facts. This mass programming is exerting a tyranny of the ignorant majority over the enlightened minority.
Finally I would like to say that this is a question of life and death not only for myself personally, but for our entire civilization, especially in the northern hemisphere, and that I find it necessary to make a very strong personal commitment to life in this effort, and I express a complete willingness and a readiness to accept any punishment that may be offered in order to help humanity.
In the cross-examination the prosecutor attempted to bring out how effective were my efforts or peace other than civil disobedience, Then the judge asked me several questions, particularly about my belief that my actions could help prevent a nuclear war. I explained why the MX is a destabilizing, first-strike weapon, thus making the danger of nuclear war even more imminent. I interpreted the "window of vulnerability" as the time when the oil begins running low, and the US wants to have military superiority in order to be able to control the resources in the Middle East.
In his closing arguments the prosecutor referred to the precedent of the May case, and he spoke of the danger as a "theoretical future harm." He concluded that my other efforts showed that there were "alternative adequate means."
I responded to these in my closing statement. I said how I was not even allowed to question my witness who was an expert on the very real danger of nuclear war and its harmful consequences. I pointed out that I took this action because the other means I have tried were not adequate to the immensity of the problem. I then quoted cases which have recognized the defense of necessity. I was merely exercising my right of peaceful assembly to petition for the redress of grievances. Then I said, "When the government is breaking the law and puts people in jail for questioning or challenging their breaking of the law, then I call that fascism; and I stand up against it." I then cited the various treaties and agreements that the United States is violating, including The Hague Conventions, the Kellog-Briand Pact, the Geneva Convention, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxic Weapons. According to the U. S. Constitution, treaties ratified by the Senate are the supreme law of the land. I concluded, "My arguments on international law have appealed to your mind. I hope my actions have also appealed to your conscience and your heart."
Judge Tashima discounted international law and took the May case as the "controlling authority;" thus he found me guilty. He offered to impose sentence then, and I waived the pre-sentence report. The prosecutor asked for some more jail time in addition to the nine days I had already served, as a deterrent to other protestors. I declared that I would not accept probation. The judge decided that more jail time was not necessary, and he imposed six months probation anyway.
I stated that I wanted to appeal, and the judge gave me a stay of execution. I was willing to serve time; but since I did not want the probation, I asked for the stay. I was allowed to remain free on my own recognizance and went to the clerk's office to file the appeal. I believe that during the trial Judge Tashima became increasingly interested and sympathetic, which is why he gave me a light sentence.
I obtained a transcript of the trial and wrote my own appeal. At the same time a lawyer for the Los Angeles area, Leon Vickman, had brought a suit against all the nations with nuclear weapons in the Provisional District World Court. He heard about my Vandenberg case and offered to appeal my conviction to this World Court that was being established in Los Angeles. I heartily agreed. We received supportive opinions from Dr. T. P. Amerasinghe of Sri Lanka and A. B. Patel of India who wrote, "I am inclined in favor of your proposal to ask the Provisional District World Court in Los Angeles to adjudicate on a Complaint to be filed about the rights and duties of a person on Earth who feels that international law and world law are being violated, and takes personal action to stop the violation." Amerasinghe wrote that my action was a human duty, parallel to human rights.
At SUN meetings in Ojai, John Erickson, Ellen, and I began to discuss the possibility of planning an action at Point Mugu Naval Base where they test cruise missiles as part of the Pacific Missile Test Center. John remembered that a cruise missile had crashed in the forest near Ojai in 1979. Ellen put together an informative leaflet about cruise missiles and Pt. Mugu She showed me the copy for it on the same day a small article in the Los Angeles Times reported that another cruise missile had crashed in the national forest about 25 miles from Ojai. We put that article on the front of the leaflet and planned a community meeting at a public missile park near the base for April 24, 1983 with the following press release.
April 18, 1983
Cruise missile testing is proceeding daily from the Pacific Missile Test Center at Pt. Mugu. In March of this year a malfunctioning Tomahawk cruise missile crashed in the Los Padres National Forest about 25 miles northwest of Ojai. Cruise missiles, which can be launched from the ground, the sea, or the air, are pilotless jet airplanes that fly at tree-top level using radar and computer maps to follow the contour of the earth. This enables them to escape radar detection, and thus makes the cruise a first-strike weapon. Because they are small (21 feet or less in length), easily launched, and can take either a nuclear or conventional warhead, they pose immense verification problems in possible arm control agreements.
