Ken Mayers’ little red Honda hybrid was loaded up with banners and signs when I hopped in on Friday morning, headed for a peace protest at the corner of St. Francis Drive and Cerillos Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There, Ken and other local activists give the community’s peace movement dependable visibility. Friday was the 12th anniversary of their first weekly protest during the build-up to the Iraq war.
Back then the protest might attract upwards of a hundred people. Now they are down to a few stalwarts, but someone is there every week.
Ken takes out a large Veterans for Peace banner but since the weather is calm, he assembles another using sections of plastic pipe. The vinyl banner on one side says “Stop the War on Mother Earth.” The banner on the other says “Close Guantanamo.” Both are attached to the pipe framework with bungee cords. I admire the design, and tell Ken about Don Booth, who held peace vigils for years in Concord and who never ceased fussing with banner designs and slogans. Ken is able to hold the flag and the banner rig at the same time.
Ken started the Santa Fe Veterans for Peace chapter in 2002, but he’s been an activist longer than than. He still runs a business out of his home, but peace is high on his agenda. Ken has made several trips to Israel and occupied Palestine and participated in the 2011 “Audacity of Hope” flotilla to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. [Click here to read more about Ken.] We share the distinct honor of having been arrested with Will Thomas in acts of civil disobedience.
I grab an FCNL “War is Not the Answer” road sign from the back of the car and join Ken on the sidewalk by the busy intersection.
The corner is on the road from Albuquerque to Los Alamos, which still functions as a lynchpin facility in US nuclear weapons development, but the location was chosen, Ken said, because it gets so much traffic. Sometimes demonstrations are held in the center of town, near the state capital building (“The Roundhouse”), but the weekly Friday protest is always at the corner.
Soon after we arrive, Ray rides up on his bike with his service dog, Dawson, and unfurls his own peace banner. Ray tells me he and Ken were both active in Vietnam Veterans Against the War back in the day. Now Ray supports programs that provide shelter to people who are homeless.
Ken points across the intersection to another man having his own peace protest.
His name is pronounced “Mo,” but he says he spells it with an “M,” an “h,” and a – a peace sign. He’d like the peace sign to be recognized as the 27th letter and says his own vigil was inspired by former Beatle Ringo Starr, who asks people to stand out for peace and love at noon on his birthday. Tibetan peace flags dangle from a pole that also sports Buddhist symbols, feathers, and peace buttons. “It’s a hippie thing, too,” he says. A button that reads “stop the next war now” is pinned to his shirt. He used to be joined by a World War 2 vet named Bob, but Bob is 90 years old and can’t stand out by the road for an hour. So Mho stands by himself, waving peace signs to the cars driving by, just like Ringo suggested.
When I head back toward Ray and Ken’s corner I find another spot occupied by Mark and Bud with another set of signs. Mark’s says “One Nation Under Surveillance” on one side and “War is a Racket” on the other. Bud holds a poster with lots of photos and the words “violence begets violence begets violence … ” Later he gives me a copy of his film, “The Forgotten Bomb: Everything Depends on Remembering.”
Dave arrives and joins Ken and Ray. His sign says “honk for peace” and it works pretty well. But by then the allotted hour is up.
I help Ken take apart his banner display and stash it in the back of the car. Ray and Dawson ride off on their bike. The protest will resume next Friday.