Reality Vs Tv. / Peace Veteran
Salinas activist MacGregor Eddy brings the fight to Vandenberg.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
At a town hall meeting on Sunday March 23, Rep. Sam Farr spoke of his opposition to the war in Iraq. "I think we are taking great risks here, risks of unknown consequence," Farr said. He spoke a to packed and overwhelmingly sympathetic audience at Monterey Institute for International Studies. "I think the method we used represents a failure in Democracy." Farr, who has consistently opposed the war, declined to vote on a resolution Friday that expressed support for President Bush and the troops. He stressed that while he supports the troops he doesn''t support the President''s actions.
Some members of the audience accused Farr and congress of not doing enough to hold the President accountable for the war. Others praised the congressman for his unwavering anti-war stance. One woman thanked him, saying, "you truly are our Uncle Sam."
Yet not everyone in attendance praised Farr. One member of the audience addressed the congressman as "Saddam Farr," and carried a large homemade "Shame on Sam Farr" poster.
"This invasion of Iraq is an awesome display that we know how to conduct a war," Farr said. "But I think what''s failing here is knowing how to conduct peace."
As members of the audience lined up to address Farr, one woman''s absence was noted by members of the audience and by Farr himself.
Salinas-based peace activist MacGregor Eddy could not attend Sunday''s Town Hall meeting. Eddy, 53, was instead at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara.
Vandenberg has been a frequent target of peace activists since the early ''80s. The base acts as a command center for satellites that guide troop movements.
On March 15 security personnel at Vandenberg said they may use "deadly force" if protesters entered the base and would shoot to kill, if necessary, to protect people and equipment on the base.
After struggling with whether or not to cross the line, Eddy decided to limit her involvement to vigils outside the base and to providing food and support for others who went inside.
Eddy, a mother of three, is a founding member of the Salinas Action League, a group that has held weekly anti-war vigils in downtown Salinas for the past year and a half. She is a nurse and also hosts a bilingual peace and justice talk show in Salinas. As a member of the Vandenberg Action Coalition, Eddy first trespassed on Vandenberg property in May of 2002. She was fined $100 and put probation, a term she is still serving.
On Thursday, March 20, Eddy set up a computer communication system for the protesters at the peace camp, on a farm near Vandenberg owned by World War II veteran and anti-war activist Bud Boothe.
Eddy, whose first protest was as a 16-year-old girl opposed to the Vietnam War, did a solo silent vigil outside Vandenberg''s main entrance on Friday as the bombing in Baghdad began. She dressed in black and held a picture of an Iraqi child and a sign that read "Peace."
"Some people give you the finger, some people give you the thumbs up," Eddy said. "There was a surprising number of positive responses from people driving onto the base, including a few in uniform."
In one civilian truck entering the base, the driver flipped Eddy off while the passenger gave her the peace sign.
"I''d really like to know what the conversation was in the truck after that," Eddy said.
When asked why she protests, Eddy spoke about her convictions.
"In the presence of this terrible wrong we must take a stand and bear witness," Eddy said. "From my experience in the Vietnam war I know it makes a difference. I''m not asking people to think like me, but by my actions I am making people think about what is going on."
Over the weekend about 40 activists joined Eddy in silent vigils in front of Vandenberg. An additional 20 activists entered the backcountry of the 99,000-acre military facility. Divided into small groups, the infiltrators hung signs of protest on fences and water towers inside the base.
Maia Ramnath, a grad student at UCSC, spent 32 hours inside base boundaries and was one of the last to leave on Tuesday, March 25.
"A lot of people got scared off by the [Air Force''s] threats," Ramnath said. "I think that''s exactly why they did it."
Ramnath spoke about the significance of her actions. "In one sense maybe what we did was pretty trivial. But I think getting as far as we did is disruptive to their peace of mind if nothing else."