I joined an anti-war demonstration yesterday at McConnell AFB in
Wichita. My first in 30 years. I was the first one there.
My sign read "Vets say 'No oil war' ." I went to the base gate where
I met a few young M.P.s who had gate duty. I asked how close
people could stand to the base. They said "Across the street." I said,
"But this is a public thoroughfare. The crosswalk is public." They said
they'd call their H.Q. H.Q. said I was right, I could stand in the
They asked how many demonstrators would be coming? I told them
I didn't know; that it was my first time. They asked, "How many do you
think will come?" I said I didn't have a clue. I was from 60 miles away.
I asked if they had seen demonstrations there before? They said "Yes."
I asked, "How many were there?" One said, "About 12." I said, "See
your info is better than mine."
I held my sign for maybe ten minutes on the crosswalk island
before a couple of other protesters showed up across the street. Got lots
of thumbs up, peace signs from old and young alike. They ran about 9-1
thumbs-up from people driving south on the thoroughfare fronting on the base
to a highly appreciated 4-1 ratio of smiles, waves and thumbs-up from people
coming from OFF the base! Lots of honks of approval to the signs on the
other side of the street from northbound traffic. Eventually two dozen
Eventually a few young people joined me. The police presence grew.
Photographers showed up to take our pictures. A sheriff's deputy pulled up
on the grass, light bar flashing, and came over to sternly warn us about
trespassing on the base. I told him that I'd consulted with the military
and ascertained that we only had to stay within the west side of the island
crosswalk. He urged us to go to the other side of the street where "it's
safer." I said we felt perfectly safe on the west side of the street. He
said someone could come down the road and run up on the sidewalk and hit us.
I said that was right, but we were just 100' from the gate and people went
through it slowly and didn't typically accelerate in front of all those
M.P.s, and the intersection was controlled by traffic signals. He said that
he would have to write a report. I told him that was his duty, and that he
certainly should. He asked if I was the spokesman. I said, "Well,
(wiggling eyebrows lasciviously, al la Groucho) I'm the oldest." He said
that someone could come down Rock Road and come up on the island and hit us.
I pointed out that you could say that about any pedestrian on any sidewalk
alongside any major thoroughfare in Wichita. He said if we got hit, it was
our responsibility. I said that was true (though it wasn't, of course,
assuming driving laws apply to protester victims as they would to any other
citizen). I said we understood and fully accepted that. He said that
people in cars could make nasty remarks and he was worried about a
confrontation. I said they had the right to make nasty remarks, just like
we had the right to protest the war. He went off to consult with the
growing crowd of M.P.s.
Meanwhile, I and my young friends were being assiduously photographed for
the John Ashcroft/Donald Rumsfeld commemorative photo album. We posed
charmingly, crowded together, arms on shoulders, waving and smiling for
group shots. I did my best Anita Bryant photo-op pose, sticking my butt out
provocatively from behind my sign for the D.O.D. files. I can be soooo
The Sheriff came back because our female contingent with her $20 camera was
taking pictures of the photographers, joined by one our young men, both
eager to reciprocate the favor. The deputy warned that we could find
in real trouble if we published the pictures without the subjects'
We were appropriately servile, conveying our understanding of the immense
gravity of the situation. The last time the sheriff came over I told him we
were only going to be there another seven minutes, till 6:00 p.m., and we
so grateful for his assistance. I thought I heard a subvocalized sigh of
All in all a stimulating and refreshing day. I for one was thankful for the
foray into the fresh evening breezes. Well worth the 120 mile round trip.
Frank Smith (E-1)
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Oct 28 2002 - 14:34:41 EST