Story last updated at 4:37 p.m. Thursday, June 13, 2002

Missile-defense plan foes roll through Homer
by Sean Pearson
Special to Homer News

photo: news
  Photo by Sean Pearson, Homer News
A 40-foot inflatable "Peace Missle" was briefly set up Sunday in the Eagle stoe parking lot befoe officials asked the group to leave.  
A group of peace-seekers gathering in Homer Sunday to show opposition for the development of national missile defense systems in Kodiak and Fort Greely, found themselves moving around town a bit before finding a place to dispense information for the afternoon.

The group had originally set its sights on the Eagle Quality Center parking lot, but apparently never asked for permission to locate there. After setting up their informational booth and 40-foot inflatable "missile," participants said they were asked to leave.

"We hadn't heard anything about this group coming in, so we really had no idea what they were about," said Cherie Myers, a spokesman for the Seattle regional office of Safeway, Eagle's parent corporation.

"We're fairly lenient as far as allowing different groups to come on to the property because we want to allow a lot of opportunities for our customers to be informed about various causes around their community," Myers said Wednesday. "The only thing we ask is that groups give us some sort of notification about when they want to come and what they are about. We heard nothing from this group. They just showed up. With our main purpose being protecting our customers, we had to send them on because we had no idea what they were about."

Homer resident Sharon Whytal said she went to the Eagle lot to get information and help support the peace groups' cause.

"I'm interested in the use of remote Alaska sites for increased militarization," Whytal said. "So I came to educate myself," she said. After not finding the group at Eagle, Whytal said she caught up with them near a chiropractor's office on Pioneer, but the group was in the process of relocating again.

Whytal, who is involved in the "Kindness Without Borders" movement in Homer, said she was in the process of getting information at the booth when they were asked to move again.

"I heard somebody in the background say, 'Yeah, nobody wants a missile, even an inflatable missile, in their backyard,''' she said.

Eventually the group scheduled a presentation at the Raspberry Lane School House in Homer that evening.

The coalition involved in the peace gathering is part of the Alaskan Peace Camp Tour, which originated in Fairbanks on June 6. The group is touring the state to raise awareness of missile defense testing and deployment in Alaska.

"We are a coalition of about 10 different groups around the state, and we're all opposed to basically the same thing," said Steve Cleary, organizer for the Citizens Opposed to Defense Experimentation, or CODE. "We rented an RV in Fairbanks and we're traveling throughout Alaska to share information."

The tour culminated with the beginning of Peace Camp on Wednesday at Fort Greely, the proposed site of an interceptor missile site.

"Reception has been pretty good just about everywhere so far," Cleary said. "A lot of people have said, 'Thanks for doing this.' I think it helps that we are keeping the message positive and talking about keeping Alaskans safe. It's a message I think people can appreciate."

The Peace Camp was organized to coincide with the six-month anniversary of President George W. Bush's announcement that the United States would withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which limits testing facilities.

"I just can't believe anyone can look at pulling out of this treaty as a rational decision," said Stacey Fritz, founder of the No Nukes North organization out of Fairbanks. "When we walk away from this treaty, we are throwing away 30 years of work."

Fritz said she began her work with the No Nukes North program in 1999 as the subject of her thesis for graduate school at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

"I saw what a huge issue the missile-defense situation was, and how there were so many international groups opposed to it," Fritz said. "I really couldn't find any groups in Alaska, so I started putting information on a Web site. I found that a lot of people just don't really know enough about what is going on so close to them."

Following the September 11 terrorists attacks on the United States, Bush requested and received more than $8.3 billion in funding for Star Wars research and development. With the new financing in place, the administration set out to develop the National Missile Defense system and construct facilities in Alaska, as well as other Pacific locations, for an expanded missile defense test bed. The National Missile Defense System is designed to intercept incoming inter-continental ballistic missiles. By tracking incoming ICBMs, the system aims to lock onto them and launch its own atmospheric missiles to shoot them down. The missile would be detonated in the earth's outer atmosphere. In Alaska alone, the National Defense System plan includes the construction of five silos and ground-based missile interceptors at Fort Greely, and two ground-based interceptor launch silos at the Kodiak Launch Complex.

"The whole thing is ridiculous," said Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. "Here we are kicking off a new arms race that we can't afford. We are cutting children's programs, yet talking about making our children's future secure. It makes no sense. The so-called 'Star Wars' is nothing more than welfare for the big weapons corporations that have taken control of Congress."

"September 11 has proven the point that even if we had Star Wars, it wouldn't have done us any good. The real lesson of September 11 is that if somebody really wants to attack the United States, they are not going to do it using nuclear weapons that can be tracked by radar all over the skies on their way here. They are going to employ sneak attacks, using passenger planes or other everyday means."

Stacy Studebaker of the Kodiak Rocket Launch Information Group agreed, adding that she thinks the public has been "duped" by the government and military organizations.

"The launch facility in Kodiak was presented and sold to the people as a commercial launch site to launch telecommunications satellites into orbit," Studebaker said. "However, since it has become operational, there have been six launches, and all have been for the military."

The coalition expects to be at the Peace Camp in Fairbanks through Sunday.

On a local level, Kindness Without Borders has organized a peace march in Homer on June 25. The "Hold the Vision, Peace with Justice" walk and gathering will begin at 6 p.m. at Homer Middle School, then move through town to the WKFL Park. Participating are encouraged to meet at the Homer Middle school at 5 p.m. for sign painting prior to the march.