Some Gays Out Front in Anti-Nuke Movement
Nov 25,1983 / The Star 5
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with the turnout. They later learned it was
the country's largest that day.
The message from the crowd, and from
the speakers on the platform, was loud
and clear. They demanded a halt to the
deployment ofthe Cruise and Pershing II
missiles in Europe, a freeze on the production of nuclear weapons and the dismantling of existing stockpiles in a verifiable
plan with the Soviet Union.
On the platform, acting as M.C. for the
program of speakers and entertainers,
was Midge Costanza, a former White
House advisor to President Carter and a
staunch supporting activist for the gay
rights movement. Today, with her own
brand of biting political humor, she kept
the program moving. Among the half
dozen speakers was Irene Eckert, a West
German from the Women's International
League for Peace and Freedom, who spoke
on the dangers of the Euromissiles and
what the European peace movement is
doing to prevent their installation. And
that particular weekend, the movement
was very visible indeed.
Several million people took to the streets
in European cities to protest the introduction of the missiles to their continent.
There were reports of 200,000 in London,
Paris and Madrid, 175,000 in Rome and
Brussels, and an incredible 300,000 in
Bonn, West Germany's capitol, where it
was said one could hear a pin drop when
they called for silence in memory of the
atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima.
Following the rally in El Segundo, we
talked with two gay women who played
key roles in the success ofthe event. Ellie
Cohen is co-director of the Southern California Alliance for Survival.
"I've been with the Alliance for four
years," she said, "but this is my last rally
with them. I've been hired by the national
freeze campaign as a field organizer, and
I'll be starting there in two weeks. This is
kind of a going away party for me. To
promote today's parade and rally, I did 27,
interviews in total, an issues media outreach, including a bunch of radiostations.
We also distributed 160,000 flyers, 60,000
of them door-to-door. It was mostly grass
"There are a lot of gay people working in
the peace movement who are not necessarily working the gay community," she
added. "Some are in the closet, and some
are really out there. They're all against
first strike weapons, though. Now I don't
go somewhere and start out with, 'Hi, I'm
Elbe, I'm against the nuclear buildup, and
I'm a lesbian, but I don't hide it either."
While Ellie talked, the speaker's platform was being dismantled a few feet
away, and a red-headed woman kept running by taking care of what must have
been urgent business. When that woman,
Mary Sullivan, stopped to talk, we discovered a lovely gay lady and a dynamic
grass roots organizer.
Mary shares a house with a number of
other peace movement volunteers who
organize meetings in other people's homes
where friends are invited to discuss the
issues surrounding nuclear disarmament.
She quickly explained how house meetings work and how groups in other cities
are picking up on it, then posed for a picture with Ellie and split to get back to her
It would appear that more gay women
than gay men have become involved with
the movement. At least that was the observation of Mark Hallahan, a gay man who
has been involved in training people on
what to expect when participating in civil
disobedience. Throughout the crowd at the
rally, one could pick out many people
wearing pink triangle lapel buttons and
"I think gay men, in a lot of wayB, are
still stuck to the whole bar syndrome, and
that's very much the center of their lives,"
said Mark. "I'm afraid we haven't gotten
much beyond that. It's going to take a real
effort to get gay men involved in the peace
Following the rally, people started walk
ing back to their cars over the half mile
parade route along busy El Segundo
Boulevard. As they walked, theywerecon-
fronted with dozens of anti-peace movement and anti-gay slogans freshly
painted with stencils on the sidewalks.
They were obviously done during therally
when hundreds of police and sheriff deputies were swarming the area. How they
were painted, undected by the police, is a
mystery. The messages read: Peacenik
fags desire Yuri's warhead, and Peacenik
dykes open wide for Russian SS-20 dildos.
Some people thought it might have been
the same group who circled the rally
dressed in Russian army uniforms and
carrying a banner reading "Soviet Peace
After the rally, GPA was notified that
on the following Monday, Oct. 24, there
would be more than a hundred people
returning to El Segundo to engage in acts
of non-violent civil disobedience in front of
the facilities of five military contractors
and the Air Force. All ofthe gay friends we
had met said they would be there.
It was still dark at 6:00 a.m. when the
protestors started arriving at the staging
area in a tiny park. Small groups stood in
circles, holding hands, praying and singing, 160 people in all. Some would have to
walk over a mile to reach their destination.
