Penalties

On Feb. 2, I was among 31 people who stood trial for participating in an unauthorized demonstration protesting our government's policy in El Salavador, where the U.S. spends $1.5 million per day to support a government where civilians are detained without charges and where order is maintained through torture and death squads.

Yes, we participated in nonviolent civil resistance. The penalty was a choice of a $50 fine or doing 25 hours of community service--a just sentence.

However, it was sobering to witness an earlier trial in that same courtroom, in which a man and three companions had illegally discharged firearms in a national forest. They had "heard a rustling in the bushes," and fearing it "might be a mountain lion or a wolf," they fired indiscriminately into the bushes. The fine was $25.

I believe the discrepancy in penalties is significant. Concerned persons committing nonviolent civil resistance to try to change their government's immoral policy in El Salvador are given a meaningful sentence, while a trigger-happy gun-enthusiast receives a slap on the wrist.

JEAN KOCH

Los Angeles

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