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War Drums, Peace Drums in Counterpoint at Convention Center

April 06, 1986|MARK I. PINSKY | Times Staff Writer

The sounds of American Indian war drums and Japanese Buddhist peace drummers filled the air Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center, where promotion intermingled with protest.

The native Americans, in full feather dress, were performing a Southern Plains dance to attract customers to an Anaheim Indian show, an annual event at the convention center.

Less than 100 feet way, gathered under a 50-foot-tall black balloon shaped like a mushroom cloud, members of the Nipponzan Myohoji sect pounded out rhythms for 175 demonstrators there to protest the Military Defense Exposition, Mildex '86, held next door to the Indian show. The four-day military trade show brought together 64 exhibitors, including representatives of the People's Republic of China.

The two groups managed to coexist, and spectators moved back and forth between them.

Demonstration Space Rented

To avoid any legal problems over access to the area, the Orange County Alliance for Survival, a sponsor of the protest, had rented space on the grounds of the convention center.

Signs and leaflets characterized Mildex '86 as an "international weapons swap meet" and participants as "death merchants." Other signs attacked the Strategic Defense Initiative as well as U.S. policy in Central America and South Africa.

But one set of flyers distributed by the demonstrators evoked an equal amount of interest among those watching the Indian performance. These advertised a local showing of "Broken Rainbow," an Academy Award-winning film documentary about Navajo and Hopi efforts to retain tribal lands in the Big Mountain area of Arizona.

Michael Legault, who had been carrying a sign which read "Security Through Peace," walked from the mushroom-shaped balloon to the Indian dancers and hand-lettered a new sign on a piece of cardboard. This one read, "Stop Forced Relocation of Navajo and Hopi Tribes at Big Mountain."

Indian actor Iron Eyes Cody, who had accompanied the dancers, afterward gestured toward the protesters in a show of support, saying, "I'm against all this war stuff."

Junji Shiminaki, one of the three Japanese drummers, said that his group also had been to Big Mountain, because in addition to demonstrating for world peace, "we support Indian people."

The demonstration concluded with a 20-minute "die-in," simulating the results of a nuclear war, on the grass in front of the convention center. A small group of younger protesters briefly blocked Katella Avenue, but dispersed after Anaheim police threatened them with arrest.

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