2003 Peace Campaign
This has been published in the book PEACE OR BUST. For ordering information, please click here.
(Sanderson wrote this account of his educational peace campaign for the Presidency of the United States during his four-month incarceration for nonviolently protesting the illegal invasion of Iraq. He has endorsed the candidacy of Dennis Kucinich as the best vote we can make during the primaries.)
I am sitting at a table in the law library of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles on September 6, 2003. I have decided to write an honest account of my efforts for world peace in the last year, using only my memory as a resource, because I will still be in prison for another six weeks.
About a year ago the junior Bush administration was beginning its propaganda campaign for its aggressive war against Iraq. In September 2002 I am working on an extensive revision of the 282-page The Way to Peace, which I wrote 1979-1982. To the early chapters I have added since June much relevant material from the first two volumes of my comprehensive History of Ethics, which I wrote 1995-2002. The new book would be 993 pages and have the new title Guides to Peace and Justice. At this time I am also writing a Movie Mirror each day and have nearly completed the year 1942. On September 11, I watch on television the surreal spectacle of George W. Bush giving a commemorative speech with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, exploiting the horrific consequences of United States foreign policy as an excuse to make these policies even worse. This is followed by an arrogant speech at the United Nations in which he warns that the UN may become like the League of Nations. He threatens Iraq, which has already been devastated by US military force in 1991, has suffered misery and hundreds of thousands of deaths because of US-imposed "sanctions," and is being regularly bombed into submission in the northern and southern portions of the country.
I am doing research and adding sections to my book on Marsilius of Padua, Petrarch, Gower, Chelcicky, Wyclif, Hus, Anabaptists, Mennonites, and others. Searching for books by international law pioneers such as Vitoria, Suarez, Pufendorf, Wolfe, and Vattel, the current international law expert Francis A. Boyle is kind enough to respond to my email, and friend Howard Richards tells me the Santa Barbara public library can get me almost any book I want for fifty cents each. These books help me extend that chapter.
I am living in Ojai and have been renting the master bedroom in the house of Max Falk for the past seven years. Since I moved in, he married Olga, who is from Guatemala; recently they have been using the house as a day-care facility. I like children and have adjusted to this, and Max allowed me to move most of my extensive library into the garage. On October 9 (John Lennon's birthday) Max tells me that he wants me to move out of that bedroom within three months. My first reaction is that I am screwed. I could not fit my library into a smaller room.
After meditating on this, I decide to go on another peace tour around the United States as I did in 1987, talking with people and selling my books. I had founded the non-profit corporation World Peace Communications and went into debt to publish the Wisdom Bible in May 2002. Without money for promotion or marketing there were no reviews. In August we printed thirty copies of Ancient Wisdom and Folly, the first volume of the History of Ethics. I would also publish and sell the short Nonviolent Action Handbook along with the large Guides to Peace and Justice. Max and Olga agree to give me until March 24 to move out and will allow me to store all my things in the garage during my planned seven-month tour in 2003. In 1987 I had visited more than six hundred peace groups and stayed in 130 cities. This time I want to go to university campuses, and using the web I draw up a schedule of 180 universities, one each day on Mondays through Saturdays.
Also in October Bush is bullying the UN to try to get it to authorize his attack on Iraq, and the cowardly US Congress foolishly votes him permission to launch this aggression whenever he wants. After adding material on the abolitionists and American pacifists to my chapter on Emerson and Thoreau, I am writing a new chapter on women's rights and the fascinating suffrage movements in the US and England. After adding to the chapters on the Bahá'í religion, Tolstoy, and Gandhi, I am writing the hopeful but tragic story of the League of Nations. The fascist tendencies of the current Bush regime are offering frightening parallels to Germany, Italy, and Japan invading one country after another. I begin attending vigils in downtown Ojai and learn our town has a local chapter meeting weekly of Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions (CPR), a group in Ventura that meets once a month. I attend a slide show talk on Iraq by Leah Welles.
The election results in November 2002 are very disappointing, as the Republican Party now has control of the Senate as well as the House. Exactly four years before, I had warned a friend that I was concerned that Texas Gov. Bush might be elected president in 2000, and Republicans could control the government. One month before that election, I said that Bush could win in the Electoral College even while Al Gore won the popular vote. Gore won by 540,000 votes; but two days after the contested election, I predicted that three people would decide who the next president would be - Souter, Kennedy, and O'Connor. Nonetheless I was horrified when the conservative US Supreme Court went against its own states-rights principles and reversed the intelligent decision of the Florida Supreme Court to recount all the votes. I never thought I would live to see the day in our country where the fair counting of votes was blocked.