The Reagan Administration is planning to deploy 464 ground-launched cruise missiles in England and western Europe this December. Hundreds of thousands of people in England (at Greenham Common), Italy (at Comiso, Sicily), and throughout West Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands have been actively protesting this threatened deployment. In addition the United States is planning to produce 3,700 air-launched and 4,000 sea-launched cruise missiles. On April 15 the U. S. Air Force announced that the Convair division of General Dynamics in San Diego has been granted a contract to produce an advanced air-launched cruise missile which is comparable to the $11.5-billion Tomahawk sea- and ground-launched missile they are currently producing.
A Community Meeting to discuss the cruise missile testing will be held at the missile park near the main gate of Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station on Sunday April 24 at 3 p.m. This will be an open forum; a speaker from the naval base has been invited.
I sent out these press releases to the newspapers and public
service announcements to the radio stations. We invited the base
to send a speaker, but they sent us a letter declining to engage
in "political" discussion.
About thirty people came to the meeting. Surrounded by large models of missiles, we discussed the threat of cruise missiles. I read out of a peace newsletter from Yorkshire, England. The Europeans were already very involved in protesting against cruise missiles. I mentioned that the Livermore Action Group (LAG) had called for an International Day of Nuclear Disarmament on June 20. People were present from around Ventura County, Santa Barbara (VAC), and Los Angeles (NRC). Everyone expressed their views about what we ought to do. Amazingly enough we all agreed to plan an action at Pt. Mugu for June 20 with a leafleting of the cars going in and out on May 23.
We had meetings almost every week up until the action. At our next meeting we agreed to use the consensus decision-making process. I consciously restrained myself from dominating the meetings and after the first meeting in the park did not facilitate any until the last part of the meeting the night before the action (when people asked me to expedite the process). Several people came forward to take on key responsibilities.
Early in the morning on May 23 about a dozen of us (including some senior citizens) handed out leaflets and a letter to employees as they drove their cars in through the gates. In the afternoon about ten of us did the same thing. We got some good coverage by local newspapers, radio, and television. We were allowed to leaflet at all three gates. We gave out about nine hundred copies of the following letter:
WORLD PEACE MOVEMENT
Post Office Box 2 - Ojai, California 93023 - USA
May 23, 1983
We are people who, like yourself, desire peace.
On June 20 we will be taking part in a nonviolent demonstration at Point Mugu to protest the cruise missile. We are committed to acting in a nonviolent manner. Although we realize you may be called upon to arrest us for our presence on the base, we appeal to you to act nonviolently also. We hope that in spite of our different positions we can communicate with respect for each other as human beings. We seek to express our deep concern over the escalating arms race, and want to establish a dialogue with you on this issue which deeply concerns us all.
We stand together with millions of people throughout the world who have recently spoken out against governments' talk of "limited" and "survivable" nuclear war. Our presence here is not intended to threaten or inconvenience any of you as individuals. However, we feel that, in conscience, we cannot passively accept the destructive momentum of the arms race which threatens life as we know it on this planet.
We have always been told that our nuclear arsenal is intended only to deter a nuclear attack. But new very accurate weapons like the cruise missile can destroy the military targets of the other side. Thus they are designed for fighting a "protracted" nuclear war.
The military claims to exist for the purpose of protecting our freedom; yet, at the same time it demands your unquestioning obedience in carrying out its orders. At the Nuremberg war crimes trial after World War II, the American prosecutors established that following government orders is not a valid justification, if those orders meant killing millions of innocent civilians. Ultimately, each of us is responsible for our own action or silence, regardless of the chain of command.
While we do not necessarily expect you to quit the Navy tomorrow, we do want you to seriously consider the issues we raise. Whether or not one endorses current nuclear policies, the issues are moral as well as political in nature. Many different spiritual leaders (including Catholic Bishops) now consider our readiness to launch nuclear weapon to be immoral.
We recognize that you also seek peace in your life, and believe that as human beings we can choose to learn to deal with conflicts in nonviolent ways.
Peace Action at Mugu
While leafleting I introduced myself to Sheriff Ron Cook who
was watching us. He offered to serve as a communication link between
us and the Navy. I told him we were nonviolent, open, and communicative.
I gave his phone number to René; she had been in the Air
Force and volunteered to do this. Later he told me that he had
more trouble communicating with the base than with us.
Also in May I wrote an article entitled "What About the Russians?" which I sent to 99 major newspapers and magazines across the United States. Not a single one published the article, but I will publish it here.
An all-out war between the United States and the Soviet Union, whose combined arsenals contain about 50,000 nuclear bombs, would be not only the worst disaster in history but probably the death of all human civilization on earth. Yet under the influence of Reagan Administration rhetoric, an attitude of fear, suspicion, and hostility toward the "Russians" is flourishing in this country. In a recent speech to the American Committee on East-West Accord, George F. Kennan, former U. S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, warned that discussion has been almost totally militarized, portending a "march toward war."
