Ex-Navy officer arrested at march
By ANDREW McKEEVER Herald Staff | October 01,2005
SHAFTSBURY — Getting arrested at the entrance to the White House hasn't been one ex-Navy captain's only 15 minutes of fame.
Andrew Schoerke, 72, a retired U.S. Navy officer, was arrested in March 2003 during a demonstration on Main Street in Bennington as the war was just starting. He followed that up with another citation for demonstrating without a permit Sept. 26 in front of the White House during a massive antiwar demonstration, he said.
What made it a little different this time was being taken into custody next to Cindy Sheehan, the California activist and mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who has become a lightning rod for feelings pro and con about the worth of the sacrifice, he said.
"She was trying to get a meeting with President Bush and was denied admission," he said. "She was denied admission and refused to leave, so the rest of us – about 400 – refused to leave also."
Sheehan gained national attention in August when she tried to get a meeting with President Bush while he was on vacation at his Texas ranch, seeking an explanation of why her son was killed in Iraq a year ago.
The meeting never occurred, and Sheehan and her supporters followed the president back to Washington, culminating in the demonstration last Monday, which involved more than 300,000 demonstrators, Schoerke said.
He paid a $75 fine, was fingerprinted, had a mug shot taken and was held in handcuffs for about 8 hours at the National Park Service Police facility in Anacostia, Md. But it was just another means of trying to raise awareness among the general population, he said.
"The American public is totally oblivious and apathetic about what is going on," he said.
It's an unusual retirement for the former captain who spent 23 years in the U.S. Navy.
He began feeling the tug of doing something to spread the message of peace in 1983, during the early years of President Ronald Reagan's military build-up.
The policy on when to launch nuclear weapons was shifting to a lower level. Instead of positioning a nuclear response as retaliation, the new threshold would allow a local commander to launch nuclear weapons based on the lower standard of a warning, Schoerke said.
"I knew from my experience the Navy is subject to Murphy's Law, and it was only blind, dumb luck we didn't get into a nuclear exchange over Cuba in 1962," he said.
The dilemma facing advocates of withdrawal from Iraq is how to oppose a war they perceive as a mistake while supporting the troops assigned to do the fighting. But the two goals are not incompatible, he said.
"For some of us the best way to support the troops is to bring them home," he said. "The cost of this war is appalling."