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Protester Injured By Train Gets New Legs For Christmas

December 26, 1987

CONCORD, Calif. (AP) _ An antiwar demonstrator who was run over by a munitions train received a new pair of artificial legs during a Christmas Day celebration outside the naval weapons depot where his limbs were severed.

″Obviously, it’s a very symbolic spot, for this is where the military madness ran over all of us and I happened to lose my legs,″ said S. Brian Willson.

Under sunny but chilly skies, the 46-year-old Willson told fellow protesters that vigils and other demonstrations would continue at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, the scene of the incident, until the U.S. government stopped shipping arms to Central America.

Willson lost both legs below the knee Sept. 1 when a train slammed into him as he sat on railroad tracks leading out of the weapons station during a protest aimed at blocking the alleged shipments.

The Christmas celebration was the latest in a series of demonstrations held at the main gate of the facility since the incident. More than 100 people have been arrested, the most recent on Wednesday.

″This celebration talks to the fact of our dedication to peace,″ said Sydney Vilen of Nuremberg Actions, the group that sponsored the event and the Sept. 1 protest. ″We know this movement will take time to build, but this serves as a forum for people who feel helpless.″

About 80 other demonstrators, some of whom have been camping at the depot and sleeping on the tracks at night, cheered Willson, who walked up to them on his old pair of artificial legs with the help of two canes.

Willson, who wore a red St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap and jacket, praised his fellow demonstrators for ″saying no to the death trains.″

The new artificial legs for Willson were brought by ″Santa,″ played by Wavy Gravy, a well-known Bay Area hippie figure who works as a clown.

″Arms are for embracing, and legs are for running the human race,″ said Wavy Gravy, formerly known as Hugh Romney.

Willson tried on the new legs. Still using his canes, he stood and tried a few dance steps, to the delight of the crowd.

He explained later that new legs, which cost $5,000, were needed because of changes in the stumps of his legs in the months since the amputation. The fitting process in the custom-made legs took about a month, he said.

Willson said he was continuing his efforts to bring peace to Central America, including helping form similar protest groups across the country.

Opinions differ about who was to blame for the Sept. 1 incident. The district attorney declined to file criminal charges against the train crew members, saying there was no evidence they intentionally rammed Willson and blaming the accident on a series of misunderstandings.

However, Willson’s wife, Holley Rauen, has said that Nuremberg Actions informed the Navy of its protest plans a week ahead of time and again on the day of the demonstration.

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