Their targets were the entrances to the
U.S. Air Force Space Division where
"space related defense satellite systems
are developed; Northrup Corporation
which manufactures key elements for the
MX missile's guidance system; McDonnell
Douglas which has contracts for the
Cruise missiles; Consolidated Controls
which manufactures the impact fuse for
the Cruise missiles; Hughes Aircraft
which has contracts for the Trident missile; and Rockwell International, a prime
contractor for the BI bomber and five different missile systems. A protest flyer
being handed out called El Segundo the
"heart of the arms race.*'
Tim Carpenter is an active member of
the gay caucus of the state Democratic
party. He is also an employee of Robert
Gentry, the openly gay mayor of Laguna
Beach. Tim is involved with the Orange
County Citizens for National Security. It
was his group that would attempt to blockade the main driveway of Hughes with
half their numbers, while others would
walk onto the property in an attempt to
place management under citizen's arrest
for the production of first strike nuclear
weapons, a violation of International law.
Several police vehicles were parked
across the street from the Hughes
entrance when the protestors spread their
banners across the driveway. A dozen cars
stopped in their tracks or turned away as a
traffic snarl started forming. Then a stati-
onwagon rammed its way through the
people holding the banner, and a man
holding an American flag was carried
along a short distance. At that point, the
police arrived and started arresting and
handcuffing people to cart them off to jail.
All the while, Tim was shouting out tactical instructions to hold their ground or run
another banner behind the first. There
was no violence, and no one was hurt.
Similar incidents happened at the other
locations. All toll, 72 people were arrested
and most spent three days in jail. Tim
explained how many of the protestors
were prepared to be arrested and had been
briefed on what to expect. Mark told GPA
of two gay men he believed had been
arrested at one of the other facilities. They
had discussed civil disobedience training
with him and had expressed their concerns about being thrown into jail and
revealed to other pri.soners as being gay.
"I assured them it's not dangerous as
long as they weren't blatant," said Mark.
"I was arrested August 9th for the Nagasaki demonstration at Rockwell," continued Mark. "I was concerned about
being sent to the county jail and facing
harassment or the danger of rape. Fortunately, I stayed in El Segundo jail, and it
didn't become an issue," said Mark.
"The thing to do when you're arrested is
to blend in with everybody else, but stay
close to the group of men you are arrested
with and play it cool."
Mark wasn't back at Rockwell this
morning, but others were. Most were from
the Unitarian Church, and among them
was Betty Rottger, the elderly woman
with the Parents and Friends of Gays button. Betty, who has a life-long history of
involvement in activist causes, was carrying a sandwich-board sign draped over
"My son's gay," she told us. "He's a
playwright, and he's the one who made
my sign for me."
For more than an hour, Betty and her
friends put their bodies in line across the
front of Rockwell's tower headquarters,
blocking the entrance and singing peace
songs. A dozen policemen and a district
attorney stood by without moving on the
protestors. Rockwell guards began sending people around to another entrance,
and arrests were never made. Betty had
been prepared to go to jail, and was possibly a little disappointed that they didn't.
In all six locations, volunteer laywers
were standing by, observing, taking notes
and ready to act if needed.
Over at Northrup, Randy Grant, a
member of the Harvey Milk Democratic
Club, and another gay friend also were
prepared to be arrested but were not.
Maybe the El Segundo jail was full.
Randy said, "I spread my activism
between three movements, disarmament,
environment and gay rights causes."
He also remarked how pleased he was to
have had gay rights mentioned several
times ^>y sepakers at the rally. It was
another indication of how gay men and
women are openly accepted in the peace
The recent issue of The Advocate (No.
380) had several artictes about anti-nuke
gays. One is a first-hand account of a
blockade of the Lawrence Livermore
Laboratories in Northern California, and
a gay man's subsequent incarceration in a
makeshift tent-jail for 500 arrestees.
Another is about Peter Adair, the filmmaker who produced Word Is Out and is
now working on a documentary about
civil disobedience for peace. A third deals
with proposed legislation by California
Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, a
major gay rights supporter, which outlines some very innovative ways to start
building toward world peace.
Among others things, Vasconcellos proposed student exchange programs with
the Soviet Union, the establishment of a
National Peace Academy and a program
called Soldiers for Peace, wherein a
hundred thousand citizens from both the
U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would be invited for
a year into the homes ofthe other country.
The time has come for the creative
thinking that has gone into making new
weapons to be matched by the creative
thinking needed to build world peace.
Inasmuch as gay people are not wanted by
the military, it might just be time to join
the peace movement where we are.
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