Soon after watching a long documentary about Jimmy Carter on public television, I dream on the night of November 11, 2002 that I am telling Carter that I think I have leadership ability. While living in Georgia I had spoken to Jimmy Carter at his church in December 1990, asking him to repent on the Carter Doctrine so that thousands of lives could be saved. He flashed his teeth and said that that only had to do with the Soviet Union. I thought it had to do with going to war in the Middle East to protect the oil supplies. On the Sunday in January 1991 before the Gulf War began, Jimmy was teaching about the wise virgins who had oil for their lamps and told how his father had taken him to the nearby train station two hours early to make sure he would get back to Annapolis, and so I raised my hand and asked, "Suppose there was a country that had plenty of oil; but they were so afraid they would not have enough, even though they did, that they were going to war against another country to take their oil. Would that country be justified in going to war?" Everyone laughed because people wanted him to talk about the war. Carter said that he had called Gorbachev and Mitterand that weekend, and they and he were opposed to the war.
As I awoke on November 12, the idea occurred to me that I could run for president myself. Even though I have never been in politics before (since high school), I will be touring the country and could be a voice for peace and disarmament that students and others could rally around. By running as a Democrat among the few challenging front-runner Al Gore, I hoped that I might gain enough support to get into the televised debates before the primaries. I spend the entire day, while sitting in a jury pool without being called, thinking about this idea without telling anyone about it. That night Oak Grove schoolteacher David Howard presents a petition to the Ojai city council for a resolution opposing war against Iraq. In support of this effort I make a short speech opposing the dangerous Bush policies and noting that his idea of a "man of peace" is Ariel Sharon, whom I say is one of the worst war criminals in the world today. Afterward I tell David and Delores Keith that I am seriously considering running for president.
I stop writing Movie Mirrors and watching movies and devote all my time to developing my policies for peace and justice. I extend the chapter on the United Nations to include the history of its peacekeeping operations, and I add much to the chapter on "Women for Peace." The chapters on the Vietnam War and anti-nuclear protests are also strengthened. I research a new chapter on Reagan's proxy wars in Central America and the organized resistance to them as well as senior Bush's invasion of Panama. In new chapters I am especially inspired by the chapter on Gorbachev and the ending of the Cold War, and I try to expose the follies of recent US imperialism by summarizing the critiques by Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. The history and crimes of the first Gulf War are described by recounting the efforts of former attorney general Ramsey Clark.
I find the 2000 platforms of the Democratic Party and the Green Party on the web and am struck by the contrast. The Democrats' policies are expressed in vague generalities with much rhetoric; but Green positions are specific, detailed, and much more comprehensive. I consider myself a Green Democrat and write precisely what I oppose and my own ideas of what I think we should do. I call the Federal Elections Commission to find out about the requirements of an official candidate. They send me a package, and I am glad there are no fees. Getting on the ballots is by states and their parties. I learn that to get on the Democratic ballot in California I must be a recognized candidate by qualifying for federal matching funds. To do that I must raise at least $5,000 in each of 20 states from individual contributions of no more than $250 each. If I can raise more than $100,000 in this way, the federal government will give my campaign an equal amount. With my planned tour to so many states this seems to me to be feasible. I organize my ideas into a brochure for my campaign and redesign my 1982 World Peace Movement brochure to include the Nuremberg Principles and Nonviolence Guidelines for action - all under the heading "Principles and Methods of Peace and Justice."
I get a thousand copies of each brochure printed locally and begin distributing them. In December I give them to at least two hundred people while attending the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) conference in the Westwood Methodist church my family went to occasionally when I was a teenager. However, my only opportunity to speak is briefly in the lunchtime workshops about the nuclear weapons danger and the need for nonviolent direct action. Some of the people in the Ojai CPR group seem to resent that I am running for President and will not allow my campaign brochures to be given out at their table. However, Cheri Mason is moved by what I say at the Ventura CPR meeting, and we get together to talk. Although she is in the Green Party, I persuade her to be the treasurer for my campaign. We attend Peace Sunday at the Los Angeles Convention Center and hear speeches by Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee. She represents Berkeley and Oakland and had courageously voted against the invasion of Afghanistan and the U. S. Patriot Act. The organizer Leland Stewart is a friend of mine, but it is too late for me to be able to speak. Kucinich reads a good speech but is not yet a candidate. I am discouraged, however, because I do not sell a single copy of the Wisdom Bible.
I am inspired to offer a team approach instead of a single candidacy and hope to be able to pull together a group of progressives including Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Randall Forsberg, Helen Caldicott, Ralph Nader, Michael Ratner, Norman Solomon, Kwame Mfume, Jesse Jackson, Jim Hightower, Juan Gonzales, and others. I send an email with this list of names to Amy Goodman, asking her to be the vice president candidate and saying that I am willing to step aside if this council decides on a better presidential candidate. I send another email to her and Norman Solomon a week later but receive no response at all.
