BECK index

Circle for Peace

Stopping the Euromissiles

The three of us (Matt, Glafko, and I) drove down to El Segundo together for the rally on Saturday, October 22 which had about six thousand people. On Sunday afternoon we attended a nonviolence training given by Jonathan Parfrey and the final organizing meeting led by Jeff's wife, Catherine. Civil disobedience actions were planned for Hughes Aircraft, Rockwell, Northrop, McDonnell-Douglas, Consolidated Controls, and the Air Force by groups such as the Catholic Worker, the Unitarians, the Alliance for Survival, a women-only group, and the Nuclear Resistance Coalition (NRC). We decided to join the NRC at Consolidated Controls which was making trigger mechanisms for the cruise missile.

The NRC had an affinity group meeting, and we decided to give out the following letter that Craig Frey had written:

Dear Friend,

You are probably wondering why we are here today. We would like to let you know about our concerns for our future and the future of yourself and your families. The world is at a critical point right now as far as survival goes. With the stationing of cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe we are moving to a level of nuclear tension many times greater than we are at now. The cruise missile will be virtually undetectable in flight, and the Pershing II will be able to hit Moscow within six minutes of being launched from Germany. The deployment of these weapons will cause the Soviets to move their missiles to a hair-trigger status. They will have 6 minutes to decide whether a radar image is a flock of birds, a meteor shower, a computer malfunction, or a Pershing II missile attack. The computers of the United States have given false alarms hundreds of times in the last few years, and we have the best in the world. One false alarm lasted for over ten minutes. With only a six minute warning time, we would have been four minutes into World war III.

We feel that nuclear war must be avoided. In World War II the Nazis killed around 14 million people in Europe. They were condemned by the world as the worst criminals in history. A nuclear war fought today with all the weapons that exist in the world stockpile would kill hundreds of millions, maybe even 2 billion people, and make most of the northern hemisphere impossible to live in for hundreds of years. At the end of World War II the Allies held war crime trials at Nuremberg. The Nazis that were tried there used such defenses as "I was only following orders,'' or "If I had not done it, someone else would have."

Today our government orders us to participate in their plans for the destruction of the planet. Here at Consolidated Controls key components of the cruise missile are made. We urge you to call upon your company to switch to another line of work, and we urge you to examine your conscience and decide whether you can continue to contribute to the possible destruction of life on earth.

If you have questions or would like to share your feelings with other workers who are in the same position as you are, please call (phone numbers).
Thank you for your time.

We met early Monday morning at a park, and then each group walked to their sites. All of these businesses are close together. The Catholic Worker had a long banner which read, "IT'S A SIN TO BUILD A NUCLEAR WEAPON." The L. A. Woman's Peace Camp was established in front of McDonnell-Douglas and remained there for two days. Ironically, their employees were not working on October 24 because it was United Nations Day.

Our group at Consolidated had eleven people (including David Wayte, who was being prosecuted for refusing to register for the draft) risking arrest and about as many supporters with signs. The eleven of us spent an hour or so attempting to give out the letter in the parking lot. The employees had been instructed not to take them and not to talk to us, but we were able to give out a few. Two lawyers representing the company told us that we were on private property and would be arrested if we did not leave, Other than this, we were not bothered in the parking lot.

We gathered for a meeting and decided to go into an office to speak to the person in charge so that we could ask him or her if we could give the employees the letter. When the eleven of us went in, the employees vacated the room, leaving only the two lawyers to talk to us. The lawyers conveyed our request, which was denied. They asked us to leave, but we refused. We stood or sat there quietly until the police arrived and arrested us. As the police were taking us away, most of the employees came outside to watch.

Seventy-one people were arrested that morning in El Segundo. A large group of about thirty leafleted at Northrop but were not arrested. The women's group was not arrested either as they maintained the peace camp for two days. We were taken to the El Segundo Police station and booked before being bused downtown to the county jail. About a third of the people chose to be released on their own recognizance, and the rest of us stayed in jail until arraignment.

