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Baghdad falls, but local protesters won’t back down

Baghdad falls, but local protesters won’t back down

April 10, 2003
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ - Area peace protesters weren’t altering their message Wednesday after early reports about the fall of Baghdad.
While CNN continually broadcast shots of toppling Saddam Hussein statues and cheering anti-Saddam protesters, area protesters denounced the images as propaganda that glossed over “massive pockets of resistance” to a U.S. presence in the country.
Local opponents of war are going ahead with a planned “weapons of mass destruction inspection” in Bonny Doon on Friday. Activists plan to hold a press conference at noon at the county courthouse that will deal with the Lockheed-Martin Missiles and Space Co. facility in Bonny Doon, then drive to the plant with some protesters dressed as “weapons inspectors.” No civil disobedience is planned, organizers said.
A spokesman for the military contractor said he respected demonstrators’ rights to express their opinion, “so long as they don’t block access.” The company does administrative work, research and testing at the site, he said, declining to elaborate.
Protest co-organizer Justin Mayer said an end to the war in Iraq wouldn’t change his opposition to “any unilateral lone-cowboy control trip, which has been called the Bush Doctrine,” he said. “What country’s next?”
Joe Williams of the Santa Cruz Peace Coalition said the protest messages will not change, but there could soon be a priority shift toward humanitarian aid, “for instance, prosthetics for limbs blown off by American bombing of Iraqi children, and human shields going to other countries.”
He also said the term “victory” will be relative in Iraq, because “we declared victory in Afghanistan and we just bombed a bunch of civilians a day or two ago. Obviously we are going to win the military battle but winning the peace, I don’t think we can do it. The last time we did that was in Germany and Japan.”
Meanwhile the not-as-vocal area residents who support military action say they’re increasingly exasperated by the war protesters.
“They should stop, they are wasting their time,” said Mary Jean Walton, a graduate student living Scotts Valley. “In Santa Cruz they have this delusion of grandeur. They want to pass a resolution saying ‘Stop the war’ based on 120 people? That’s such a small representation of this county, and it just seems wrong to me.”
She was referring to the Monday town hall meeting when the Santa Cruz City Council considered, but did not vote on, another anti-war resolution. About 120 people showed up to the meeting, leaving plenty of vacant seats at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.
At Monday’s meeting, Councilman Ed Porter wanted to pass a measure saying “bring the troops home.”
But only four council members were at the meeting. Mayor Emily Reilly, among others, expressed concern about the lack of a “unified voice,” so the group postponed the vote until Tuesday night. There was another postponement then, because City Attorney John Barisone said continued items must be posted 24 hours before a follow-up meeting.
“That was my resolution, bring the troops home, “ Porter said Wednesday. “But once the war is virtually completed, I wouldn’t want to advocate bringing them home and leaving a vacuum for rioting and anarchy.”
“Things change,” he added. “That doesn’t mean it was right to go over there. I disagree with the pre-emptive strike policy. ... People can interpret (the war) positively. It doesn’t mean it’s good foreign policy or makes our lives more sustainable if we win a war and more people in the world hate us.”
The council will discuss a resolution broader than just a “bring them home” clause. The resolution might, among other things, call for a cease fire, and direct city staff to prepare a pamphlet, for distribution to all households in the city, detailing the costs of the national defense budget and the war on Iraq to Santa Cruz residents and businesses.
The city may also consider a task force to evaluate how the city and residents “might accept responsibility” and “make amends” for the war such as creating a sister city relationship with an Iraqi city, raising funds for humanitarian relief and reconstruction.
Porter wants the council to talk about a resolution though he agreed with others in the council, “who made the point we can’t spend all our time on this when we’re supposed to spend time on city business.”
Councilman Mark Primack, the only council member who did not sign off on the now-famous September resolution against the war, says he won’t sign off on a new council statement.
“It is clear to me that if you had a town hall meeting with 120 people there, that is not a groundswell of community concern for the council passing a resolution,” he said. He added that he considers the push for more protest resolutions empty gestures and in some cases hypocritical.
“People in Santa Cruz are recipients of the bounty of U.S. global invasions to as much a degree as any community in the country. For us to pretend we can disassociate ourselves from that is embarrassing to me.
Contact Dan White at dwhite (at)


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