International Day of Protest

Report from: Cape Code

By Sue Walker

Our protest and rally was held at Keith Field just around the corner from PAVE PAWS. We had approximately 100 people during the 4 hours.  This included 15 - 20 teenagers who were very enthusiastic.

We started with drummers and had our call to action read while we were in a Unity Circle around a peace symbol made from flower petals.  We had speakers about Missile Defense, the corporate connection, PAVE PAWS connection, the Veterans for Peace, the Iraq situation.  We had two guest speakers: Jill Stein, MA candidate for Governor from the Green Perty and Eleanor LeCain, Nat'l Board member from WAND.

We interspersed the speakers with excellent music from Dennis Garvey, Judy Wallace and Carol Chichetto.

During the rally many activists held signs on Rt 6A so motorists would know why we were there.  We received both support and obscenities !

At the end of the rally 15 teens walked up to PAVE PAWS to tie peace ribbons on the fence.  The gate was open, but in the driveway were 5 or 6 state police cars and two state police motorcycles.  Some ribbons were tied onto the fence.

The Cape Cod Times sent a reporter and a photographer to the rally.  Unfortunately we were very disapponted with the distortions of the coverage.

It meant a lot to us to be part of the international day of protest. Thanks for all you did.

If you look carefully at one of the pictures you can see the Sagamore Bridge in the fog in the background!

Peace, Sue


It's a right, but message of rally wrong to some
By Paula Peters
Staff Writer, Cape Cod Times

Peace activists line a section of Canal Road near the Sagamore Bridge yesterday.
 Their dissent antagonizes some who support the country’s military action in Afghanistan.

(Staff photo by STEVE HEASLIP)

A Capewide coalition of peace activists gathered yesterday on Keith Field in Bourne to protest military action in Afghanistan and the country's proposals for a space-based missile defense system.

The activists exercised free speech and put democracy to work. They held up signs with slogans such as "Dissent is patriotic" and "Fight war not war$." They made speeches. They made peace symbols out of flower petals on the ball field.

Yet with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks still like an open wound on the nation, the views of the 60 or so protesters are highly unpopular. According to last week's Gallup poll, 90 percent of Americans say they are in favor of the airstrikes against Afghanistan.

However, most agree it is an American right to voice discontent. It's what makes America free. And there is renewed attention on what free speech means at a time like this.

Centerville businessman Stephen Luciani says the irony of the situation - that the war is waged in part to guarantee protesters' right to assemble and speak freely against their own government - is troubling to him.

"I don't want to jeopardize the right to free speech, but it takes a lot of patience not to be angry with them," said Luciani, who helped organize last month's candlelight vigil in Centerville for victims of terrorism.

Had the protesters lost a son on the 103rd floor of One World Trade Center on Sept. 11, they probably wouldn't be out there, said Zachary Meltzer of Centerville.

His son, Stuart Meltzer, would have celebrated his 33rd birthday last week. Instead, the family is trying to make sense of their tremendous loss.

"Those people suffered no personal loss," said Meltzer. He said he isn't angry at them for protesting; it is their constitutional right. But he is disappointed. "They have every right to believe in what they believe in, but they ought to keep the thoughts of those who have suffered in mind."

Meltzer said he was never an activist but recalls questioning the Vietnam War. This military action is far different, he said.

"We are not just butting into a third-party war. This was an act that was perpetrated against America on American soil that killed over 5,000 innocent Americans," he said.

Protesting space militarization

The protest of the early warning radar system in Sagamore, PAVE PAWS, Bush's proposed missile defense system and the militarization of space was planned prior to Sept. 11. And widespread support of the war on terrorism didn't stop the protest.

Sponsored by several local peace organizations, the protest was held simultaneously with more than 100 others around the world as part of the International Day of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space.

While the protesters' focus may seem misguided considering the nature of the war on terrorism, President Bush said in a press conference on Sept. 4 that he still considers a space-based missile defense program a priority.

