September 12, 2002

Peace in Our Time? McKeown Hopes So

by Ari L. Noonan

Days later, one of the town's largest and most spirited peace advocates, Mayor Pro-Tem Kevin McKeown, still was raving over the success of last Saturday's Peace at the Beach rally/concert/demonstration, intended to be the first tribute in the country to Sept. 11.

With a hardly subtle band high-stepping down the Third Street Promenade in the middle of a busy shopping afternoon, gathering followers as it went, the volume of the budding rally rose in leaps.

At the Broadway intersection, the marchers met up with a crowd of protestors representing the Garment Workers Union, shouting against sweatshop labor. Unplanned, this was a philosophical matchup made in political heaven.

Mayor Pro-Tem McKeown dashed across the street, borrowed a bullhorn, and the two camps fell into symphonic step with the protest as if orchestrated. "No justice, no peace," they shouted back and forth across Broadway at each other.

Braced by signs, speechmaking and ever-present blood-stirring music, the couple hundred marchers made their way to Palisades Park and later to the Pier to make their exclamation-mark statements.

From the perspective of the enthused Mayor Pro-Tem, the late afternoon rally was "truly bi-partisan progressive peace-mongering," since it was jointly sponsored by the Westside Green Party, the national Green Party and the Santa Monica Democratic Club.

A looming figure who weighs his public language with the precision of a scientist, McKeown told the friendly crowd each person has to take responsibility for his or her own lifestyle, which flung open the door for an inspection of his political beliefs.

"Our oil-dependent automotive lifestyle exacerbates the problems in the Mideast, and actually leads to the possibility of greater terrorism," he said.

"Every time we take an action for mass transit, that's an action for peace. Every time we take an action for mindful urban planning that reduces the commute-and-pollute lifestyle, that is an action for peace.

"There are many things that we can do in Santa Monica," said McKeown, "that will increase the chances for world peace. They don't all have to do with protests."

McKeown said his unhappiness with Bush Administration policies in reaction to the attacks of Sept. 11 were not necessarily related to his attitude toward observing the first-year anniversary.

"The anniversary is about remembering the people who died and the horror of Sept. 11, recommitting ourselves to securing our community, making sure our people are safe," he said. "It is also about securing the planet, making sure the people of the world are safe.

"My reaction to the current administration is not one of anger. It's one of sadness, one of wishing that we would foIlow a wiser path. There is international justice, and that is what should have been pursued. The perpetrators could have been caught. The initial desire to resolve the situation has been used to create a new situation, which is the willingness to replace a regime in another country that has little, if anything, to do with the events of Sept. 11.

"Iraq may well present a danger," McKeown acknowledged. "But the larger question is, what is our role, separate from the world community? Why are we not working through the world community, through the United Nations? Why are we doing everything we can to keep the treaty for the International Criminal Court from being signed? Why are we not being leaders, instead of going off on our own and being cowboys?"

The Mayor Pro-Tem said he rejects "that unilateral arrogance. As for me, I want to work with the world community to seek peace for us all, benefits for us all."

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