Millions of Americans, listening to U. S. politicians raging about the Soviet military build-up for world domination by its "evil empire," have apparently concluded that the Russians are worse than the Nazis and a greater threat. The most common response to the bilateral nuclear weapons freeze movement is, "What about the Russians?" Most Americans assume that the people of the Soviet Union have no opportunity at all to work for peace, speak for peace, donate money to a peace group, or march for peace. All of these assumptions are false, and yet any information which contradicts them is immediately dismissed as propaganda. Americans' notions of the USSR and its policies are woefully distorted by the politicians' rhetoric which plays upon the widespread ignorance about the Soviet Union, appealing to national prejudice and pride in order to garner votes. Fear of being branded a Communist or "Communist dupe" suppresses what little knowledge there is about the Soviet point of view.
For the sake of world peace, let us look briefly and calmly at the efforts of the Soviet Union for peace and disarmament. The Constitution of the USSR speaks of "preventing wars of aggression, achieving universal and complete disarmament, and consistently implementing the principle of the peaceful coexistence of states with different social systems. In the USSR war propaganda is banned."
Leaving aside the power drives of the politicians and military men for a moment, let us acknowledge that the common people of the world want peace. This is also true of the Soviet people. Americans have trouble understanding the repression of some freedoms in the Soviet Union, just as Communists are critical of inequities in the West. Democracy-capitalism offers a free market of ideas as well as products, while Communism manages politics as well as the economy for the sake of peace and unity. Although the methods of their process are different than ours, the goals are the same: peace, justice, brotherhood/ sisterhood, and universal prosperity.
At the Second Special Session on Disarmament at the United Nations last June the Soviet Union declared unilaterally that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons. The United State has refused to make this pledge.
The movement for world peace is very strong in the USSR. Last summer a peace march from Stockholm to Minsk via Helsinki, Leningrad, and Moscow was joined by tens of thousands of Soviet citizens. They called for peace and disarmament by means of "a halt in testing, production and deployment of all types of nuclear weapons with international agreements for verification," nuclear free zone treaties for all of Europe and the world, no first-use and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the use of world resources for human needs instead of weapons.
During the last week of October 1982 Action for Disarmament was celebrated in the USSR by fifty million people with over 80,000 events in protest of the arms race and in defense of world peace. An appeal for peace was signed by over twelve million Soviet people. In December a group of Soviet and American physicians discussing the prevention of nuclear war was viewed by millions on Soviet and American television.
On January 5, 1983 the Political Declaration of the Warsaw Treaty Member States took three unilateral steps in good faith:
1) a moratorium on further deployment of medium-range nuclear weapons in the European part of the USSR, and the start of reductions,
2) the withdrawal of 20,000 Soviet troops, 1,000 tanks and other military equipment from East Germany, and
3) the no first-use pledge.
They also proposed the following:
1) to reduce the strategic nuclear weapons of the USA and USSR by at least 25%,
2) to reduce the Soviet SS20s to 162, the number of British and French missiles,
3) to reduce aircraft carrying medium-range nuclear weapons to the same level for both sides, and
4) to create a zone free of battlefield nuclear weapons in Central Europe, as proposed by Sweden.
In addition the USSR has offered to withdraw 20,000 servicemen from Central Europe if the USA will withdraw 13,000. After this step they propose that both NATO and Warsaw Treaty forces reduce to 900,000 each, to be followed by a freeze on forces and armaments until comprehensive reductions are agreed upon.
Let us hope that the public, the press, and the politicians will investigate these and other facts in detail so that we can be more rational about Soviet-American relations. Neither side trusts the other, but let us at least try to understand each other so that we can learn to live in peace for the good of all.
On Saturday, June 18 I gave a nonviolence training at a home in Thousand Oaks for about eighteen people. On Sunday we had a good rally at Plaza Park in Oxnard. The music, speakers, posters, food and sunshine on the lawn made it seem like a celebration of peace more than a protest of war. In our talks both Dr. David Breen and I referred to people's peace efforts at military bases as a healing process for the world, much like the activities of certain cells in the body which surround and release diseased cells. I also described the U. S. Government's plans to build thousands of cruise missiles in addition to the 464 ground launched cruise missiles (GLCM) scheduled for deployment in Europe. Cruise missiles are a first-strike, nuclear war-fighting weapon because they are designed to fly below radar detection. They would sabotage verification on a freeze because they can have either conventional or nuclear warheads. The destructive power of the nuclear warhead is many times that of the Hiroshima bomb. At the rally Diane and I gave a short nonviolence preparation for a few more people.