Part of the processing was a chest X-ray to check for tuberculosis. In the training Jonathan had mentioned that once someone had refused to take the X-ray, had been separated for a while and then re-joined the group. We discussed this a little, and several people in the NRC wanted to refuse this extra radiation. I knew I did not have TB, because as a teacher I had had a skin test. When we got to this point in the processing, a couple of people said they did not want to have the X-ray; but they were forced to the machine. With me they had to rip the snaps of the overalls open and twist my wrist to move me to the machine. Then Deputy Shannon said, "If you move away from that machine, you'll have to deal with me."

When he stepped back, I stepped away. Then he pushed my arms behind my back and threw me up against the wall. I yelled in pain so that he would know he was hurting me. Next he put metal handcuffs on my wrists as tight as he could. The pain was excruciating. I asked, "Why are you hurting me? Do you like to give out pain?" He pushed me through several hallways and rooms as I yelled, "Shit!" in pain. He put me in a single cell and told me not to try anything, as he took off the handcuffs. I said, "I have no intention at all of hurting you."

For the rest of the night I was moved around to holding cells and hallways in the booking area with nothing but steel benches and concrete floors. For about an hour I had a discussion with several deputies about war and peace, nonviolence, God, etc., After a while they could see my point of view but felt that a world of love could never be. It was like a three-hour conversation I had once with the chief security officer at Pt. Mugu. It turned out I was the only one not to have the chest X-ray.

The next morning we all went to court, The judge was ready to give everyone time served, but the police had held up the indictments. Back to jail we went. Since I had no dormitory assignment, I was left in holding cells for hours. Finally I got in the hospital line. This turned out to be the least humane and most cruel place of all. In the middle of the night people had to sleep on the floor, if the benches had people sitting on them. I talked to a young man who had broken his foot when arrested several days before. Now it was swollen and would have to be re-broken and set. He was trying to bail out. When word of his release came, they took away his crutch and left him to limp down the hallway. Finally the nurse said to put me in a dormitory. I was not given anything suitable for my contact lenses; when I took them out, I almost lost them. At least this night I got one hour of sleep.

The next day in court the judge said he would give everyone time served---even Jeff Dietrich. He spoke about Martin Luther King and how he was unpopular to many before, but now he is recognized as right. He said the same may be true of us. A few of us pleaded not guilty, but only Glafko and I refused to waive time. We appeared again on November 1, and our trial was set for November 15.

The Point Mugu Trial

Now that I am out of jail for a while anyway, I want to complete this account of my civil disobedience experiences. The trial of ten defendants for the June 20th action outside of Point Mugu Naval Air Station began in Ventura on November 4, before the local federal magistrate, Robert M. Stone. I defended myself pro per, and the other defendants were represented by Doug Booth and Art Scovis, who replaced his wife Jenny. The prosecuting attorneys, Gail Smason and Greg Totten, were particularly obnoxious, objecting constantly on the slightest points throughout the trial. Magistrate Stone tried to be open and fair in allowing discussion from both sides and explaining his decisions. However, all the important decisions went against us. Because we were not being given a jury trial under the federal charges, our chances of acquittal were nil.

In the prosecution's case detective Mick testified as to the traffic conditions and the demonstrators on the road. Two employees, whose cars had been stopped by the blockade, also testified. All three of these people said that there was no harm or injury.

Then a Navy attorney, the County Recorder, and a surveyor were called in to establish that we were on federal land and therefore under federal jurisdiction.

Our defense was destroyed by the judge when he ruled that the defense of necessity and international law were not valid, and when he interpreted that "maliciously" merely meant "willfully" even though the law states "willfully and maliciously." When I called Dr. David Breen to the stand, he would not allow any testimony on nuclear weapons or their medical consequences. I asked Dr. Breen to describe what he observed the morning of the action. Art Scovis was upset by this testimony which may have prevented one of his defendants from escaping because of not being identified. This was a slight chance, and I personally had no desire to hide the truth or to try to get off in this way.

Most of the defendants, including myself, testified as to what we did and why. However, it was a losing battle, interrupted by objections from the prosecutors whenever we tried to get to the real issue. This was occurring while I was questioning Michael Wagner. Finally I asked him, "Would you say that this was an act of love?"

