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Arcata follows Berkeley lead

By Kurtis Alexander, Daily Planet Staff
Friday May 17, 2002

Peace proclamation approved in No. Calif. town 


Berkeley’s highly-scrutinized resolution calling for a quick end to the bombing in Afghanistan found an ally Wednesday night when the northern California city of Arcata passed a similar measure. 

Summoning community-wide attention, much the same way Berkeley drew impassioned onlookers on the night of Oct. 16 when its high-profile measure passed, the small, coastal community called for all governments of the world to “cease bombing and attacks on civilians.” 

The plea, which passed Arcata’s five-person City Council by a 3-1 vote, came as part of a short list of declarations that supporters say will help promote greater understanding and reconciliation amid the current international conflicts. 

“Peace begins at home,” said Thea Gast, an Arcata resident and former mayor. “I really believe that we need to take action at the grassroots level.” 

Arcata’s peace proclamation was introduced in January to an uncertain City Council that had seen the hostile reactions to Berkeley’s resolution last October. The council also had some negative experiences of its own when it passed a proclamation critical of the Gulf War in 1989. 

But after a petition drive that won more than 800 signatures, the Arcata-based Redwood Peace Coalition finally pushed their anti-war proclamation before city leaders. 

“We’ve always seen Berkeley as kind of our sister city. But we saw how watered down the [resolution] in Berkeley got, and that encouraged us to move forward with ours even more,” said Coalition member David Meserve. 

The Arcata proclamation, unlike the Berkeley resolution, doesn’t qualify its calls to stop the bombing with the clause “as soon as possible”, Meserve noted. 

However, the Arcata proclamation has been tempered since its original writing, he said. Specific demands on the United States were among the items dropped from the initial measure, he noted. 

Still, the proclamation submits a strong message of peace. “We seek alternatives to the use of military force in response to today’s threats and problems,” the proclamation reads. 

The Coalition began drafting a peace statement shortly after the war on terrorism began last year, Meserve said, but has since broadened the statement, in light of more recent events. 

“We’re still bombing Afghanistan,” Meserve noted. “And look what we’re about to do to Iraq.” 

Arcata’s peace proclamation requires one more reading before it is legally adopted, scheduled for June 5.