Article: United They Stand - Pasadena peace candidates link arms and reach hundreds protesting on the third anniversary of the war in Iraq

By Joe Piasecki 03/23/2006, Pasadena Weekly

Among the more than 250 anti-war activists who gathered in Pasadena Sunday were seven who came not only to speak out about peace, but to give locals a chance to vote for it as well.

Green Party candidates Bill PaparianPhilip Koebel and Ricardo Costa, along with Democrat Bob McCloskey, Peace and Freedom Party candidate Lynda Llamas, and Libertarians Jim Keller and Ted Brown are all running for local Congress or state Assembly seats on a peace platform.

In fact, the field of “alternative” candidates is so crowded that in June either Koebel or Costa will face elimination from the Assembly race, as Pasadena will host the first competitive Green Party Legislature Primary Election ballot in state history.

With so much competition, there’s surprisingly little infighting, as many of the candidates are helping each other campaign in order to increase visibility for the anti-war cause.

“The crisis we’re facing crosses party lines,” said Paparian, a Marine Corps veteran and former Pasadena mayor who is running for Congress. “This is a crisis that confronts us as Americans. It doesn’t make a difference what our affiliation is — we have to take a stand.”

In that spirit, Paparian’s wife Sona is heading up an effort to better connect her husband’s opposition, Monterey Park Democrat Bob McCloskey, to the Armenian-American community.

Why? McCloskey, 55, is first running against incumbent Pasadena Democrat Adam Schiff, who has expressed support for the war in Iraq.

“If we had a Bob McCloskey representing us, I wouldn’t be running,” said Paparian, 56, who also spoke Saturday at a larger anti-war march and rally in Hollywood along with “West Wing” actor Martin Sheen and “Crash” writer/director Paul Haggis.

Congressional candidate Jim Keller, who works at Caltech doing educational and public affairs efforts related to NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, welcomed the company.

“We can put up a unified front on the war,” said Keller, 33, who also seeks to check runaway government spending and correct civil liberties abuses.

“Anyone anywhere who is treated unfairly based on any attribute — that has to stop, or we’re not a fair and just society,” said Keller, who is openly gay and opposes gay marriage restrictions.

He and Ted Brown, who is running for David Dreier’s 26th Congressional District seat, campaigned together in Central Park before the march through Old Pasadena.

Lynda Llamas, who is running for Schiff’s seat, encouraged civil disobedience and was arrested by Los Angeles police Monday along with seven others while protesting outside Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s West Los Angeles office.

As is the case with Paparian, McCloskey and Keller, goodwill flourishes between affordable housing activist Koebel and unionized movie projectionist Costa, both of Pasadena.

“With peace, Philip and I are very close,” said Costa, 38, and actually excited he’s not the only Green in the race. “The majority of Californians want the troops out immediately. The nice thing about running for office is being able to make a lot of noise.”

“We’re basically saying that the war is a local, state and national issue,” said Koebel. “My main point is that the war is disguising theft from our local schools and [from] other local issues that I care about, especially affordable housing,” said Koebel, who ran for Congress in 2004.

Schools were also on the mind of Marcia Johnson of South Pasadena, who said while marching down Colorado Boulevard that some of the billions spent on the Iraq War should have gone to support public schools.

The target of the demonstration, however, was Parsons Corp., a Pasadena-based engineering firm that has won more than $2 billion in government contracts to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, which includes hospitals, prisons, military headquarters and its oil industry.

“I’m here to highlight the fact that companies like Parsons, in our communities, are benefiting from the destruction of communities in Iraq,” said Monrovia’s Monica Carrasco before the group arrived at Parsons’ Walnut Street headquarters.

There, 55-year-old Pasadenan Joe Hall carried a sign that read “Democracy is not giving Parsons $900 million to build prisons in Iraq,” and marchers chanted “Old Town, Baghdad, New Orleans… Stop the racist war machine.”

Said McCloskey, who played guitar and sang anti-war songs at the protest, “There may be some differences, but on the question of war and civil liberties, I think we’re all pretty united.”