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Peaceable Feast : Stars Turn Out in Santa Monica to Honor Anti-Nuclear Protesters

September 21, 1989|PATRICIA WARD BIEDERMAN | Times Staff Writer

It was a party out of the pages of the Whole Earth Catalogue.

On Sunday night the Westside chapter of the anti-nuclear group SANE/FREEZE held a celebration honoring local politicians arrested in 1987 while demonstrating at a Nevada nuclear test site.

The politicians, who included Santa Monica Mayor Dennis Zane and former mayor James Conn, received plaques bearing plastic handcuffs like the ones slapped on them when they were arrested. Actor-activist Martin Sheen bear-hugged special guest Cesar Chavez. The 400 participants watched a video on the plight of California farm workers, took free rides on the Santa Monica Pier Carousel and bopped to the sounds of an Amer-Asian "surf-rockabilly" group called Soy Cowboy.

Needless to say, no table grapes were served, but there were free Peace Pops from Ben & Jerry's Homemade ice-cream company and Nuclear Freeze bars from a Los Angeles health-food firm called Garden of Eatin'.

"This kind of event fits very neatly into the Santa Monica spirit," said Zane, who characterized the city as one that "encourages free expression for a lot of diverse views."

To receive his award, Zane wore what could almost be called a Santa Monica tuxedo--jeans and a sport jacket. The mayor said he had practiced a quip for the occasion: "This is the first time I've ever been honored for being busted." In fact, he said, he had never been busted before for anything but a traffic violation. "There's no question that it's a rite of passage," he said.

Fellow honoree Judy Abdo, Santa Monica city councilwoman, reminisced fondly about the experience, which she speculated had helped her get elected. Her only complaint was that she had been handcuffed too tightly, and "We didn't even get to go to jail." The arrested politicians included City Council members Jim Rosenberger of Hermosa Beach, Daniel Tabor of Inglewood, David Finkel of Santa Monica, and Helen Albert, John Heilman and Paul Koretz, all of West Hollywood. They were booked and released on their own recognizance.

"I felt right at home coming here, because I've been across that line quite a number of times in recent years," said Sheen, who has been active in SANE/FREEZE and has been arrested for civil disobedience. Sheen praised the public officials who were being honored. "To have a respected member of the community, a leader of the community, take such a brave action is inspirational to everyone in the community," he said. "Public service can be very risky when it's done honestly." He laughed. "It can be very risky when it's done dishonestly, too," he added.

Choice of Events

Sheen said he had chosen the pier party over the peer party taking place in Pasadena because "this is far more important than the Emmys." Actress Susan Clark agreed. "I'm not sure going to the Emmys would make any difference for the future of our children," Clark said. Her choice, she said, set a better example for her children.

Chavez, president of the United Farmworkers and described by Sheen as one of his heroes, lauded the politicians who had acted on their anti-nuclear convictions. "It's really not that difficult for me," said Chavez, "because I don't have to come back and face the voters." Chavez expressed his support for many of the liberal causes championed by the participants.

"It's a very large world," he said, "and there are many issues we should be concerned about--peace and justice and pesticides and the RAND Corp.!" When Chavez declared: "No grapes--nowhere," he received a standing ovation.

Ben & Jerry's Fans

The event was a benefit for Westside SANE/FREEZE. According to coordinator Andrew Tonkovich, the party raised about $10,000 for the group.

Tonkovich also reported that the celebrants polished off 500 Peace Pops in the course of the evening, including all the Cherry Garcia-flavored ones. Manufacturer Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. has won a following among liberal ice-cream lovers because of the firm's contributions to peace groups and other activist organizations and such corporate practices as limiting the founders' salaries because, as Ben Cohen once told an interviewer, "No one deserves to make the kind of money big business people make." Besides, it tastes every bit as good as ice cream made by companies with less politically correct policies.

Tonkovich was grateful to Ben & Jerry's, and he certainly agreed with their ideological position, but he was a little concerned about their ingredients' list.

"People consumed a lot of ice cream," Tonkovich said. "It was too much sugar, but it was for a good cause."

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