The semi-annual board meeting of World Peace Communications is attended by Howard Richards, Eileen Baker, Teri Apodaca, and me on the first Saturday in January 2003. I have persuaded Teri to accompany me on my national tour, and she hopes to make a video. The next day I write a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan about the violations against international law being perpetrated by the United States and the United Kingdom. My friend Paul Belgum arranges for me to be on a panel at Ventura CPR, and 79 people (nearly all there) sign a petition supporting my letter. I mail these and a Wisdom Bible to Annan.
I have been trying to contact ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) by phone and email so that I could speak at their rally in Los Angeles on Saturday January 11, but I get no response from them or other sponsoring groups. Our Ojai CPR has chartered a bus, and with help from John Dixon, I am able to sell 58 copies of my brand new Nonviolent Action Handbook. I slip past police in order to hand celebrity Martin Sheen a copy with my campaign brochure. I have met him twice before; he bought two of my books at Concord in 1988. I ask an organizer to give a Handbook to Jackson Browne, who was arrested the day after me at Diablo Canyon in 1981. I give one to Rev. Jim Lawson and sell one to Franciscan Louis Vitale.
I hear that the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Pasadena is sponsoring a nonviolence training the next day. In the morning I send an email to them about my Nonviolent Action Handbook and get a quick reply from Shaddy that they are already using it from my website. John Dixon drives me to the training in Boyle Heights, and I sell them some books. I give my friend Jeff Dietrich a review copy for the Catholic Agitator. Rev. Lawson gives a great opening speech about his own imprisonment for refusing to be drafted during the Korean War, his study of Gandhi in India, and on the long-standing evils of U. S. foreign policy. He taps me on the shoulder as he leaves. Before leaving I give the young facilitator a suggestion that he ask for concerns or reservations before he asks if anyone wants to block consensus; he is grateful for the advice. This group plans a civil disobedience action at the federal building for February; but I have promised Teri I will stay out of jail (at least for a while).
After writing the last chapter on "Nonviolent Revolution" and an appendix on "My Efforts for World Peace" with the letter to Annan, I complete the typesetting of Guides to Peace and Justice and send it to the printer. At the Santa Barbara Peace Congress organized by the local Not In Our Name (NION) on the 18th of January I march in the street with Teri and her friend Nikki, who also wants to work on my campaign. During a workshop I ask international law expert Richard Falk a series of Socratic questions, gaining agreement that President Bush and the US Congress are violating specific treaties. Then I suggest we need nonviolent revolution and that the way we do that in this country is by electing a new president and that I am running. Penny Little has allowed me to speak on an inter-faith panel, and people applaud when I say that I have been arrested more than fifty times for nonviolent protests. I say that war does not determine who is right but who is left.
After hearing the outrageous propaganda and warmongering in Bush's state of the union speech, I write an "Alternative State of US" address and put it up on my website. KEYT, the Santa Barbara affiliate of ABC, sends a young reporter to interview me where I am living. I explain I am running for president to educate people on nonviolent solutions to international problems and discuss various issues. Although I warn him that a major problem is that the media primarily only covers the "horse-race" aspect of campaigns instead of the issues, I find that he has edited out all my good statements and presented the story to show that anyone can run for president.
Dave Wass asks me to be on his community-access television show "War or Peace" in Santa Barbara. We record eight shows between February 6 and March 20. Since Teri Apodaca is my most enthusiastic supporter, I ask her to be my campaign manager. She recruits another friend named Jody, and we try to get organized. I am hoping to announce my candidacy on Lincoln's birthday at UCLA; but this is frustrated because I cannot get any of the student anti-war groups to even meet with me or sponsor a room for this purpose. I am finding that efforts to contact other campus groups are difficult despite the accessibility of email. With three people working on my campaign I get 10,000 revised campaign brochures printed with a new photo. Then I learn that Nikki and Jody have problems in their own lives preventing them from going on the tour or working on the campaign. Teri is also trying to get her life in order and has only raised enough money to buy three cell phones. After the big peace march on February 15, I tell Teri that I am canceling the nation-wide tour because of lack of support. Now that Dennis Kucinich is a candidate, the peace movement has an experienced politician to support.
