Roots and Fruit
No. 8 Spring 2002
Take a Stand
often people should take a stand,
to keep in practice if for no other reason. Conscience needs exercising
or it can become dormant.
In the early days of the Peace Center the Girl Scouts raised the United
Nations flag at the McHenry Public Library. John Birchers immediately took the
flag down despite the tearful young people. As no one else would fly that flag,
it was flown at the original, dark, storefront Peace Center at 15th and G. It
took two or three years for that furor to die down, so the flag was flown these
years at the Peace Center for U.N. Day.
Before the UN flag event and before the Modesto Peace Center, officials
decided the school lunch program should not be utilized. True such officials are
generally well fed so the brunt was carried by those less favored. A sit-in
occurred with more than a handful of arrests in Modesto.
Came a time when the local
Klu Klux Klan wanted to march in Modesto. Of course the idea may have
been hateful but if there is freedom of speech. The Center came down on the side
of allowing the march.
Jim Higgs, though working with people who would oppose the march, came
down very vocally to allow the Klan to go ahead. Should there be a counter
demonstration, boo, ignore? The march did go on and was a blah. The Peace
Center’s image was not burnished for for the stand.
The Peace/Life Center bought the 922 6th St. property in 1980. Several
years later the Center, along with the American Friend’s Service Committee
S.F., Chico Peace Center and several others, was sued for one million dollars.
Something of a shocker it was. Enter John Frailing for the defense. It basically
was a harassing effort by the local Consumers Alert, subbing
for utilities. The action withered away in light of facts. The suit was
supposed to be about anti nuclear power activities at Diablo Canyon, MID,
PG&E. The irony was Stanislaus Safe Energy Committee was responsible for the
various anti-nuclear power pickets,
leafleting, testimony in
Sacramento. However, Safe Energy had no money, the Center had a building at that
In the days of the Contras in Nicaragua local Congressman Tony Coehlo was
a political power in Washington DC. It seemed he should be exercising his free
speech a little more robustly in human terms. He became a focus which turned
into a sit in at his office. Dennis Wilson building owner brought in the police
to dislodge the sit-in. Jane Jackson, Coelho’s office person got to see so
many people she knew get arrested. Three mornings this went on.
Not long into a new century it is time to stand out again. The Martin
Luther King Committee is not an official part of the Peace/Life Center though
individuals were involved in the work. King Kennedy Center was the organizer.
The Center helped financially but not with policy. For 2002 things started as
usual. The proposed speaker, Danny Glover, took some strong positions not
necessarily aligned with the politics of the day. When this dawned on those in
public position the need to be politically correct took over. King Kennedy
operates as part of the Parks Department. Parks refused to sign on the contract.
Modesto Jr. College withdrew its facility. Modesto Bee backed down. One by one,
the domino effect took over. Modesto Peace/Life Center which started as just one
of a group of supporters now became the lead agency. Finances became a major
issue necessitating a special fund appeal.
What originated as a normal speaking engagement became a free speech
issue. Word got out. People from Fresno, Bay Area, San Diego phoned to get
connected. An East Coast paper, the Boston Globe, phoned.
If truth and integrity were to be upheld the Modesto Peace/Life Center
had to hurry up and adjust to a major problem not of their making. The Center
does stand behind what it believes, the Danny Glover visit
was a tremendous opportunity to speak out for civil liberties, free
speech and diversity of opinion.
all the curiosities about risk taking action the largest is jail. Although the
Religious Society of Friends was nurtured in prison, Modern Friends lesser tests
are sufficient. Present belief is in legislation which certainly came with
Friends but after they knew what they were risking about. When legislation did
come for tolerance in 1789, it was not unconditional surrender. Friends
continued to show signs of difference. The loyalty oath to the flag was not
taken but sidestepped through an affirmation. The hat was still not doffed to
your “betters”(class). Out of some decades of turmoil Friends came
down on the side of opposition to anyone’s wars as inconsistent with their
Christian origins. The carryout from the early years continued with such issues
as slavery, women’s suffrage, help Jews escape, support Japanese Americans
despite their illegal despoliation and detention.
By the 1950’s Friends opposed war but not much at the risk of
detention. As believers in law(sacrosanct) there must be a better way than
breaking a LAW. Aside from a long heavy tradition it could seem very difficult
to contravene the culture by getting arrested for cause not because you
My first break came when picked up for jumping a barbed wire fence to
collect flowers in Orange County, Los Angeles before Disney. It was a minor
issue as I was more in danger from the horned cattle. With two banging
collection cans hanging from straps I wandered all over for plant specimens for
the plant taxonomy class at U.S.C.: Griffith Park, Santa Susan Pass wherever was
the territory. the Sheriff’s deputies were a
non issue as I had a U.S. Forest Service permit as well as some local
ones. My goodness prevailed until the Nevada Test Site August 5, 1957 and the
beginnings of the Committee for Non-violent Action(CNVA). It provided no jail
time with with its peculiar sentencing, suspended for 1 year. What would Nye
County do with 11 prisoners and a double bunk jail. In 1962 with the Everyman
sentencing Mary Harvey crossed the cattle guard, received a 30 day sentence
spent in the Tonapah jail on the second floor, it was an all male institution.
Despite the threats in Cheyenne in 1958, no arrests for the group from San
Francisco Bay area. There could have been arrests at Vandenberg Christmas 1958
but people were just washed away by fire hoses. Ross Flannagan and I had gone
off and left some untrained young people to ferment too long. Are we ever going
to visit jail? Yes, Livermore August 1960 when four of us Kepler Stallings
Wheeler and I walked into the parking lot of the Radiation Lab, Livermore. After
vigiling there several days, observed by many black cars, in we went. It was a
weekend and the U.S. Commissioner had to cut short his vacation. Technically we
were put on probation but there were not even enough forms for four people.
Hearsay had it good words were put in for us(Ben Seaver?). Santa Rita, a former
Navy base, was a real jail. While sitting in a tank we heard the news of our
arrest, rather weird. Jail over the weekend in East Greystone. I would have been
in trouble but the cell mate kept waking me up for head counts and meals. Zonked
out after little sleep for several days in Del Valle Park so what if I was in
Background included sociology at USC and
five years or so of a monthly prison visit to Duel Vocational Institute,
Don De Vault as a physicist took a geiger counter into DVI, it became an issue
the second time. We were doubling background radiation. Don DeVault(Tracy), Ken
Stevens, Rudy Potochnik, Olin Tillotson came as the Delta Friends Meeting Group.
Also several years on the Prison Committee of American Friends Service
Committee(AFSC) San Francisco during Carl Chessman and other San Quentin death
penalty vigils. Broke from the Prison Committee over nuclear fallout. It
happened that a fully pregnant young woman was visiting her brother on San
Quentin’s death row and was going through an x-ray search machine each time
just as we were at DVI. We raised this issue with the prison
committee of AFSC which sent a letter of query off to California State
Department of Health. The response, no problem, it was all checked out. OK, to
me at the time, objecting to nuclear fallout such a response was not correct. As
I told Steve Thiermann, Committee chair, it did not make sense to stay on. The
guard at DVI receiving wore a dosimeter. The Catholic priest walked around the
machine. I quit the DVI visiting group.
CNVA-West arose with the building of Everyman in Sausalito and Modesto(Howard
TenBrink, Harry TenBrink, Rudy Potochnik and others).
from Roots and Fruits, a publication of the Stanislaus Peace-Life
Center and the Stanislaus Safe Energy Committee
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