After a two-hour rally, about 15 protesters set up a camp at the armory, where they remained until Monday night.
Staged by members of the Delaware County Pledge of Resistance, the rally proceeded Saturday without incident, except for occasional remarks from passers-by apparently opposed to the rally and the horns of a caravan carrying a newly married couple.
"We are here because our government is waging war on the people of Central America, a war which has oppressed the people there and has killed over 100,000 of them," said Resistance member Myron Arnowitt, a student at Swarthmore College. "Today we are speaking out to say that the war must end and that our country should be working to bring peace with justice to Central America."
Arnowitt said that in early October, a unit of the state National Guard in Coraopolis would be sent to Howard Air Force Base at U.S. Southern Command in Panama. Arnowitt said that the unit of fighter pilots would fly missions throughout Central America.
"If the U.S. invades Nicaragua or introduces combat troops into El Salvador, the Pennsylvania National Guard would be on the front lines with them," he said.
Peggy Moore, a member of the St. Louis Pledge of Resistance, said that Saturday's protest was aimed more at U.S. government policy in Central America than at the National Guard.
"We need to go back to the policy makers and say we don't want our tax
dollars used this way," Moore said. "We will not be represented this way to other parts of the world. . . . Media is not going to be the same after this event. Eventually, we will end the war in Central America."
Media resident Lynn Oberfield said the rally was reminiscent of the Vietnam War protests of the late 1960s, "when people were trying to figure out what was a good way for the United States to behave."
Meanwhile, two onlookers, Joe Bachofer of West Chester and Greg Daley of Lansdowne, said that the protest did not change their support for U.S. military involvement in Central America.
"They have their opinion and we have ours," Bachofer said. "It's nice that everyone can express their opinion; in a communist country, you can't do this."
Bachofer, saying the Sandinista government presents a communist threat to the United States, said he supported U.S. aid to the contras.
"World peace is a wonderful idea, but in the meantime, you still have to protect yourself," he said.
Daley agreed, saying, "The Soviets aren't really concerned with human beings. They send in the arms and are basically providing for half the war and nobody really cares."
Resistance member Shirley Dodson of Media disagreed. She said the protesters were acting in the United States' best interest.
At the conclusion of the rally, Dodson said in a prepared statement that the camp represented the group's opposition to U.S. involvement in Central America and symbolized "the new human community of peace and justice which we hope to create."
"This is an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, and we realize that we are risking possible arrest," Dodson said. "We feel such a step is necessary now in order to obey the law of justice for all people. We must speak out as strongly as possible against the war because not doing so is the same as condoning it. . . . We will stay at this camp until we are convinced that our message that the U.S. must stop its aggressive war in Central America has been heard."
Capt. Brent Bankus, a spokesman for the National Guard, declined to comment on the protest, but said that the camp did not disrupt Guard activities.
Members of the camp left the armory Monday evening. Police made no arrests.