I have been speaking briefly at the Saturday marches in Santa Barbara, appealing for people to do more to stop the war. I propose a national strike if Bush gives Saddam Hussein an ultimatum, and I declare that I will begin a juice fast at that time. I say that the people of Iraq are praying for peace and that it is our responsibility to help stop our nation from attacking them. In Ojai to a senior citizens group I give a two-hour talk on the history of Iraq, the oldest civilization. On March 5, my birthday, I speak to a rally of students in Ventura after some walked out of class. I also speak to the Santa Paula Unitarian church. At the office of Dr. Falk at UCSB I had met film student Dan Reilly, and he has decided to make a documentary about my peace campaign. A Not In Our Name group has been organized in Ventura, and I facilitate a workshop on nonviolence at the Ventura Unitarian church. Max wants me to move out of my room sooner if I can, and we agree that by leaving on March 20 that will pay for storing my library and things in the garage for four months. When George II gives Saddam Hussein a 48-hour deadline on March 17, I begin my juice fast. Two days later Dan and I hear his war speech on the radio just before meeting in Ventura with people who want to organize a protest action at the office of Rep. Gallegly on April first. I had sent emails to the UN Security Council members, asking them to keep the inspectors in Iraq so that the US would not attack; but they pulled them out, and the invasion began.
On March 20, I become a homeless person, protesting the war full time. Since the war has started, I break my fast to keep up my strength. After taping the "War or Peace" show I join the people marching in the streets of Santa Barbara. Despite the anger and frustration there is no violence, and a riot is avoided. NION has developed good communication over several months with the police, who now let people roam in the streets while blocking some intersections. That afternoon a few people were arrested for climbing on to the 101 freeway and blocking traffic. Teri lets me sleep in her bedroom in my sleeping bag.
I wake up early Friday morning and go to talk with three guys who are fasting in de la Guerra plaza. I suggest we need to get more organized and direct our protests toward the warmakers rather than traffic, and they agree. We discuss planning an action at the weapons manufacturer Raytheon, the largest employer in Santa Barbara County. I also meet with David Krieger at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation about similar concerns. That evening at the plaza I propose we let people join different groups for actions. Protesting at Vandenberg Air Force Base is also suggested; but soon after the announcements the people leave to march in the streets again. I participate in the march and the "die-ins," and no one is arrested. Dan Reilly kindly lets me stay in his apartment even though a friend of his is visiting him.
Peter Lumsdaine, whom I know from the MX missile protests at Vandenberg in 1983, has been organizing for the Vandenberg Action Coalition, which called for a demonstration the first Saturday after the war starts. Dan, his friend, and I go up to Vandenberg AFB. A vigil holding silent poses for about an hour is led by Dennis Apel, a Catholic Worker who had been arrested recently for spraying his blood on the Vandenberg sign. Just before Sister Mary Pat White is going to cross the line to commit civil disobedience, a photographer from the Los Angeles Times asks me if I am Sanderson Beck. I ask Mary Pat if she wants company, and Sheila Baker joins her. I want to do an interview for the Times reporter, and before I know it, Mary Pat and Sheila are across the line kneeling in prayer. They are warned and arrested. The Times writer conducts a brief interview, and then I announce that I am going to try to persuade those on the base to stop committing war crimes.
As I walk toward the green line, I ask permission to go on the base to talk with the commander. I cross the line and charge them with violating international law and US treaties, such as the United Nations Charter. At the same time Captain Quigley is reading a warning with a public address system that I will be arrested for trespassing. I have to shout to be heard except during the intervals after the two-minute and one-minute warnings. Dan is videoing my speech but in his edited documentary cuts out the following: "If you are Christians, follow what Jesus taught and did. 'Love your enemies.'" I complain of US hypocrisy, which demands that a weak country not be allowed to have any weapons of mass destruction when the US has more than the rest of the world combined. I declare that I am running for president on a true disarmament platform. I prophesy that there will be a nonviolent revolution to throw the fascists out. I appeal to their souls, which take only their experience when they die. I mention that I was arrested there twice in 1983 for protesting the first-strike MX missiles. As they handcuff me and escort me away, I shout, "Stop the war!" Before I am put on a bus, I speak to a line of Air Force men in riot gear, urging them to become conscientious objectors and informing them that under the Nuremberg Principles they are responsible; they do not have to obey illegal orders.
The bus takes Mary Pat, Sheila, and I to a processing building on the base. For about two hours we sit and talk as they fill out forms and take photos. Mary Pat and Sheila are each questioned by an FBI agent, but I am interrogated by both of them. They especially want to know about Peter and those who are occupying the backcountry of the extensive base. I tell them I don't know what they are doing because my approach is different. I am not interested in playing hide-and-seek with the Air Force; but mine is a moral witness. They say they don't want anyone to get hurt. So I suggest that they make sure the people with the guns (Air Force) are trained not to shoot people who are nonviolent. Previously the base had announced at a press conference that the use of deadly force had been authorized. Peter noted that this has always been their policy, but in twenty years no protestor has been shot. Much of the time I talked with Sergeant Malcolm Walton, an African American who is studying psychology with the man who comes to pick us up when we are released. At first we get a citation ordering us to appear in court at Santa Barbara on April 18. I note that is good because it is the same day that Dennis Apel and Bud Boothe are to be in court. They may have overheard me because they changed our dates to June 20.
