My heart sank when I saw 80-year-old Barry Freeman inside a Chapel Hill police car. He was sitting sideways because his arms were handcuffed behind him. OK, I'll admit it. He committed a heinous crime. He refused to put down his 8-by-10-inch sign that said "Hands Off My Grandchildren" at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the U.S. Army Recruitment Office in Chapel Hill on Dec. 15. His 71-year-old wife, Janie, also was arrested and apparently taken to the police station in a separate vehicle.
You see, things are a bit unclear. Some demonstrators believed we had a right to protest peacefully in front of a government office even when it was located in a privately owned strip mall. One thing was clear though: The strip mall's property manager was running the show, explaining "the rules" to demonstrators and police and signaling to the police when to make arrests.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce sent out an e-mail about an hour before the ribbon-cutting ceremony saying it was pulling out of the opening because of the potential for injury to its staff and members, apparently due to anticipated violence. I guess when the Chamber members put their heads together, they didn't figure out that people demonstrating for peace are generally against violence!
We went inside to see our tax dollars at work. All right, I have to say it wasn't exactly a lavish spread. The refreshment table held packaged cold cuts, cheeses, rolls and cakes, but it still ticked me off.
The good news, though, is that Students for a Democratic Society is alive and well and living, in part, at UNC-CH. They chanted "One, two, three, four, we don't want your racist war." I pinched myself a few times just to be sure I wasn't having a 1960s kind of dream. It warmed me to see them standing up for what they believe is the right thing. Young people did this all the time in the Vietnam era; it's rare today. It was my pleasure to demonstrate with them.
The following day's Durham edition of The Herald-Sun did not mention there was a third person arrested. And the Chapel Hill edition mentioned a third person, but neglected to say who it was. It was Steve Woolford, a man whose thoughts and actions run deep. Steve counsels GIs who want to leave the military and hears the horrors of the reality of military service rather than the sugar-coated version recruiters give. Steve and his wife take families in need into their home; they stand in peace vigils at least weekly; and they stand in the wee hours of the morning opposing the murder of inmates by the State of North Carolina. And these are just a few of the causes and truths they stand up for. Violence? Come on.