Immediately Gail Smason shouted, "Objection!" I explained that it went to his motivation and whether the action was malicious. Magistrate Stone showed a little compassion and allowed the question.

Michael responded, "In the highest sense."

Marilyn Bodo also gave heartfelt testimony of how she was moved to join her friends in the blockade in the spirit of the moment. George Trinkaus, Richard Foster, and David Moody also gave sincere testimony.

Magistrate Stone found everyone guilty and sentenced people to three years formal probation, a $100 fine, and 120 hours of community service for first offenders or 180 hours for those with prior convictions. The fine was removed by the time spent in jail the day of the arrest. David Moody, Glafko Sikelianos, and I refused to accept probation, and our sentencing was scheduled for December 9. For us the prosecution decided to ask for the maximum six-month sentence. I told the magistrate in his chambers that the greater the sentence he gave me the more he would make a martyr out of me.

The next day the Santa Barbara TV station sent representatives to my house to interview me as to why I would not accept probation. I explained that the maximum sentence was only six months and that I would not let them limit my protests beyond that time period. To stop my protests they must put me in jail.

Trial for the El Segundo Action

Glafko Sikelianos and I defended ourselves against the charge of trespassing at El Segundo in the Inglewood Municipal Court before Judge Roosevelt Robinson on November 15 and 16. The morning of our trial several people from the El Segundo action who had not stayed in jail when arrested were arraigned before Robinson and sentenced to "time served," which had been part of one day.

During the jury selection I challenged for cause four employees of Hughes Aircraft, two of Northrop, one of Aerospace Corporation, one of Rockwell, and one whose husband was employed at Rockwell because of the demonstration at those businesses on October 24. Judge Robinson refused to dismiss any of them for cause. He would ask them if they could be fair and they would nod their heads. We used peremptory challenges for these people. The prosecutor would ask the jurors if they would find the defendants guilty under certain conditions, and they would say yes. To one young woman I asked, "If a person disrupted business by overturning tables and scattering the money, would you find that person guilty of trespass?" She answered yes. I asked, "Even if it was Jesus Christ?" She nodded her head again.

Three employees of Consolidated Controls testified that they could not work because of the demonstrators in their office, that "it was impossible to get in." Yet cross-examination brought out that they had walked through the room and had made no effort to work.

One of the lawyers for Consolidated Controls testified that he himself was sitting in one of the chairs before a desk and that he passed on the request of the demonstrators to speak to someone in charge, and that the request was denied

Sergeant Brumley testified that he arrested the demonstrators after he warned us that if we did not leave immediately we would be arrested for trespassing.

Dana Roy, one of our supporters, testified as to a photo she took that showed me sitting on the floor leaning against the non-working side of a desk. Phil Chamberlain, one of our affinity group who was arrested said that there was no damage done nor any intent to injure property. He told of the nonviolence agreement we had.

Glafko testified that he acted out of the defense of necessity to prevent nuclear war, but this defense was not allowed by Judge Robinson. When asked a speculative, leading question as to whether their business had been disrupted and whether it might have cost the company money, he answered that he supposed that it might have.

I testified about attempting to prevent violations of international law, but this defense was not allowed either. I said that I did not injure any property nor did I disrupt business activity. They could have worked if they wanted to as far as I was concerned. I said that I simply sat quietly in the office, waiting to speak to someone about my concerns that this business was engaged in illegal and immoral activities.

In the closing argument the prosecuting attorney brought in the statutes defining, "conspiracy and overt act" and "aiding and abetting." Thus she argued that each person was responsible for what anyone in the group had done. I felt that this was guilt by association and a dangerous concept. I argued that there was no concrete evidence that I had disrupted business or injured property. Employees had refused to work and blamed it on us without cause. I said there was no evidence presented to show that Consolidated Controls was a "lawful business," and I argued that it was in fact illegal by international law. I felt that I was simply exercising my first amendment rights, and I pointed out that being arrested is not sufficient proof of guilt. I referred often to Martin Luther King and his principles, as most of the jury, the prosecuting attorney, and the judge were black. However, there was apparently little understanding of this national hero.