When we get back to the home of Bud Boothe, we have dinner and talk with others who were in the backcountry. Lex tells me that he was arrested in San Francisco but cited out so that he could come down to Vandenberg. He says 2,300 were arrested for closing down the federal building and Bechtel; most are staying in jail in solidarity, and they are being held in warehouses on the pier. Dan returns to drive me back to his apartment.
On Sunday morning I assist Leah Wells in a nonviolence workshop at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and a photo of my arrest is on the front page of the Santa Barbara News Press. As I am driving to Ventura, I hear on KPFK that "none of the three arrested at Vandenberg were killed." At Dean's house I co-facilitate a nonviolence training with Grant Marcus, the initiator of the Gallegly action. Kris Vestuto has been trying to talk with Grant about the scenario, and during the first part of the workshop the two argue with each other. After a while I call a time-out and suggest we meditate silently for a while. After that, the mood is much more peaceful, and Grant does a better job of facilitating his portion of the workshop. I facilitate the rest, which is briefly interrupted when Lorraine brings a tape of Michael Moore accepting his Oscar. Dean lets me stay overnight, and again I wake up early with ideas of what I am to do. I am going to go back to Vandenberg and want to tell people why on Pacifica radio. I call KPFK early and arrange to be interviewed by Sonali Kolhutcar on the Morning Show by telephone.
I go back to Dan's so that he can video the interview. He also films an interview I do later that morning in the KCSB studio. After having lunch with my mother I drive up to Bud Boothe's house to see if anyone wants to protest with me. The backcountry effort is winding down, although none of them was arrested. I call a couple of local newspapers and meet a photographer at the main gate. Jake gives me a ride there, and I walk across the line and down the sidewalk toward the Visitors Center, where one is supposed to be able to request permission to go on the base. Before I get there, I am stopped by Air Force police. I ask to speak to the base commander; but as soon as I mention war crimes as the reason, I am arrested. I am taken to a building where investigator Malcolm Walton interviews me. I write a short statement of why I came on the base. I tell him that he might as well as hold me, because I will keep coming back until he does. I have brought three of my books with me to use as evidence. Other officers see them and come into the room for a discussion of some issues of war and peace. Malcolm tells me that I can be arraigned in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Since what I want is a speedy trial, I agree to that. He takes me in a van, calls Bud Boothe, and drops me off outside the base.
I stay that night at Bud's, but again I wake up early with new inspiration. An exhausted Peter Lumsdaine comes in about 4 a.m., and I tell him I am going to try to get people in Los Angeles to converge on the federal building. He is too tired to listen to any more. I drive down to Los Angeles as I listen to Democracy Now. I go to the Los Angeles Catholic Worker and find Catherine Morris at their "hippy kitchen" serving food to hundreds of homeless people. She lets me use the phone in their clinic to call Sonali Kolhutcar, who says she will make the announcement. I also visit the Los Angeles offices of Not In Our Name and ANSWER but receive little support from them.
Wednesday is the morning of the Catholic Worker's weekly vigil and protest at the federal building, which is next to the jail and the courthouse of my arraignment. The Los Angeles Catholic Worker gives me hospitality, and I walk from there the two miles to the federal building. The vigil begins on the other side of the block. Martin Sheen is there; but to avoid interviews he puts duct tape over his mouth with the word "peace" on it. A slow procession marches around the block to a drumbeat. In front of the federal building with many TV people recording, a priest leads a prayer service and reads from Luke how Jesus wept when he saw that Jerusalem did not know the ways of peace. As he speaks of the current suffering of the Iraqi people in the ongoing war, I begin to cry uncontrollably and do not stop for a long time. Two women are going to be arrested, and they receive a special blessing. I say that I have been moved to protest also. Catherine speaks on my behalf, and I am blessed also. I ask to make a statement, but the priest says, "We do not do that."
