On Saturday (October 14), Fleet Week was in full swing at San Diego Bay.
Crowds lined the waterfront from Tuna Harbor north along the Embarcadero to watch Navy and Coast Guard vessels and helicopters performing in and over the water. More waited in line to tour Broadway Pier, where sailors sporting sidearms and semiautomatic rifles guarded access to the amphibious transport ship USS Anchorage, troop transports, churro vendors, tanks, bubble tea stands, and pieces of heavy artillery on display.
Outside the pier entrance near the foot of Broadway, demonstrators with Veterans for Peace handed out flyers calling attention to the Golden Rule, a 34-foot sailboat serving as an unofficial entry in the ongoing parade of military might.
The boat, which was the flagship of a thwarted 1958 attempt to block nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands, is on its second tour of San Diego, having previously visited for a 2015 peace conference.
"Obviously you've got a certain demographic who's coming out for an event like this," admitted Sean, one of the veteran activists handing out flyers calling for goals such as a peace treaty with North Korea, a diversion of tax dollars from military spending to more local concerns like homeless veterans subjected to the ongoing hepatitis A epidemic, and a cessation of showy events like Fleet Week that the group says misleadingly attract youth to volunteer for service.
"Still, we're not being jerks and trying to force our message onto anyone," Sean continues. "I'd say the response has been a mix between interest and neutrality, nothing really negative."
Helen Jaccard is the Golden Rule’s project manager and was part of the two-boat demonstration on the bay Saturday.
"We're responding to the desensitization that's going on that makes it seem like war machines on our streets and in our waterways is just a normal thing," Jaccard said.
"The people that seem to be most receptive to our message are the servicemembers on shore mingling with the rest of the population. Veterans for Peace is military veterans interacting with active duty military, and they listen," she continued, adding that most of the feedback the group has received at a total of five Fleet Week celebrations (including past stops in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles) has been positive.
The Golden Rule will remain docked in San Diego throughout the winter, with various other outreach projects planned for the coming months.