"All scientific exploration and any other use of outer space should be for civilian research only with a view to furthering the well-being of humanity and not for the destruction of life and the environment," said Diane Turco of the Cape Cod Coalition for Peace in Space.

Turco said the group is calling for the government to keep weapons and nuclear reactors out of space, honor the anti-ballistic missile treaty, and avoid what the group calls wasteful military spending and redirect it toward education, health care, affordable housing and the environment.

Speeches and songs were periodically interrupted yesterday by people driving by shouting angry remarks like one man who slowed down to say, "The freedom you are enjoying today was won by people who fought for that freedom."

Falmouth Director of Veterans Services Edward Gibbs called the protest of PAVE PAWS radar station, which monitors the North American skies for incoming missiles, a mistake even if you don't want to see the country engaged in a war.

"I feel that those who are protesting about the missile defense system are misguided," he said. "It is our primary defense against a rogue nation or terrorists launching a missile, which is not an improbability given the disastrous events of Sept. 11."

For more than two decades, the PAVE PAWS station has served as the eastern pillar of the nation's most sophisticated radar system, tracking the skies for ballistic missiles and keeping track of satellites.

The station is in a 10-story building on Flat Rock Hill, in the northern corner of the Massachusetts Military Reservation. One of three in the nation, it is operated by the 6th Space Warning Squadron.

Since the day the station was built, critics have been pushing the military to study the effects of the radar on human health.

Capt. Brad Swezey, public affairs officer for PAVE PAWS, said he would not respond to yesterday's protest other than to say, "We applaud the right to free speech and we have a mission to perform to help protect that right to free speech."

New meaning after Sept. 11

Last week protesters were urged to move the event, originally planned for the PAVE PAWS entrance, to the ball field on Route 6A by Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings. Cummings was concerned a protest at the Massachusetts Military Reservation radar facility would put a heavy demand on already overworked state and military police whose efforts are needed to provide security elsewhere.

Despite the intended focus of the event, several hand-painted signs referred to the military action in Afghanistan. One read, "No mindless revenge" and another stated, "Our grief is not a cry for war."

Still, Andrew Mcintosh of Falmouth hoped the missile defense issue would not be confused and complicated by the anti-war movement. Mcintosh had attended an anti-war protest in Falmouth the night before. While the effort to promote peace is certainly connected, he said the goal of yesterday's event was to redirect funds committed to missile defense.

"Money spent on missile defense could be spent more effectively on humanitarian efforts," he said.

But while Mcintosh attempted to clarify the protest's focus, a group of teenagers distinguished from the generally older missile defense protesters by their baggy clothing, tattoos, body piercing and brightly dyed hair had different ideas. They grabbed their signs and began marching and shouting, "One, two, three, four, we don't want your (expletive) war!"

The chant clearly antagonized both drivers passing by and some of the event's senior organizers.

"This isn't what we are about," said one older woman who struggled to listen to the speeches.

Opinions and emotions

Luciani believes those who oppose the military effort don't have enough information about the environment that breeds terrorism, and should spend time living under Taliban rule.

"I want to put them on a plane. I'll pay for the ticket," he said. "Let them see that guy beating a woman with a stick for wearing nail polish. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that is wrong."

He said they are no different than those who opposed World War II.

"They believed Hitler would just go away, and he didn't. Well the Taliban is like the SS in Germany," he said. "They are brainwashed. There is no reasoning with them."

However, some protesters still advocate diplomacy.

Benjamin Price of Falmouth accused the American military of "indiscriminate attacks" on Afghanistan after three weeks of intelligence-gathering to determine terrorist training sites.

While Price said a more appropriate response would be bringing the terrorists to justice in an international court, he admitted achieving that in a nation where women can't show their faces, work or be educated might be "difficult."

But Meltzer, whose son was killed in the World Trade Center, said talk would be ineffective given the mindset of the enemy. He said they are brainwashed to disregard human life.

"How do you have dialogue with these people?" he asked. "We have to root them out."

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