However, he hands me the microphone, and I am allowed to say, "My name is Sanderson Beck, and I am running for President of the United States. I am calling for massive civil disobedience to stop this illegal war." Then I hand the mic back. As we are walking up the steps, I hold up the Handbook and say it is a practical book for protesting. Then I hold up Guides to Peace and Justice and say that it will help people understand the peace movement. A reporter asks me how many times I have been arrested, and I reply, "More than fifty times." I say that we need to fill the jails the way they did during the civil rights movement. The three of us stand in front of the row of police guarding the building because of our protest. We are told we will be arrested if we do not leave. I show the officer my arraignment citation but am arrested with the others. We are handcuffed but are released after about an hour.
I walk next door and find the courtroom of my arraignment. I am an hour late, but it is still going. Magistrate Judge Patrick Walsh lets me speak privately with a public defender. She is Davina Chen, and we hit it off right away as both our minds race along. After questioning me about hearsay, the judge allows me to defend myself and also permits Davina to serve as stand-by counsel. I am surprised that he asks me what my defense will be. After I respond, he states that he will not allow any argument using international law. I complain that he is obviously prejudiced because he does not yet know anything about my case. As soon as I ask for another judge, he slams down his gavel and rules, "Motion denied." He schedules a motion hearing for April 24 and the trial for May 1. In solidarity with the protestors in San Francisco I refuse to sign a bond and am taken into custody.
After my pockets are emptied, I am put in a holding cell for several hours. Late at night I arrive in 9 South at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center. My cellmate is from Australia and tells me that he learned from his experience in the oil business that the oil in Iraq is estimated to be worth $37 trillion. Later I hear on the radio $7 trillion. I buy a radio through commissary so that I can listen to Pacifica KPFK. After about a week I am transferred to 7 South. Public defender Davina is very helpful about sending me cases and documents and visiting me. Whistle-blower Harry Miller tells me how All-State Insurance prosecuted him after he exposed on 20/20 their phony reports following the 1993 earthquake. I help him edit a letter.
Assistant U. S. Attorney Sharon McCaslin sends me her motion to exclude all my defenses including international law, necessity, crime prevention, and the first amendment. I read several cases and articles, making notes so that I can argue my case orally. I do not have enough time in the law library to type a written defense.
On April 24 they wake me up before 5 a.m. even though my hearing is not until 2 p.m. Judge Walsh is preoccupied with bail hearings he has to do and will not even allow the shackles to be taken off my legs. He allows McCaslin to argue orally for a couple minutes to back up her written motion; but he will not let me speak at all against it. Instead, he says I can argue my case the following week at my trial. He says he does not want me to stay in custody but to go home because "the war is over." Davina tells me that Eileen has found a place where I can stay. Since the judge implied I would not get any more time, I sign the unsecured bond.
By the time I am released, it is after five so I cannot get my money. Also I am ordered to leave without being allowed to go back and get my radio. I walk back to the Catholic Worker, which gives me hospitality. David Faubion and Lorraine had attended the hearing with Eileen and had gone to KPFK, where M. T. Karthik interviewed them about my case. On Friday I drive to the KPFK studio and offer my books for their upcoming pledge drive before being interviewed by M. T. on the news.
Saturday I attend the Book Festival at UCLA and try to find vendors who will sell my books. I see a young woman furtively passing out flyers for an ANSWER anti-war conference on May 10. She tells me that security officers have warned her she could be expelled for doing that. I guide her to the KPFK booth so that she can tell them about this. The next morning I decide that I must challenge this outrageous suppression of first-amendment rights even though under my bond an arrest could be a felony. A young German named Oliver is visiting his friend at the Catholic Worker, and he agrees to go with me to the Book Festival. I pass out my campaign brochures, and it is not long before a Los Angeles Times security guard threatens to have me forcibly removed if I continue to do that. He tells us of a "free-speech area" where that is allowed. Oliver and I go over to see that area. Then I suggest that we talk to the Times authorities. We are sent to a room where I recognize a reporter from C-SPAN. I show them my books and campaign brochure, but they decline to interview me. Finally I meet with Jack Rabb, the top UCLA official, and he assures me it is all right for me to hand out my campaign brochures except where people are standing in lines. I suspect they changed their policy to avoid bad publicity, and I tell the story of this little victory to M. T. Karthik on the KPFK news. I visit the booth where the writings of John-Roger are sold. He is not there, but John Morton buys a copy of the Wisdom Bible. After taking Oliver back to the Catholic Worker, I drive to Ventura, where a Chumash woman named Cynthia kindly allows me to stay in a spare bedroom in her house.
I meet with Davina and prosecutor McCaslin the day before the trial, learning that the Air Force has agreed to stipulate that Vandenberg AFB was involved in the war against Iraq but that their commanders will not testify. I am defending myself on the trespassing charges at Vandenberg; but during my opening remarks I am only allowed to talk about what the evidence will show. The most important witness for the prosecution is Sgt. Malcolm Walton; but during my cross examination without even using leading questions, I am able to get him to talk about the reasons why I was there - to stop US war crimes and to urge them to become conscientious objectors because of the Nuremberg Principles. I also call as my witness their legal aid Donna, who was present at my first arrest, and she corroborates Malcolm's testimony. Dan's video of my speech when I was arrested is shown as evidence.