We held a strategy meeting for the civil disobedience on Sunday night. Thus far we had no lawyers to represent people, except that Bob Lavelle was going to come down and help with the arraignment. Ten of us decided that we wanted to risk arrest. The consensus of this group was to plead not guilty and have a jury trial in the community. For this reason we planned to stay outside the borders of the base and stop cars on the street from going into the base.
We arrived at Pt. Mugu about 6:30 in the morning. About thirty people stood at the sides of the road outside the painted line, holding signs and singing. We discovered that only this one gate was open, because the frontage road into the other two gates was blocked off by the law enforcement. The traffic into this one gate became steadily heavier. By 7:15 both lanes were stop and go slow; traffic was even backing up on the freeway prior to this offramp. About this time they opened the near side of the frontage road so that one lane of cars could go in another gate.
Although some of our people had left in a car to go to the bathroom, I suggested that the first five go out onto the road. We held hands, and I walked between the cars out to the center of the street, as the others followed. I held a sign which said, "Celebrate Life: International Day of Nuclear Disarmament." As traffic backed up even more and people took pictures, we sang, "All we are saying is, 'Give peace a chance.'" After a couple of minutes, some cars began to pull around across the double line on the wrong side of the road. Still holding hands I began to move further over Our arms were so outstretched that a couple of small cars drove between us. One irate driver drove into eighteen-year-old Mike Marco. Mike used his foot to protect himself from the bumper, and the man got out of his car and yelled at Mike for kicking his car. Richard Foster and Don Hamilton helped us stop the cars on the wrong side of the street, and then stepped back when the arrest began so that they could be part of the second group.
I was handcuffed and put in a wagon with the other four and Lee Malis, who was arrested accidentally for taking pictures. Then six more people went out into the road, including Marilyn Bodo, who joined at the last moment to be with her friends. We were booked and put on a bus. Even an hour later we could see that the traffic on the freeway was still backed up. Especially considering our small numbers, this was the most effective blockade I had ever seen.
They took us to the Ventura County Jail. All of us, except Richard, had planned to stay in jail until arraignment. However, they took us two at a time and told us they were releasing us---"just sign this paper here." I could see that it was a promise to appear in court at a later date for arraignment, and I refused to sign. Six people signed the form, and six of us stayed in jail. David Moody was not cooperating with most of the procedures. After several hours of processing we were put into different cells.
This was the first time I had ever been with "regular" inmates. I discovered that the prisoners treated each other as equals, but the guards treated the inmates as inferiors. I did not have any trouble at all.
On Wednesday all of us in custody, except David, were arraigned. Although I was defending myself, others wanted to have a lawyer. Bob Lavelle was just there for arraignment. A local lawyer named Bob Schwartz heard about our case and offered to represent people. Thus we decided to continue our arraignment to join the others, and we were released. Moody was arraigned and released the following Monday.
We met with Schwartz a few times. However, he was unfamiliar with our process and our purpose. He felt that with my long hair and beard I would "turn off" the jury immediately. His idea was to have Glafko, a 74-year-old immigrant, be the only witness in order to get sympathy from the jury. Richard had been involved in a case at Rockwell, and he helped us get Doug Booth from Los Angeles to represent us also. Don got Jenny Scovis of Thousand Oaks, who was also sympathetic to our cause, as another lawyer. All of these attorneys donated their services to us, and we were glad to have all of them. Bob was valuable, because he knew the local judges and the Ventura court system. Because of Doug's schedule, we postponed the trial until August. We had a few meetings to plan our defense but somehow our process had been lost due to the authority of the lawyers. Although I do not like waiving time for postponements, I gave in to the group so that we could have a large group trial.
In August the prosecutors discovered that we may have been on federal land because of an easement given to the state for the freeway. Thus they dropped the state charges and brought federal charges against us. When this happened, Bob Schwartz dropped off the case, and a trial before Magistrate Stone was scheduled for November 4. We complained about being deprived of a jury trial but accepted the magistrate so that the trial would be in the local community.
Some of us gave out letters at Pt. Mugu prior to our scheduled trial in August.
August 16, 1983
Beginning on Monday, August 22, eleven people will go on trial in Ventura for their nonviolent protest near the gate to Point Mugu on June 20, the International Day of Nuclear Disarmament. These people have risked going to jail for the sole purpose of awakening more people to the immoral activities and international crimes taking place daily at the Pacific Missile Test Center.
