By Will Norton-Mosher

A group of 15 people climbed the county courthouse steps on Feb. 16 and tried to enter the office of Representative Sam Farr (D-Santa Cruz) in an attempt to convince the congressman to vote against the annual Department of Defense budget.

Protest organizer Steven Argue feels as though he has been misrepresented by Rep. Farr.

“Santa Cruz is an anti-war town, and we expect and demand better,” Argue said. “What he has voted for is bloated and gave huge amounts [of money] to Iraq.”

Argue stood at the top of a row of steps in front of the County building before a motley group of older protestors and high school students, as well as a group of counter-protestors.

“We’re part of a growing movement that demands that people like Sam Farr put their money where their mouth is,” he said.

Argue’s plan was to occupy Farr’s office.

However, Farr was in Washington D.C. as Congress was in session.

Inside the building, District Director Alec Arago met the protestors and facilitated a discussion of the group’s complaints over a plate of cookies.

Arago affirmed that Farr voted against every emergency supplemental war bill the president has created and was also one of only 12 people from the House of Representatives that voted against the authorization of force in Iraq in 2002. He also pointed out that Farr submitted a bill to Congress that called for the withdrawal of all armed forces that were deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But the protestors contended that many of the bills Farr voted for had funded military action in Iraq as well as other countries.

“We don’t think that the Democratic Party has led in any way in opposing this war, the vast majority of people voted for this war,” Argue said. “Sam Farr has not, but we’re not going to let him off the hook.”

Others inside the conference room voiced general disapproval of the Bush administration, and lack of housing for the homeless.

But Arago said the protestors were uninformed.

“The argument that [the protestors] are trying to make is that the money that’s spent on Department of Defense operations will spill over into supporting operations in Iraq, and that the existence of the military allows the Iraq war to continue,” Arago said. “Therefore Sam should never vote for a defense appropriations bill.”

He explained that the annual Department of Defense appropriations bill paid not only for the war, but the wages of soldiers, health care for military personnel, diesel fuel, and that the cash went to maintain army bases on U.S. soil. He said that the choice to vote for the Department of Defense funding was a carefully weighed decision.

Not everyone at the protest agreed that Farr was the problem in Congress. Some of the counter-protesters believed in similar causes, but think that Farr is doing a better job fighting against the war than other lawmakers.

One of the counter-protesters, Annie Kelley, a member of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, said that Argue had said the same things at a city council meeting before.

“I was sorry to hear him ragging on Sam Farr for what he has not done with no appreciation or acknowledgement for what Sam Farr has done over the years,” Kelley said.

“I encouraged them to take some of that passion that they feel against the war and to use it to encourage and push other congressmen and women and both of our state senators to take a stronger stance themselves,” Kelley continued.

The group plans on meeting at the same time on the county building’s steps again March 16.