I am allowed to testify in narrative form about many of my efforts to stop the illegal war, and I read most of my letter to Kofi Annan. My books and brochures are also entered into evidence. Even though it is well past the lunch hour, Judge Walsh only allows a short break and goes on. In my closing arguments I finally am allowed to answer the arguments that McCaslin had several opportunities to present; but Judge Walsh repeatedly interrupts me and does not even give me a chance to answer his points. I cry out emotionally that he is not listening to me. Soon he informs me that he will only give me ten more minutes to answer all these technical legal issues and to argue my entire case. I feel this is extremely unfair but manage to extend my time a little by describing a scene at the end of the film Judgment at Nuremberg when a U. S. judge played by Spencer Tracy tells an imprisoned German judge played by Burt Lancaster that the horrible crimes of the holocaust began to happen when he first convicted a man he knew was innocent.
Judge Walsh finds me guilty of trespassing twice at Vandenberg, and then Davina presents a very good technical defense on the charge in front of the federal building. She shows that only protestors are arrested for being in that area and that the signs posted were too far away to be seen. Judge Walsh ignores all this and convicts me again for refusing to obey the officer. The sentencing is scheduled for May 13. On TV that evening I see George Bush land on an aircraft carrier and declare that the combat phase of the war is over.
Cynthia and David Faubion in Ventura let me use their computers to write an open letter to Judge Walsh that is put up on my website after David and I get it back on-line. My website had been down since the invasion started. Often when the United States is bombing other countries, my email has been disrupted. This time I have had my nephew John of beck.org bounce back all email with the message that I am busy protesting the war. Now David agrees to screen my email for me until my computer is back on-line. He also becomes my webmaster. The 300 copies of the Nonviolent Action Handbook are nearly gone, and thanks to a generous order from board member Lloyd Fellows just before the war, I arranged for 3,000 to be printed off-set. Dean agrees to let us store them at his house, and the books are delivered. I am interviewed about my trial by Dan Reilly for his film.
I write and have printed a one-page piece on "Strategies for Nonviolent Transformation from Fascism to Peace and Justice." David and I give them out and sell Handbooks at the ANSWER conference in Los Angeles on May 10. In addition to various education and communication methods, I suggest not paying tax to the IRS and nonviolent direct action with solidarity on not paying fines or accepting probation. Once again there is little opportunity for me to speak about solutions while the speakers dwell mostly on the problems.
The next day David and I go to Santa Monica beach to see Dennis Kucinich. He commends me for my protests, and I give a Handbook to my acquaintance Arianna Huffington. On Monday I am interviewed for a feature story in the Ventura Star newspaper, and David accompanies me to UCSB, where I give Kucinich my books and tell him that I am endorsing his candidacy.
While working in the soup kitchen with the Catholic Workers the morning of my sentencing, I meet American Indian Movement (AIM) activist John Owen and learn much from conversing with him while waiting to see if any journalists will show up for the sentencing; none do. Although I tell Judge Walsh that I will not cooperate with probation, he gives me two years of it on one of the charges. I am ready to go to jail, but he says I have not violated the probation yet.
Cynthia informs me that she needs that bedroom for another visitor. I call Charlotte Warren in Santa Barbara, because on the first day of the invasion she told me she had a room I could rent for $300 a month. I visit Eileen in Ojai. She has been handling my finances for me, and I give her some special coins that John Owen gave me for a Handbook. On May 17, I attend a vigil at Vandenberg AFB; but the speeches are cancelled. After a while four of us, who had been given "ban-and-bar" letters, are ordered to leave, or we would be arrested again. Each of us chooses to go at this time. The others are Dennis Apel, Bud Boothe, and MacGregor Eddy. Jeff Dietrich is there too; but apparently he was not noticed. On Monday I move my computer and some things into the room in Santa Barbara, where I share a kitchen and bathroom with Charlotte. We are in the Soul Community that meets every Friday, and we hope to form an intentional community in this large house, from which the owners plan to move in September.
