American women model protest on English peace encampment
Boston — ''We'll be very visible, a constant presence,'' says Rebecca Linsner, who will volunteer on weekends for the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice scheduled to open July 4 in Seneca, N.Y. ''The Army will know it's being watched.''
Modeled after the one next to Greenham Common Air Force Base in England, it will be this country's first large-scale women's encampment to protest shipping nuclear missiles to Western Europe later this year.
The organizers are emphasizing that this is to be a women's protest. Men may stay in a reception area during the day, but they will not be allowed to stay the night. Some will take care of the children.
''When women do something drastic alone, like climbing the fences at Greenham Common (the United States airbase 50 miles west of London which is due to receive 96 nuclear-tipped US cruise missiles starting in December), it makes more of an impact,'' says protester Nell Elperin. ''Men get protective when they see women treated badly by the police. Besides, the police are more hesitant to play rough with just women.''
At least that is what the women at Greenham Common say. But they have still been repeatedly arrested. The Seneca women point out that while their British counterparts occupy public land, the Seneca group has bought its land, and therefore its members are less likely to be arrested.
The Seneca women say they got their inspiration from the 40 British women who , in the late summer of 1981, marched with their children 120 miles from Cardiff , Wales, to Greenham Common air base. Over the past 22 months, hundreds of thousands of women have visited the encampment.
Seneca is the most obvious example of the influence the peace movements in America and Western Europe have on each other. Until recently, they have operated without much coordination. In the last few months, though, they've fallen more into step, including:
* Demonstrations. Next October, Americans and Europeans will take part in the first coordinated set of demonstrations.
In the mass-demonstration area, the US can pick up a few tips from the West Europeans, says Donna Cooper, program director for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. The US has had only one very large demonstration - almost a million people in New York City last June 12 - while the Europeans ''can get 200,000 to 300,000 people out on the streets at any time.''
* New media use. The European movement has taken cues from actions in the US, says Joseph Lehman, a spokesman for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
''You see many more staged media events, like the (30,000) women linking arms at Greenham Common last December. US activists have been putting on events for the media since Vietnam.''
* Peace tours. Sixteen religious and disarmament leaders from Europe and Asia toured the US during ''Peace with Justice Week'' in May. It was the second time a European delegation presented to Americans its case against the US-supplied missiles.
US activists, too, make frequent jaunts through Europe. This year Ralph Nader , former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, and Randall Forsberg, head of the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies, have conferred with their European counterparts.
It is partly the time factor that has pulled the two sides closer, observers say.
''As time grows closer to deployment (of US missiles in West Europe), American and European movements have had to work more closely,'' says Melinda Fine of the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies.
But, she continues, ''they have different (intermediate) goals and different approaches, reflecting what each country sees as politically feasible.''
In fact, says Robert Fleischer of the Nuclear Weapons Campaign, ''the two sides' goals are so different that there's no point in trying to make their tactics uniform.
''The difference between US and European goals is that American activists want a bilateral freeze and eventual disarmament, while many European activists - feeling the East bloc on their eastern border and the pressure of the December deadline, when the US cruises and Pershings start arriving - do not want nuclear weapons on their soil, even if that means unilateral disarmament.''
''They're (the Europeans) the chessboard, and they don't control the moves,'' observes Mr. Clark. ''So of course they're going to be more active.''
Though the Europeans may be more noticeable, especially in mass demonstrations, Clark says their movement could wind down faster than the US movement.
''Clearly, if the immediate threat (of cruise and Pershing II missiles) were removed from Europe, a great part of the energy and involvement would be taken away,'' he says.
The US, being the other superpower, cannot forget about Soviet arms buildup. So, Clark says, the peace movement will have a more long-term stimulus here.
The protests in the '60s have made the US a more savvy movement, says Mr. Lehman.''The people leading the US movement are veterans of Vietnam (protests). They're older, more dedicated to actual political change, more sophisticated.''
And the different ideological approaches have guided the way the groups have tried to reach their goals.
''Where the Europeans focus on geopolitical relationships,'' notes Pam Solo, national coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee, ''we focus on political personalities. The Europeans are constantly debating political ideas and demonstrating to voice them. We try to get the right people to run for the ' 84 elections.''