Throughout the trial Judge Robinson acted in the most contemptuous, disdainful, and abrupt manner. He would not allow any argument on objections or points of law, imperiously commanding me to move on to the next thing. Occasionally he said, "Sustained" even when no objection had been made. He was clearly on the side of the prosecution, even to the point of asking questions of witnesses to help prosecute the case.

After hearing the judge's instructions, the jury took only about a half hour to find us guilty. Then the jury was dismissed. At first Judge Robinson sentenced us to three years probation and 60 days in the county jail. When we both refused to accept probation, he changed the jail time to 120 days. I said that he was punishing us merely for having a jury trial. He immediately commanded us to be remanded into custody. I asked, "Is this justice?" as we were being taken away.

In the Los Angeles County Jails

Because other people in this action at El Segundo had only received sentences of one or three days, this sentence of four months beyond the three days we had already done came as quite a shock. Both Glafko, who was born in Athens, Greece 74 years ago, and I had requested a jury trial because of our deep commitment to making our protest as strong as possible. Thus we were psychologically prepared for the possibility of spending considerable time imprisoned. I was surprised that it happened in this particular case. With the Point Mugu sentencing to follow, we realized that we might not be out on the streets for about six months.

As we sat in the crowded holding cells of Los Angeles Main County Jail waiting to be processed, I felt a strange correspondence between the terrible conditions in the world we were protesting and the oppressive humiliation of my personal situation. It was too late to call Joanne at home, though someone at the trial had called her earlier. I called my parents who had been told of what happened by Joanne. They considered it a great calamity but wanted to be supportive of me. As they are Reagan supporters, it seemed ironic to me that they were spurred to action to help me while so oblivious to problems in American society I was protesting. Nevertheless their personal love for me was very moving and reassuring to me.

This time I submitted to the chest X-ray and cooperated with the processing. I knew I had a long stay with many challenges ahead of me. The person who checked my personal belongings turned out to be Deputy Shannon, who had roughed me up when I had refused the X-ray in October. He allowed me to keep my contact lenses as well as my glasses, even though he recognized me. I believe it may have been because I had no resentment in my heart toward him. Other deputies who had had a long talk with me also remembered me. When they found out I had gotten four months, they laughed.

I was put in an over-crowded dormitory late at night. As there were no bunks or mattresses available, a young man from Peru named Tito gave me his mattress for the floor while he slept on the metal bunk. I was deeply moved by his generosity, and the next day I gave him a dollar when he asked to borrow some money. I often talked to fellow inmates about why I was there and about their cases. I would simply answer the question, "For protesting nuclear weapons." Most people were sympathetic, and others probably just thought I was crazy or a fool.

I was transferred to a small four-man cell where the radio dominated. Almost all the inmates I met were friendly, and I never had any trouble with anyone. We walked to a dining room three times a day but were only given five to ten minutes to eat. The over-crowding of this jail certainly made a bad situation worse. Most of the deputies felt they had to be tough and mean in order to do their job effectively. This uncaring, superior attitude is the perverted result of the deterrence philosophy. Because they believe that jail must be an unpleasant experience in order to deter people from coming back, they feel they must humiliate the prisoners and treat them as inferior. However, from my perspective this lowered the guards morally below the level of the inmates. I came to understand the glory of the principle of human equality and the degeneration and viciousness of superior-inferior attitudes. As inmates we treated each other as equals and generally got along fine. The deputies expected to be treated with respect but gave none in return. Because of their authority and superior position, many of them got a perverted psychological pleasure out of dominating people who were in a less fortunate position. This seemed okay to them, because they were just reminding us that we were in jail being punished for whatever it was that we did.

Late Friday night I was transferred to the honor ranch which everyone called Wayside. I lived in a barracks with about sixty men. The worst part of the jail experience for me was the cigarette smoke. I finally adapted by going into the shower room and reading there. I was assigned to the medical dispensary as a typist; smoking was not allowed there. Often the nurses would play psychological dominance games with the inmates also. The head nurse once told us that it was actually illegal for us to be handling the medical records of inmates. One kind nurse discovered that I was vegetarian and brought me extra food. The three meals each day were fairly adequate. Trading food was not supposed to be allowed, but we did it all the time. Naturally I acquired friends who liked to have my meat.