I am able to visit my mother twice a week and work on completing the chapter on "Africa and the Middle East 1300-1615." I also research and write the 70-page chapter on "America and Its Conquerors" about the same period. The meetings for the community are difficult, and we struggle with "nonviolent communication" techniques taught by Marshal Rosenberg. In June, David is elected to the board of World Peace Communications when we meet at Lloyd Fellows' house in Ojai. The next day board member Eileen Baker dies when the friend's car she is driving goes off a mountain road on her way to a Theosophical camp. I attend a memorial service for her in Ojai that reveals her giving qualities and the enormous respect she had for all living creatures and her teaching skill with children. She helped me much in my life and was one of my very closest friends. I know that her spirit is in a good place now. Lloyd is recovering from a serious leg infection, and he asks me to drive him out to his properties near Palm Springs. I consider the possibility of moving out there but decide that Santa Barbara is a better situation for me.
I call the probation officer and agree to a scheduled re-sentencing rather than be arrested at home. I have arranged to have the second volume of my History of Ethics Age of Belief from 30 BC to 1300 printed. I get a copy of Dan's 28-minute film "Vandenberg Action: Crossing the Line" from Penny Little, who interviews me for an hour on the problems with the media in which I suggest taxing commercials. I show Dan's video to the Soul Community. Howard Richards offers to pay for copies, and I give one to MacGregor to take to the Veterans for Peace conference in San Francisco.
On August 4, six people, including David, Charlotte, and MacGregor go down to Los Angeles with me for the sentencing. Lynn makes a sign that says, "U. S. v. Beck Who is the criminal?" for a vigil outside the courthouse. MacGregor takes notes and later writes an article about the sentencing that is published in Hope Dance. Judge Walsh comes in with the idea he will give me five more months that were suspended with more probation and possibly more time. I am shocked that he is being so harsh and that he does not even know the law. I explain probation has no effect if the maximum sentence is imposed because he cannot give any more than the maximum. He grants my point, and federal public defender Michael Tanaka convinces him that "in the universe of trespassing cases" this is excessive. So Judge Walsh sentences me to three months, and I say I want to start serving the time right away.
I am put in 7 North and share a cell with Carlos. In the law library I see Ken Taves, and he kindly gives me the contact lens solution he retrieved from my cell in April. I give him Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy, an excellent book about Michelangelo. I buy a radio but have to mail it home when I am transported to the San Bernardino county jail on August 13. After spending all day in a holding cell with several "illegal aliens," I am put in a ten-man cell. Three TVs in the hall outside the bars make the noise level high, but we have a racially mixed group and get along well. The dining hall seems like the Gulag, because no talking or sharing food is supposed to be permitted. Because I chew my food thoroughly, I often remain after the others are told to get up; but I am allowed to stay or go to a "slow-eaters table." Compulsive gambler Keith tells me how he robbed seven banks with only a note before he was caught after a car chase in which he jumped off a bridge into a river. His wife still supports him, and he is intent on reforming. Ex-marine Herman tells us many stories and keeps our spirits up.
On August 21, I am chained and driven back to MDC Los Angeles. Andres Islas is with me, and we are put in the same cell in 5 North, where sentenced men are assigned jobs. I tell the authorities that I need to work on my appeal and will only work teaching inmates or perhaps helping in the law library. On September 7 I am called down to work in the kitchen. When I refuse to work, because I consider myself a political prisoner, the supervisor calls a lieutenant. Apparently the hole (punishment cells) is crowded from a fight on the 7th floor, and after an hour I am taken back to 5 North. Since then I have not reported to that job but have not been bothered.
During my last week in prison at a "town meeting" I complain that we are not allowed to wear a jacket to the law library and that I caught a bad cold because of that. On Thursday I am called into the library to take a basic education test because they do not have evidence of my high school diploma. Avery tells the teacher, "Jesus here says he has a Ph.D." The teacher says I should get an A then. When the test is not completed before lunch, we are to be called back; but the next day I refuse to go there without a jacket. Avery says he wants to send me to the hole; but the teacher says that I will have start taking his classes the next week. Knowing that I will be gone, I just walk away.
On November 3, I am released and take a bus back to Santa Barbara. MacGregor has planned for me to speak to a peace group in Sacramento, and I drive up there on Wednesday. The next day I am interviewed in Davis for community television and speak in Sacramento for the Vandenberg Peace Legal Defense Fund, talking about long-term solutions to our current war crisis. I continue to work on my writing and do several interviews, including by Blaize Bonpane on KPFK and by Marcellino Sepulveda on KCSB.
Copyright © 2004, 2008 by Sanderson Beck
This has been published in the book PEACE OR BUST. For ordering information, please click here.
Nonviolent Strategies for Protesting the US-Iraq War
Letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Opening Statement by Sanderson Beck, May 1, 2003
Testimony by Sanderson Beck, May 1, 2003
Closing Arguments by Sanderson Beck, May 1, 2003
May 2003 Letter to Judge Walsh by Sanderson Beck