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Antiwar activists step up demonstrations

Antiwar activists step up demonstrations


March 21, 2003

As U.S. bombs fell on Iraq for a second day, the peace movement in Santa Cruz intensified by equal measure.
The day’s worth of action included a protest at a Capitola military recruiting center, a rally and march by UC Santa Cruz students and an evening community vigil at the Town Clock all climaxed with yet another meandering march through downtown and the lower Ocean area to the county government center.
War opponents showed no signs of taking pause as a 24-hour vigil at the Town Clock continued into the night and a full slate of events were planned for today.
“We are not going to sit and be silent” UCSC student Ryan Wadsworth proclaimed from the steps in front of the county courthouse.
All the events were typical of recent protests antiwar chants, the clanging of pots and pans and criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of the while situation.
Speakers at various sites called the war nothing more than an imperialist oil grab.
A moment of silence and candlelight marked the vigil at the county building where a trio of women dressed in black with matching veils stood in front of the string of speakers and musicians.
That came after about 400 people marched from the Town Clock, heading down Pacific Avenue, detouring to Center Street and on to Laurel before heading toward the lower Ocean area and back to downtown.
Traffic was momentarily snarled and bystanders and motorists could do little but wait for the procession to pass, some honking in support and a few looking somewhat annoyed.
That was preceded by a rally at the Town Clock for the second straight day with the masses spreading to the four corners of the intersection at Pacific Avenue and Water Street.
“Today I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach,” said Pete Shanks of Santa Cruz while standing among the horde at the clock. “Frankly, it feels a lot better to be around people. We’re sending a message, but we’re also supporting each other.”
A drum circle aided the chants of “No War for Oil” and the series of other incantations.
Earlier at UC Santa Cruz about 75 people gathered for a 3 p.m. rally next to the Bay Tree Bookstore followed by about 50 students and supporters marching from campus to downtown.
One UCSC student plans to go beyond the chanting and sign-waving form of protest by going to Vandenberg Air Force Base today. Maia Ramnath said she would be part of a group that plans to “enter security zones” within the base’s perimeter.
“If I can still claim the privilege of freedom, I have the responsibility to use it,” Ramnath told those assembled for the rally. “If our actions at Vandenberg succeed in delaying or disrupting the use of the world’s most formidable arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, in the conduct of a blatantly imperialist war, then we will have acted in good faith, in the interests of the human race.”
During the morning a vocal group of protesters lingered near the military recruiting center on 41st Avenue, holding signs, pounding drums and handing leaflets to people walking into the offices.
The police called the repeat protest peaceful. There were no arrests, and protesters claimed a free speech victory because they were allowed to hand out the informational pamphlets, questioning military service, while standing just outside the recruitment offices.
Police praised the protesters, who they called well-organized and cooperative. Police said the group had agreed not to block the entrances illegally.
At its height, the group had about 75 people gathered near the offices.
While the event appeared to run smoothly, protesters complained that police had videotaped the license plates of cars parked near the demonstration. One, Nicholas Whitehead, said he’d learned that cars with antiwar or “radical” stickers were singled out for taping.
Another protester complained the police were “keeping files on us.”
Sgt. Todd Mayer of the Capitola Police acknowledged cars were videotaped but said this was for security in case the protest turned violent. He spoke about national concerns “about dirty bombs and explosive devices,” and said no particular cars in the lot were singled out. He said the videos would be taped over soon.
Nancy Lenox, at the 41st Avenue protest, said she was out representing four generations of her Santa Cruz family. She said motherhood sharpened her anti-war consciousness. She said “warmongers stole the joyful moment from me” when her son was born 23 years ago because she immediately began to worry he’d one day be called up to fight in a war against his will.
Sgt. Charles Madrid at the Marines office said the protesters had no noticeable impact on recruitment “because we’re going to do our job whether they’re out there or not.” As for the protesters, “I ignore them, they ignore me.”
Protesters, most in their teens or early 20s, filled Watsonville Plaza with anti-war slogans and the sound of rattling snare drums. Many shouted out, “One, Two Three Four, we don’t need this (expletive) war” as drivers either honked or just looked puzzled.
One protester, Lucia Corrales held up a sign saying “Bush = Satan.” She said protests couldn’t stop the war before it started, but hoped that if people took to the streets, they could still cut it short.
About 50 were taking part in the rally around 3 p.m., drawing many onlookers. One protester held up a sign saying “Indigenous Land,” in Spanish. The protester, Miguel Rojas, displayed that slogan because he was drawing a comparison between the war and America seizing terrain from Mexico.
“I’m banging the drum to show respect for my ancestors,” he said.
Back in Santa Cruz, the Resource Center for Nonviolence was bustling Thursday as the nerve center of this area’s peace movement. Instead of the war room, call it the peace room.
The center has pledged to remain open around the clock for the next several days as it and its partners plot antiwar events.
During the afternoon curious visitors dropped in the center on Broadway and people phone in to ask about upcoming marches and protests.
A coalition of groups are working with the center under the umbrella of the Iraq Action Network.
Louis LaFortune of the Santa Cruz Peace Coalition said Santa Cruz has a prominent role in the national peace effort, and that is why it was important to remain visible.
“What happens in Santa Cruz has a ripple effect,” LaFortune said. “It’s always important to be visible to counteract the daily diet of government information. One of the functions of the peace movement is to get that point of view out there.”
Three training sessions were held on “direct actions” small groups can take outside of the organized peace groups and more were scheduled today.
“Our only insistence is they are nonviolent,” said the Resource Center’s Bob Fitch.
Sentinel staff writer Dan White contributed to this article.
Contact Brian Seals at bseals (at)


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