I worked from six in the morning and had every afternoon off and many evenings. I would always go to the library and write or read, or I would stand in line to make a phone call. A black and white TV was always on in the barracks until ten at night.

When I talked to Joanne on the phone or at a visit, I discovered how much was going on to support us in our protest. Joanne sent out numerous letters to friends and groups connected to the World Peace Movement, and many of them wrote letters to Judge Robinson. The Catholic Worker also sent out letters and even organized a weekly vigil in front of the courthouse. I was amazed and deeply moved by this concern and support. Glafko and I felt that we really had not done that much, and all we had to do was pass our time.

I asked for legal advice and discovered that to appeal or request a sentence modification hearing myself pro per would take six weeks, and I might be transferred back to the main jail. The Catholic Worker offered to appeal and bail us out, but Glafko and I did not want to do that right away. I asked the lawyer, Doug Booth, for help, and he got us a sentence modification hearing on December 13. On December 8 I was scheduled to argue my Vandenberg case before three judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena; I wrote a letter requesting a withdrawal order, but they decided that oral argument was unnecessary. On January 4 that court decided against me, and, I assume, the six-month probation imposed by Judge Tashima went into effect. On December 9 Glafko and I were scheduled to be sentenced by Magistrate Stone. He decided to wait until we got out but indicated the sentence would be 21 days.

Early in the morning on the 13th Glafko and I were taken to the main jail and then to the Inglewood Court. We walked through a door and found ourselves in Robinson's courtroom with about thirty supporters there. Doug Booth spoke of the chilling effect the long sentence given us had on his other clients who changed their pleas from not guilty. His research showed that the usual penalty for trespassing was a $50 fine; he hoped that we would be home for Christmas. Judge Robinson replied that if we had accepted probation, we would be home by Christmas. He denied the motion. I asked to speak; he would not let me because I was represented by a lawyer. We said that we wanted to appeal, and so he had to set bail. He asked for $3000 each and declared that the usual ten percent would not be allowed. Then he remanded us back into custody.

We told our lawyers, Doug Booth and Michael Bourbeau who offered to do the appeal, that we would like to bail out, since with a more reasonable judge the sentence would probably be reduced. The Catholic Worker offered to raise the money. They actually collected several hundred dollars in the courthouse lobby right away and the rest in a couple of days. Glafko and I were released from the main county jail the next day.

Sentencing for Point Mugu

Prior to the sentencing I wrote the following letter and sent it to about a dozen newspapers in the area, and at least four of them printed it.

January 3, 1984

To the Editor,

Although four out of five Americans currently favor a freeze on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons, the U. S. Government has just stationed six cruise missiles in England and nine Pershing II missile in West Germany over the opposition of a majority of the people in those countries. Now a major nuclear strike can hit Moscow in about eight minutes. Once a nuclear war is started by the governmental leaders, the most massive murders in history could not be stopped by the people. In a few hours civilization in the northern hemisphere would be completely devastated.

Some of us in western Europe and the United States feel such love for human life that we are standing up to challenge these policies which we consider genocidal, immoral, and illegal by international laws. We feel that we cannot sit idly by writing letters to impervious government officials in the face of the magnitude of these atrocities. We must do something in a nonviolent, peaceful way in order to arouse the public to prevent a nuclear war before it destroys us.

On several occasions I have stood nonviolently between people and their evil and illegal activities. In my three trials no judge has recognized the authority of international law or even questioned whether the U. S. Government might be acting illegally. On November 16, my friend Glafko Sikelianos and I were sentenced to four months for "trespassing." It is a sad day for our country when the warmakers get fat salaries and the peacemakers get thrown in jail. After spending a month in the Los Angeles County Jails, we were given a chance to appeal and were released when a full $6,000 cash bail was posted by the Catholic Worker and supporters. We want to thank people for this support and for the many letters sent to the judge.

