Activists carry message against military spending
Demonstration in Ann Arbor

October 8 2000


[Note: This local paper's write-up of our October 7 demonstration fails to mention that two of the nuns who were arrested in September at Peterson AFB, Sr. Ardeth Platte and Sr. Carol Gilbert, spoke at the noon rally, and that the US Space Command's Vision 2020 was the main focus of the rally. I add an article I wrote for our local alternative newsmonthly, AGENDA, that we also made into a flier. We distributed 1000 of those fliers (and hundreds of others) during and after the rally.]

Eric LeCompte uses Oreo cookies to make points about what he believes is rampant military spending. He also uses huge, inflatable props and a bus with stacks of money painted on the side.

On Saturday, however, the "Money Mobile" bus barely was able to sputter into town after breaking down twice near Grand Rapids. As a result, it was too late to set up the inflatables for a rally planned for Liberty Plaza in downtown Ann Arbor.

But he still had cookies.

"Each cookie represents $10 billion in military spending," said LeCompte, who is one of six activists traveling in the bus on a cross-country series of demonstrations against defense spending.

"That means there would be 29 cookies for the military, but only three for children's health, three for education and just half a cookie for Head Start programs."

Thanks to the cookies, all wasn't lost for the Money Mobile's visit to Ann Arbor. LeCompte said he still hoped to set up some of the inflatables for a second demonstration on South Ashley Street later Saturday evening.

"We're basically here to show the average taxpayer how much money the government gets and how they're spending it," he said. "We think the priorities are wrong."

Hence the Oreos.

"It's good to have symbols to represent the things we're talking about," he said, adding that the inflatable props also serve to bring the dense subject of military spending into everyday terms. "They help to put things into perspective."

During a 30-city tour, sponsored by the Pax Christi USA national Catholic peace movement and due to wind down next month, LeCompte said he and his fellow activists brought their message to thousands of people.

The bus, which blew a fuel pump on Friday and then had brake problems on Saturday, forcing the cancellation of a similar stop in Grand Rapids, was donated by Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream.

Saturday's logistical problems were particularly disappointing for the activists, because the bus's arrival was meant to correspond with a rally against space weapons systems.

More than 30 peace activists gathered at the Federal Building at noon, then marched through town, while six protesters dressed as Darth Vader handed out leaflets opposing the so-called Star Wars initiative.

Star Wars. Darth Vader.

Get it?

"There are a lot more Darth Vaders out there, but they're not dressed up and they're at the highest levels of government," said Alan Haber, one of the rally's organizers. "I think people are a little more conscious of this issue right now because the election is coming up.

"People recognize that it's a misdirection of priorities and they want to have their voices be heard."

Will Stewart covers Ann Arbor city government. He can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (734) 994-6701.

BUSH and GORE make me want to RALPH

October 7 2000

By Rev. Thom Saffold
Coordinator, Direct Action Center of Washtenaw County
Ann Arbor, MI

"The hidden hand of the market will never work without the the hidden fist - Mcdonald's cannot flourish without McDonnel Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps." Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. ... corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by workingupon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." -- President Abraham Lincoln, 1864

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