Monday, August 30, 2021

NeWSPaPeR: Rochester, NY - Villagers confront marchers in Waterloo

July 31, 1983 - Democrat and Chronicle
PeHP source: Suzanne Sowinska

WATERLOO - Amid cheers and taunts from angry, flag-waving villagers, 53 members of a women's peace encampment were arrested yesterday on disorderly conduct charges after their march through this Seneca County community was stopped by a crowd of local residents.

County sheriff's deputies also arrested three local residents. One was a man who was carrying a loaded rifle whose name was not released. A second was Daniel Smith, of 66 Washington St., Waterloo. He was arrested for disorderly conduct and was being held on $500 bail. A third person, a woman whose name was not released, was arrested when she joined the encampment members who were arrested. The names of the women protesters arrested were not released.

The women were being arraigned late last night and Seneca County officials were making plans to house them in the county jail if necessary. Meanwhile about 20 women from the encampment kept a vigil outside the courthouse where the women were taken for processing while some local residents looked on.

Yesterday's arrests followed a confrontation that erupted shortly after noon between about 300 villagers and 75 members of a group of women who have been camping next to the Seneca Army Depot in Romulus since July 4 to protest the United States' nuclear weapons policy.

The Army has refused to confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons at the depot, located about 55 miles southeast of Rochester.

"We do not need nuclear arms but until this situation is handled through proper channels we cannot allow this," said Waterloo resident Ed Ryder. "We cannot allow demonstrations against our government. Somebody had to make a stand for what the majority of people feel."

Last night, Seneca County District Attorney Stuart Miller was asking that each of the women arrested be tried separately and each held on $250 bond. State officials last night waived capacity regulations at the jail so women could be held, if needed. The jail has a capacity of 30. The women were being arraigned last night.

Women at the peace encampment were meeting late yesterday to decide whether to stage any acts of civil disobedience in retaliation for the arrests. A day of civil disobedience had been planned for tomorrow. The encampment was insired (sic) by the two-year vigil of British women at the Greenham Common U.S. Air Base near London, an intended destination for the cruise missile.

Chief Deputy Dale Arcangeli said the counter-protesters dispersed after the women were arrested.

About 300 people carrying American flags scuffled with village police and Seneca County sheriff's deputies who separated the two groups facing off near the bridge, witnesses said.

Yesterday morning and Friday night, 14 women peace campers were arrested by sheriff deputies and military police for trespassing on depot grounds. Four of the women had pruning shears, apparently to cut through a barbed wire fence.

"I don't thing they were there to prune out bushes for us in the middle of the night," depot spokesman Robert Zemanek said.

Peace camp members complained yesterday that the depot had not kept an agreement to allow all arrested women to have legal representation and had failed to let the camp know the status of the one woman who was kept overnight.

Meanwhile, some townspeople met inside a Veterans of Foreign Wars post next to the Seneca County Courthouse where those arrested were being processed. There was a chicken dinner being served there last night and about 30 of the cars in the parking lot had American flags flying from the antennas. Some women from the encampment held a vigil outside the courthouse for their arrested compatriots and ordered pizza.

Seneca County Undersheriff Thomas Cleere said 30 deputies from Onondaga County were called to Waterloo last night to help local police. They were housed last night at a dormitory on the Eisenhower College campus in Seneca Falls. Women at the peace encampment said security there has been increased from 10 to 30 persons.

The women set out before noon yesterday on a 15-mile protest march through Waterloo from the National Women's Rights Park in Seneca Falls. Their destination was the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice, where 700 women were registered as of last night.

The women said the march was intended to demonstrate the link between the women's movement and the nuclear arms protest.

But when they reached Waterloo, they were met by several hundred residents who formed a human barrier to their way across Route 96, south of Main Street.

Faced with the immovable crowd, 17 women sat down and formed a circle on the road.

"Commies go home. Commies go home," chanted members of the crowd, some of whom lined the sides of the roadway, waving American flags. The sound of fireworks cracked in the muggy heat of the day as American flags, usually reserved for holidays, dominated the streets downtown. (Memorial Day was started in 1866 by a group of Waterloo villagers who decorated the graves of Civil War dead.) Some people carried banners proclaiming "If you love America, protect it." and "Idea great, attitude wrong."

Reminiscent of the anti-Vietnam war movement of the '60s, women in the circle sang Give Peace a Chance, Kumbaya and We Shall Overcome. The women protesters were dressed in white and had on them the names of women important to the social justice movement including Emma Goldman and Mother Jones.

Margaret Moor, 79, of 2 Park Place, Waterloo, was downtown at 11 a.m. and saw the flags.

"They had all the flags and the whole town was decorated with flags... they said the women were coming."

The crowd of townspeople were (sic) gathered at the south end of the bridge when Waterloo Police Chief Doyle Marquart attempted to send police cars north through the crowd to break the blockade.

"We tried to move them aside with cars but we couldn't," he said. The people were 10-deep along the 40-foot wide roadway.