On Friday, January 13 at 1:30 p.m. in Division 36 of the Ventura County Hall of Justice, Glafko and I will be sentenced by Federal Magistrate Robert M. Stone for our June 20th nonviolent protest of cruise missile testing at Point Mugu. We invite everyone who is concerned about these issues to come and witness this judicial event. May true justice be done.

Love and peace,
Sanderson Beck

On January 13 about three dozen supporters came to the sentencing. After various other cases, Glafko was called before the magistrate. The probation reports on us had recommended a sentence of 21 days, but the prosecuting attorneys asked for the maximum of six months. Glafko spoke briefly about American exploitation and oppression around the world, and then Magistrate Stone sentenced him to the 21 days.

When I got a chance to speak, I began by thanking Magistrate Stone for the style with which he had conducted the trial---his respect for me as my own attorney and his openness in listening to arguments on objections and in explaining his decisions. However, as to the substance of his decisions, I spoke of a pattern of injustice I have discovered in our judicial system. He had refused us a jury trial which is supposed to be guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution. He had failed to apply international law or allow the defense of necessity; he had not even allowed us to present evidence on these. I said that I forgave him for whatever he did to me and held no grudge, because I knew that, like everyone, he was doing the best he knew. However, I considered it my duty as an educator to enlighten him if I could. I felt that I must point out that he was now in complicity with the crimes of the United States Government.

During the trial he had mentioned that many terrible things have been done in the name of a noble cause. I asked him to look at this situation. I had stopped traffic for about ten minutes one morning in order to ask people to think about the terrible things they are doing every day. For causing this minor inconvenience, he wanted to lock me up for three weeks. For what? For nuclear weapons which can kill millions of people. It seemed to me that it is the United States which is doing atrocious things in the name of freedom or "national security." I said that what he did to me he was doing to Christ, and what he did to Glafko he was doing to Christ also.

I could hear a woman sobbing, and many people had tears in their eyes. I asked them not to feel sad for me but for our country. I said that I could go through the three weeks easily knowing I had done the right thing. Then I told Magistrate Stone that it would be harder on him, because he would have to live with his decision for the rest of his life and have to explain it to people and himself.

He in turn gave me a lecture, focusing as usual on the narrow facts of the case and saying I broke the law. He thought I was confused and needed self-examination, and he accused me of "incipient egotism." He doubted that I had influenced anyone in a positive way.

When he said this, I turned to look at all the supporters in the courtroom. They began silently to raise their hands in eloquent refutation of his statement. Then someone shouted, "We love you, Sanderson.' Magistrate Stone called the courtroom to order and declared that it was not a popularity contest.

I noted how ironic it was that that weekend was Martin Luther King's birthday, which had been declared a national holiday. Yet, I said, if he had not been violently killed, he probably would be doing what I am doing. With deep emotion I said that he is an American saint.

I submitted to the court's decision and was given 21 days minus the three already served. As I walked over to the jury box to sit next to Glafko to begin our sentence I said to Magistrate Stone, "God bless you." The court was recessed, and people began to leave. A dear friend, Brock, came over and gave me a hug. Then one after another people filed by and shook my hand. It seemed to me that their eyes were as misty as mine.

The time in jail went by quickly as I read several good books. Absorbed in study I would forget where I was. Occasionally I would look around and realize I was in jail. Then I would say to myself, "But it's okay, because it's a worthy cause." Then I would go back to my reading.

Copyright © 1996, 2008 by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the book PEACE OR BUST. For ordering information, please click here.

Circle for Peace

My Path to Protest
Diablo Canyon
Entering Vandenberg Air Force Base
WinCon '83
Re-entering Vandenberg AFB
Vandenberg Trial
Peace Action at Mugu
Stopping the Euromissiles
The Point Mugu Trial
Trial for the El Segundo Action
In the Los Angeles County Jails
Sentencing for Point Mugu

BEST FOR ALL: How We Can Save the World
WORLD PEACE MOVEMENT Principles, Purposes, and Methods

For more autobiographical writings see:

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