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[whitespace] Lorin Partridge
Photograph by Paul Myers

Rebel Without a Clue? Anti-protester Lorin Partridge says--right or wrong--war seems to be a necessary part of human existence.

The Anti-Guy

He's a fighter, not a lover. This Gen-X activist dons '70s style and says war is groovy.

By Vrinda Normand

ON A FRIDAY evening in June at the corner of Second and San Carlos streets, a small posse of anti-war protesters have gathered for their weekly peace vigil in front of the Federal Building. Aging Vietnam-era radicals, mostly in jeans and sweatshirts, chat among themselves quietly. The atmosphere is cordial, and they have set up a card table with water and cups.

At about 5pm, however, the mood changes as an intruder walks in. A tall 25-year-old man with a shaved head and a placard saunters over to the end of the picket line. Lorin Partridge doesn't say anything, but the peaceniks shift uncomfortably and exchange glances.

Partridge holds up a neon-colored sign that says, "War Is Groovy" and "Killing People Is No Big Deal." He stands at the end of the picket line, wearing a retro polyester shirt, bell-bottoms and policeman sunglasses for the "intimidation effect."

After a few minutes, a gray-haired woman with large wraparound black sunglasses strides over to him, thrusts her chin out and asks, "Why don't you go to war if you like it so much?"

A bit taken aback by the confrontation, Partridge falters and then retorts, "Actually, I thought the Gulf War would have been fun."

Another woman with bright pink lipstick and dyed-black hair jumps in and leans toward him. "You're a neo-Nazi, aren't you?" she prods.

He has a shaved head and partially concealed tattoos on his arms. Startled at the woman's accusation, he exclaims, "No! Why do you say that?"

"Do you think Hitler was groovy?" she pushes.

He laughs and says, "Whoa, for that we would have to define groovy. ... I actually think Mussolini was groovy."

Suddenly he calls out, "The war set is the jet set!"

The two women mimic him. "Oh, did you hear that? The war set is the jet set. Sure."

Partridge started his "anti-protest" in May, when he walked by the war on the terrorism protest one Friday evening and was overcome with emotion. He says he saw how "absurd" it was and "couldn't resist."

Partridge calls the protesters "TV babies" who are spoon-fed reactions and for whom war exists only conceptually. "These folks are not thinkers; they are only a crowd that operates with a unit mind," he says.

"They ignore the harsh realities of life. These rich people from Los Gatos come out here to put on a good-guy badge and talk about the injustices done to poor Afghani children, but they don't even care about the homeless people in their own neighborhood," he says.

His reasons for supporting war? "My point is, from the dawn of time every international argument has ended in physical violence. Aggression is a basic fact of life. We should embrace it. We should cuddle up to war."

Partridge has started coming out every Friday by himself and usually stands alone in his views at the picket line. However, he says there are "more groovy people every day" who support him. There was a group of girls that stood across the street a couple of weeks ago, cheering him on and yelling, "Go, fight, win!"

"It's hard to get people to be proactive," Partridge says. "But it's at the point now where the people who agree with me greatly outweigh the other side."

Honk for Something

Despite the rage and rhetoric in much of post-Sept. 11 America, the protest against the war on terrorism is a weekly event in downtown San Jose. About 15 people, most over 50 years old, stand calmly holding up signs that say: "Killing Innocent People Is the Problem Not the Solution," "My Government Is a Greater Threat to Me Than bin Laden," "Wake Up America" and, finally, "Honk for Peace."

The last sign produces the main source of action for the group, as passing drivers respond in support with horns and catcalls. Some of the most faithful honkers are UPS trucks, light rail trains and VTA buses. Every honk results in a chorus of whistles, hoots and exclamations from the protesters, who hold their signs up higher with each token of encouragement.

A brown van stops on the other side of the street, and an elderly woman hobbles out. A younger man runs to her assistance and helps her across the street. Her unsteady hands grab a picket sign that says, "I Love My Country but Fear My Government" as she takes her place at the line.

She is one of the founders of the protest, which has been happening every Friday evening since November. Her name is Gertrude Welch.

"Those of us who have a little more courage need to be out here," she says.

Her friend, Elizabeth Zimmerman of Santa Clara, adds, "I come here to say I have the right to express my opinion."

Charlotte Casey, a San Jose resident who has been actively protesting since March, adds, "We've become a community out here."

To the right of this interaction, fellow protesters Phil Pflager and his wife, Anne, residents of Cupertino, say Lorin's presence is ironic, but "hey, it's everybody's sidewalk."

"I figure he's trying to get a rise out of us to see if we really are pacifists," Anne says.

Just a Nice Man

Lucia Salomone, the woman who thought Partridge was a neo-Nazi, now says he is just a "nice man." "It's a democratic government. He is free to express whatever he feels, even though we might think he's wrong," she explains.

"But killing is not groovy," she states, raising her eyebrows. "I think he's on a psychological trip."

The first woman to approach Partridge, Natasha Wist, is still drilling him. "Being here makes you kind of special doesn't it? Doesn't it make you feel like a hero?" she inquires.

"Maybe," he responds, shrugging his shoulders, "I don't know. I don't think I'm a hero." He laughs and says there is one woman who thinks he is Satan.

Partridge says this is the first time the protesters have done anything more than give him odd looks, and he is surprised that they are asking him about Hitler and the Nazis. "That stuff is so outdated; fascism is a thing of the past," he says.

A stout man, who has been listening for a few minutes, snaps, "I disagree! Fascism is going on with the United States right now." His name is Sistilio Testa. Fascism, he says, is imposing your will on someone else. Then he spews, "Don't tell me that fascism is OK!"

"What!" Partridge exclaims. "I didn't say it was OK!"

Testa is now pointedly shaking his finger. "Would you please take that sign and shove it in the garbage! You are standing for what the U.S. government is. Throw that shit down!" he yells.

Partridge responds, "All governments are about violence and killing. We're just really good at it."

Partridge says he happens to actually believe war is groovy, but he especially likes to upset people with his revolutionary ideas. Before this protest, Partridge visited a group of hard-core Christians who were condemning the "sinners" downtown. He started handing out pamphlets that said, "Christ is for sissies."

Off to the side, protester Wist confides her opinion of Partridge. "He's probably a little schizophrenic," she says matter-of-factly. "I am a psychologist, as you probably guessed when I engaged him in conversation."

"He's a very bright kid; he just wants to be an individual," she continues. "I don't think he has a clue as to what he's holding up, though."


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From the July 18-24, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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