At the beginning of what was to be a more than two-hour stalemate between villagers and outsiders, Seneca County Sheriff Kenneth Greere told his deputies he intended only to arrest women and their supporters.

But at 1:05 p.m., he told a few spectators, "I'll arrest both sides."

"You're going to be paying the bill if I have to arrest 300 people," he told one county resident, who would not move.

At 1:15 p.m., Greer addressed the women over the loudspeaker and told them to follow two sheriff's department patrol cars to a department parking lot four blocks away where the matter would be discussed. If they didn't, he said, the women would be charges with "inciting a riot."

Greer offered them an alternative route out of town but the women refused.

"It was the police's responsibility to keep the hecklers away, not the women who had a permit for that walk," said Toni Fitzpatrick of New York City, one of the encampment's spokeswomen.

About 2 p.m., the sheriff's department truck pulled into sight. The townspeople cheered, "Get them out of here." "Go Home," were the chants from the crowd.

The truck backed onto the road near the circle. When it opened up 11 officers in full riot gear jumped out and half of them marched up to the women. With their backs to the women, they formed a line between the citizens of Waterloo and the encampment supporters.

"Take them away," the townspeople cried.

Observers said there was confusion in the crowd as some townspeople thought they were going to be arrested.

"What are you taking us away for," one man shouted. "We live here. We have a right to be here. Don't forget Greer, you have to run for re-election."

At 2:27, Sheriff Greer again addressed the crowd through a loud speaker.

"This is a volatile situation and I'm asking for your cooperation. All children are requested to leave. All citizens are requested to leave also. We do not need sightseers and spectators any longer. Please disperse."

But the crowd stood its ground.

Then he addressed the women: "All women from the encampment that have not committed themselves to being arrested should leave the area."

Greer continued to ask the crowd to disperse. It began to break up about 2:35.

Although there was still confusion among the crowd, people on both sides were led to believe that if the crowd dispersed in one direction (south towards the encampment) the women would go north (back towards Seneca Falls).

But at 2:42, as the sheriff's deputies continued to stand guard over the circle of women, three women got up and began moving forward as if to go on to the depot.

"You lied," shouted the townspeople, and the human wall of people went up again on the south end of the road.

Then the arrests began.

Witnesses said some of the women peaceably got up and walked on foot to the waiting sheriff's department truck. Others went limp and police carried them or dragged them to the police vehicle.

"Go Ken Greer," shouted the residents, cheering as each women (sic) was loaded into the sheriff's truck. As the arrested continued, women who had not been part of the sit-in continued to line the bridge, some singing Give Peace a Chance.

"They didn't want to give up their right to walk peacefully and continue their protest without some gesture," said Eva Kolisch, 57 of New York City, who said she was a veteran of anti-war marches during the '60s. "I think some nerve was touched here when we say we are here to save the earth from extinction."

Local residents talked of defacement of American flags and lack of patriotism among the women protesting. During an earlier demonstration, women at the encampment refused to fly an American flag that was donated.

"I believe they're communists and paid by communists," said Jerry McKenna of Waterloo. "Every person here is a veteran of different wars. There's only one way to put it. The family of Waterloo is here."

Lee Patchen, the mayor of Waterloo, said he believed the actions of the crowd on Route 96 reflected the sentiment of the people of the village. "The townspeople did what they felt they had to do," Patchen said.

Once the crowd dispersed along Route 96, they followed the sheriff's cars to the county courthouse where the arrested women were to be processed.

The women protesters who had not been arrested gathered in front of the courthouse while a line of villagers formed across the street, watching them. Some were bitter that none of the townspeople who had blocked their way were arrested.

"All they (the women who were arrested) were doing was walking on their walk which they had a permit for," Fitzpatrick said.

The women marchers said they a (sic) permit for their protest march. Waterloo officials said no such permit was issued, nor was one required.

At about 4:45, three women from the encampment group crossed the street to address the crowd of townspeople. During the exchange, the women were trying to find out why the local residents were upset.

"If you don't like my area, if you're ashamed of it, why don't you get out of here," Bill Young of Waterloo told them. "You people have been complaining because we don't treat you right. But just want to know where you're coming from."

Another woman in crowd said, "If you want to protest, take your protests down to Washington."

A 19-year-old woman from the peace encampment was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate David G. Larimer yesterday on charges of trespassing on government property after having been detained for the same charge earlier.

Lynn D. Brown refused to identify herself until she was warned by Larimer that failure to do so would result in her having to post bond. She was released on a personal appearance bond of $500, Larimer said.

Trespassing is a petty offense punishable by up to six months in prison and $500 fine.

Brown was ordered to appear in court Thursday with five other women from the camp who were arraigned on similar charges last Tuesday, Larimer said.

He said Brown was brought to Rochester from the Seneca Army Depot by military personnel.

Reporting for this story was done by staff writers Erik Gunn, Laura Meade, Dena Bunis, Jim Mitzelfeld and Metro Editor Lou Ziegler. It was written by Bunis.

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