The South County Times
February 19,1987

Peace Advocates Don't Give Up Easily!

Sunday we went looking for Dr. Charles Hyder along what we have come to think of as "Peace Alley" - stretch of sidewalk across from the White House. Here, Dr. Hyder, solar physicist and peace activist, spends part of his time as a living demonstration of one man's commitment to peace. On Sunday he was, incredibly, in the 146th day of his peace fast. But the weather was bitterly cold and he was not at his usual spot. In his weakened condition he must protect his body from wind chill.

We talked, instead, to some of the other "regulars" - people undoubtedly written off as "kooks" by most pedestrians scurrying by. One has to actually talk to them to realize how articulate they are - how dedicated to the cause of a nuclear-free world. Most of them have reduced their worldly possessions to just what may be contained on the wooden pallets holding up their hand-painted signs.

Some of them even sleep next to their signs: Concepcion, for instance. She is a woman in her 30s or 40s, and incredibly enough, has spent over five years - day and night - next to her sign. On a day so bitterly cold that we had to keep stamping our feet to stay warm it was hard to believe that she had just spent the night on the sidewalk.

We talked to Paul Sion, also in his 30s or 40s. He is one of Washington's "homeless." He is able to get work for one or two days a week, and hopes to ultimately find full-time work. In the meantime he acts as a "relief," manning the signs. (The law says that the signs must always be attended.) Some nights he sleeps in shelters, some nights in a sleeping bag on a nearby park bench.

We also spoke to Ellen Thomas, a young woman who asked us to sign a petition beseeching Congress to start immediately seriously to take steps toward disarmament. She said the petition would be submitted on Tuesday to Congress and asked that we spread the word to people to write or call their congresspeople on this issue.

And, finally, we spoke to the most articulate of them all - Dr. James Evans, a psychologist and friend of Charles Hyder. He accompanied Dr. Hyder on his trip to Geneva two weeks ago. (Hyder was then in the 130th day of his fast!)

Evans and Hyder showed up at the USA/USSR Disarmament Conference to communicate their profound concern regarding the threat of a global nuclear holocaust. The U.S. mission sent a low-level PR man out to talk to Hyder but refused him an audience with anyone higher up. At the Russian mission, on the other hand, Executive Secretary Artemiev spoke with Hyder directly. Evans claims that Russia has essentially agreed to Hyder's stipulations for ending his fast, the main one being that all nuclear warheads be disabled and dismantled by the year 2000.

We came away from "Peace Alley" both depressed and inspired. Depressed, because we too would like to see a world free of nuclear armaments, but feel that this administration, particularly, and very possibly any administration that might be elected, is too fearful to take the strong steps necessary to start the world on a downward spiral of armaments.

But we were also inspired by the conviction and stubbornness of the Peace Alley inhabitants who refuse to give up. Their contemporaries may call them kooks, but should their vision ever actually come to pass they will be known as "martyrs." And if their vision doesn't come to pass there may well be nobody left to call them anything.

Gloria Ericson
Staff Writer