The Ithaca Journal, July 7, 1986
Newspaper clipping provided by Laura Boswell Thornton
13 CITED IN DEPOT PROTEST
ROMULUS - While pride and patriotism pervaded New York City this weekend at the Statue of Liberty anniversary celebrations, members of the Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice in Seneca County demonstrated. Thirteen women were apprehended for trespassing on the Seneca Army Depot grounds. The weekend marked the third anniversary of the encampment’s birth.
In the steamy, humid Saturday afternoon, about 90 women gathered on a grassy area in front of the Seneca Army Depot’s gates. While singing anti-nuclear and feminist songs and giving short speeches, they were bordered on one side by curious onlookers and on the other side by depot security personnel.“I hope to call attention to the fact that this national holiday shouldn’t be just for mindless patriotism and that we’re interdependent and we shouldn’t just say “Rah, rah, rah, God’s on you side,’” said Arlene Ahl, 34 of Syracuse, as she walked with the group the 1 1/2 miles from the encampment to the main gate at the Seneca Army Depot. “We’re not just endangering ourselves, we’re endangering the world with the depot’s weapons,” Ahl said.
The depot, which is believed to store nuclear weapons, has been the site of many protests since the peace encampment opened July 4, 1983. Women came to Romulus from all over the country to either take part in the weekend’s activities or to spend part of the summer living at the camp that year. The theme this weekend was all-encompassing: interdependence for every living thing. It was explained by one protester’s sign: “Radiation knows no national boundaries.”
Protests have their value in communicating knowledge to the pubic, said participant Cindy Sangree, 55, an Empire State College sociology professor. One vital message is that manufacturing weapons does not make a healthy economy, she said, despite what people think. “There’s ample evidence that more money and jobs would be (generated) in the domestic sector than in the military,” Sangree said.
The protest was marked by the apprehension of 13 women who had crawled under the depot’s fence and onto the grounds, which is federal property. Unless they have been arrested repeatedly, the women will receive written warnings and released, said depot public relations officer Robert L. Zemanek Jr. If they are repeat offenders, they could be charged with criminal trespassing and fined $500 or spend six months in jail, he said. One of the 13 unidentified women was a repeat offender and was given notice to appear in court.
While the 13 women were carted off with their hands tied behind their backs, balloons were set free. Attached were notes stating the balloons were released from the army depot. The notes also carried the message, “If this has reached you, any radiation released from the depot will also reach you.” A litany of problems and tragedies were listed by speakers as they took their turns at the open microphone. These included the starving poor at home and in Central America, the destruction of the environment and the nation’s anti-nuclear movement.
While New York is far from being a nuclear-free zone, the Chicago city council has declared its city a nuclear-free area, and a similar proposition will appear on Oregon’s ballot in November, Hamilton said. Parliaments in Scandinavian countries, Iceland and New Zealand are considering or have passed nuclear-free zone resolutions, said Hamilton, who works in Baltimore for the group Nuclear-Free America.
Also, encampment resident Bissy Craig commented on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that sodomy is not protected under the constitutional guarantee of privacy. This week the Supreme Court said lesbians are criminals,” said Craig, who came from Philadelphia. “Everytime [sic] someone says we don’t have a constitutional right to be who we are, our numbers get smaller. Sometimes that’s scarier than nuclear war, because there’s and end to life and there’s an end to the quality of life.”