Walkers Resume Trek, But Supply Woes Loom
BARSTOW, Calif. (AP) _ The remaining members of the faltering Great Peace March spent the night camped at a dirt bicycle race track and face an uncertain future without kitchens, showers, food or toilets, or trucks to haul them.
An estimated 500 marchers - half the original number - hiked 10 miles in a chilly downpour Sunday to their new campsite on the outskirts of this high desert town, 100 miles northeast of their March 1 starting point in Los Angeles.
The marchers, including actor Robert Blake, had been stuck at a remote desert camp outside Barstow for a week, bogged down first by logistical problems and then by the collapse of PRO-Peace, organizer of what was proposed as a cross-country trek to Washington, D.C.
PRO-Peace founder David Mixner announced Friday the group was folding because it failed to raise $100,000 needed to get the march 150 miles across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas, Nev.
Steve Perkins, former PRO-Peace march director, said the group planned to file bankruptcy papers today.
Marcher Richard Polese said the remaining members of the group had a ″gritty determination″ to continue their nine-month, 3,235-mile trek for nuclear disarmament and were getting offers of food and buses.
″It’s not ‘Do we go or don’t we go?‴ Polese said. ″It’s ’How do we go?‴
Blake said he hadn’t decided whether to stay with the group.
Tents and personal gear had been ferried from campsite to campsite in trucks leased by PRO-Peace. The marchers persuaded owners to let them use trucks carrying food, portable toilets and kitchens long enough to get them to Barstow.
But the trucks had to be returned today, said Perkins, who is on a board made up of marchers and former staff trying to start a new organization tentatively called The Great Peace March Inc. or The Great Peace March for Nuclear Disarmament Inc.
The marchers, who also have been plagued by demands for expensive insurance policies for campsites, spent the night on a privately operated dirt bicycle race track, said track director Linvy Franklin.
He said the track and others across the nation are covered by a $1 million blanket insurance policy from bicycle associations. The new march leaders were looking into the possibility of using other tracks along the route for campsites.
A group of Claremont churches delivered several hundred pounds of donated rice, beans and other staple food Saturday, said Feliz Manley of the Claremont United Church of Christ Congregational.
The churches also delivered about $2,800 in donations, said Gaynl Tortter of the Committee for the Great Peace March, a Claremont volunteer group.
″Everybody here was impressed with the courage of the folks and their decency and their commitment,″ he said of the marchers. ″They’re just real patriotic Americans who want to see peace.″
″My commitment goes all the way to Washington,″ said Dick King, a retired Coast Guard officer taking part in the march.
″I’ve made arrangements to sell my guitar and buy a backpack,″ Gary French, 19, of Cleveland, said as he folded his tent. ″I’m going to rely on churches if I have to to help along the way.″