We would like to make you more aware of the dangers to human civilization and the illegalities involved in the testing of cruise missiles and Trident components. These are nuclear war-fighting weapons with first-strike capabilities. The cruise missile, particularly, because of its difficulties in verification, could sabotage our opportunity for a bilateral nuclear weapons freeze leading toward complete nuclear disarmament.
In the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (signed 7-1-68 and ratified 3-5-70) the United States agreed "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament." The Reagan Administration record is in flagrant violation of this treaty.
We want to inform you that complicity in the commission of a crime against peace such as planning and preparing to fight a nuclear war, is a crime under international law according to the Nuremberg Principles. Also, "the fact that a person acted pursuant an order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
We are asking you to consider that moral choice, examine your conscience, and quit perpetrating crimes against the human race. We can learn to settle our differences without threatening each other with mass murder and destruction. Please join us in our loving struggle for a world of real peace and justice.
for Peace Action at Mugu
We were not allowed to leaflet where we had in May. We were
supposed to stay outside the painted line. Several times I was
forcibly removed to this line by two security officers, but I
was not arrested.
When our jury trial was taken away from us, I wanted to do something. I suggested we go see Congressman Lagomarsino. So I wrote him the following letter:
September 2, 1983
Dear Representative Robert Lagomarsino,
Your votes in the United States Congress have implicated you in violations of international law committed by the United States Government and military forces. You have advocated and voted in favor of nuclear weapons and military intervention in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. You are abetting aggressive attacks against the government and territory of Nicaragua, military occupation of Honduras, and the oppression of the people of El Salvador by a ruthless government. You have voted tax-payers' money for the MX missile and encouraged just about every escalation of the nuclear arms race.
The United Nations Charter Article 2 Section 3 requires all governments to "settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered." Article 2 Section 4 prohibits "the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." The Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter and Judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal define crimes against peace as "1) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; 2) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (1)." Nuremberg Principle II and III state, "The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law. The fact that a person committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law."
I am a registered voter in your Congressional District. I have no animosity against you personally, and I have no wish to hurt you or punish you in any way. However, because of my moral conscience and knowledge of international law and spiritual principles, I feel I must protest the crimes you are committing in order to bring them more readily to your attention. I am also on my 28th day of a juice fast in support of the 13 people who are fasting on water until they see a significant step to stop the arms race. I plead with you for you to stop your oppressive behavior.
For peace and justice
I took this letter and said I wanted to see him about it. His aides told me I would have to leave because I could not see him for at least two months. I said it was urgent and that I was willing to wait. They said they would arrest me and called the police. I asked David Moody to call the Santa Barbara television station. The police arrived and asked the aide to make a citizen's arrest of myself and Glafko, which he did. As they were taking us out of our Congressman's office in handcuffs the TV cameraman arrived. I said that Rep. Lagomarsino was violating international law. He was in his inner office the whole time, but I never got to see him.
I was on the 28th day of a juice fast in support of the Fast for Life and was pretty thin. As it was the Friday before Labor Day weekend, I wanted to cite out and come back for arraignment. I told them I would not take anything but water until I was released. A psychiatrist warned me that if my weight got too low, he would certify me insane and have them feed me by force. I said that I was in excellent health and had no intention of injuring my health. They did release Glafko and me on our own recognizance. Later we got letters from the district attorney saying that the charges were being dropped because prosecution would serve no purpose.
I continued on the juice fast until the people who were fasting on water to stop the arms race decided to stop. It turned out to be an even forty days. Although it required much patience, I found this juice fast to be less painful than a five-day water fast.
The Ventura County Freeze organization asked me to be one of the two coordinators of the three local Freeze Walks scheduled for October 1, 1983. I dislike bureaucracy and fund-raising, but I offered to help mostly in other ways to inspire people to participate in this effort to support a bilateral freeze on the nuclear arm race. Discovering a lack of appropriate literature, I produced a brochure on the freeze which could be used throughout southern California until the 1984 election. It rained the morning of the walk, but I had arranged to move the rally in Ventura indoors. Miraculously the pouring rain stopped, and we had a successful ten-kilometer walk in Ventura.
Meanwhile the people in the group we called Peace Action at Mugu (PAM) did not want to organize another action until the trial was over. I definitely wanted to do something during the Stop the Euromissile protests in solidarity with the Europeans. Jeff Dietrich of the Catholic Worker and now President of the Alliance for Survival, spoke at one of our PAM meetings about the civil disobedience in El Segundo on October 24, Matt Bell, Glafko, and I decided that we wanted to participate.
This has been published in the book PEACE OR BUST. For ordering information, please click here.
Stopping the Euromissiles
The Point Mugu Trial
Trial for the El Segundo Action
In the Los Angeles County Jails
Sentencing for Point Mugu