It was a different kind of protest: Instead of waving banners and shouting, members of more than a dozen Utah groups scraped and sanded the outside of a vacant house Saturday to call attention to - and deplore - the connection between military spending and the lack of federal funding for low-income housing.
"We see it all as real connected," said Barbara Guy of Utah Peace Test, an organization that demonstrates at the Nevada Test Site. "The connection is that money spent on bombs is not money available for affordable housing."Similar "demonstrations" took place simultaneously across the country, organized by National Jobs with Peace as part of a "build homes, not bombs" campaign.
According to national statistics, federal funds for housing assistance were cut by 78 percent between 1980 and 1987. At the same time, military spending doubled. For the cost of one Harpoon Missile - $940,000 - Jobs with Peace said four new duplexes could be constructed, as well as complete renovation on 10 units of abandoned housing. And there'd be money left over to weatherize 22 homes, with $2,000 "mad money" remaining.
"The current way of thought is diseased, at best," Michael Ortega, Salt Lake Citizen's Congress, said. "You use a tank maybe one time. You use a bomb one time. But an adequate house that's safe, warm and appealing can go through the economy a number of times. We need to step back from the disease of military spending and focus on human service needs." Ortega said housing and human service cuts are "why we see such a neurotic situation of homelessness."
As part of the national protest, Jobs with Peace constructed a house at the Pentagon. Other state events included marches, protests, rallies, house buildings, car caravans, neighborhood cleanup, street theater presentations and legislative action.
Mary Hutchings, who is involved in several organizations, said, "We have seen landlord after landlord buy property and run it into the ground. They buy a house for nothing, put new glass in the front window and rent it out." She said people who rent that type of house would find it impossible to buy a home, and if they did they wouldn't be able to afford repairs.
The site of the protest, a battered vacant house on Genessee Street, should be completed in about six weeks, according to Mark Lundgren, Utah Housing Coalition. A tour of the house showed a need for complete renovation - cleaning, wiring, window replacement, reinsulation, carpeting and painting. The front porch will also have to be rebuilt, but Lundgren said that, thanks to volunteers from the Westside Youth Project who work on it during the week, it should be done on time.
Other groups involved in the protest Saturday included Agape Community of Salt Lake, Central America Solidarity Coalition, Crossroads Urban Center, Downwinders, Homeless Organization for People Everywhere, Interfaith Peacemaking Resource Center, KRCL 91 FM, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Sierra Club and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.