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Duane Bean's Life of Crime

In the past four years he's been busted about 20 times in five different states. It's his way of making the world a better place.

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It's like Christmas in July. Well, August anyway; a half dozen people, mostly in their 30s, are gathered about a large dining table. They joke as they pass around Scotch tape and wrapping paper. There is an air of celebration, almost giddiness.

"Would you put your finger right here while I tie this?" one of the women asks a tall bearded man with close-cropped hair. Duane Bean obliges. A short bearded man comes into the dining room, and his eyes light up when he sees Bean. The two embrace. The short man asks playfully, "What's going on here? What's all the fuss and hurry?"

Bean bursts into a laugh: "As if you didn't know!" He turns to another man: "You might want to slap labels on those with my name and inmate number--04973-045." Bean knows the number by heart. He's been a federal prisoner before, and when he surrenders to the authorities this afternoon he'll begin using that number again.

In the meantime, Bean's friends here at Synapses, Inc., are packing up boxes of books and supplies they'll mail him once they know his whereabouts. He's been working at Synapses, an interfaith peace-action network in Pilsen, since he got out of the pen in November 1989; he rents a room in the house across the street.

Duane Bean is an ex-con, but he's no thug--wouldn't harm a fly. He's a voracious reader and he prays, hard, when he has to make a decision. In fact, he was a lay Catholic minister at the University of Illinois at Chicago a few years back. Words like "the joint" and "the hole" sound ludicrous coming from the same person who mentions in passing ancient Native American philosophies and the writings of Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi. This gentle soul usually prefers a love story before he turns off his bedside lamp at night. Soon, though, he won't even be able to turn off his own lamp. It'll be lights out at ten.

Duane Bean is extremely intelligent; a word that almost all his friends and associates use when describing him is "brilliant." He attended private schools and has a master's degree in political science; he was the president of his fraternity in college.

Bean hasn't always been a pacifist. He worked for Ronald Reagan's first successful presidential campaign; and he had a promising career developing at a big-time ad agency. But he has also been busted nearly 20 times in five states.

So what's this guy's problem? Why doesn't he get himself a good job and make the most of his talents? These are reasonable questions to ask such a man. But when a man has friends like Gandhi and King, he feels he has a reasonable answer. "Sometimes," Bean says, scratching his beard thoughtfully, "through suffering we can become more loving."

This loving man, this peaceful man, engages in nonviolent resistance to U.S. government policies--a fight that under extreme circumstances could cost him his life. One thinks, for instance, of a kindred spirit named Brian Willson who, while battling the same forces Bean does, got his legs severed and his brain nearly knocked out of his skull when he was run over by a train outside a California naval weapons station.

Duane Bean, who began the last decade as the quintessential 80s man, enters the new one like a throwback to the 60s. People like Bean don't get big headlines anymore, but there are at least several Chicagoans currently imprisoned for disarmament actions and thousands of people around the country have been arrested during dramatic actions demonstrating their opposition to nuclear arms and U.S. military policies. At any given moment, some two dozen people are doing time for nonviolent protests.

"When I first learned my country was killing innocent poor people in Central America, I felt personally responsible," he says. "After I heard about Pledge of Resistance [a nationwide group opposed to U.S. intervention in Central America] I said civil disobedience is the only sensible response. The first time I got busted was at a sit-in in front of the federal building four years ago. I was terrified. I sat down with a 68-year-old-woman who'd been busted a lot of times. She said 'Relax, you'll be OK.'"

After that December 1986 arrest, Bean was hooked. In April 1987 he and 667 other people were arrested for blockading the entrance to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia (he got off on a technicality during a bench trial). In May that year, Bean stood in the middle of State Street on a sunny afternoon, blocking the Armed Forces Day parade. He and several others were knocked to the ground and arrested within seconds. Eventually the charges were dropped.

That July Bean visited Nicaragua for two weeks. There he met a woman named Esperanza Perez. He sat in on a meeting of her support group at her house. "No windows, one bare bulb, a dirt floor," he remembers. "All the women had lost sons to the contras. We're sitting there talking and she points to the picture of her son on the wall. The kid would have been my age had he not been killed. With tears in her eyes she said 'Why is your country killing our sons? What have we done to make you hate us?'"

When Bean returned to Chicago, he was consumed with passion. "The question was what am I going to do now? Write a letter to my congressman? Stand in front of the federal building with a sign? The evil that had been done to her cut me so deeply that it changed my life," he says. "I could no longer be the classic liberal and say 'I'm really concerned about it but I won't take a personal risk.'"

In August 1987 Bean and some 20 others climbed the fence at an Army reserve training base in Arlington Heights. When those resisters were brought to court they got a lucky break; a jury would hear their case. Most nonviolent resisters prefer a jury trial to a bench trial. They can play to a jury, which, according to Bean, is more likely to sympathize than a judge. On the stand a resister can bring up the Nuremberg defenses and say that he refuses to be a "good German" in the face of interventionism, the nuclear-arms buildup, ecological destruction, and a hundred other interrelated big-government/big-business sins. This time, the jury was sympathetic. Despite Judge John Madden's strict orders to disregard the defenses raised by the defendants, the jury returned 22 not-guilty verdicts after three and a half hours of deliberation. "That was one of the greatest moments of my life," Bean says. "We all wept when the verdict was read. It was truly a miracle of justice. None of us thought the conservative, white, middle-class jurors would have the guts to ignore the judge and the prosecutor. After hearing our pleas, I think they decided that the government had just gone too far and they weren't going to play their part by convicting us."

That fall Duane brought his civil disobedience to the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was a grad student and teaching assistant. In September he staged a one-man, eight-day hunger strike on the university grounds. "Even my closest friends told me a hunger strike in the first week of classes was a crazy idea," he says. "There would be no support, no interest. But after my visit with those Nicaraguans who were getting clobbered by the contras, I knew I had to stop my life completely. I had to scream in the loudest possible voice 'Stop the killing!'" The campus police demanded a $50 fee to protect him at night, and when he refused to pay he was arrested for trespassing. In November he was arrested for disrupting a CIA recruiting exhibit by holding up a less-than-complimentary banner. The two cases were scheduled to be tried together. The CIA case was dropped on the day of the trial, but he was convicted of trespassing (a Cook County circuit court judge later reversed his decision and acquitted him). "Up to that time, I'd never spent more than a night in jail," Bean says. But he didn't expect his luck to hold out. "I said, 'I know if I keep doing this, sooner or later I'm going to go to prison.'"

Around Christmas in 1987, Bean and 11 others gathered, in defiance of a court order, in Water Tower Place to sing carols with new antiwar lyrics. They were arrested for disorderly conduct and trespassing. Three days later, they notified Water Tower Place management that they were planning to return to sing their carols once again. Management quickly obtained a second order. Bean and the others showed up several days later anyway. Seven of them were arrested for violating the injunction. Bean was sentenced to 60 days' supervision. Water Tower management, though, filed suit to have the carolers found in contempt of court. That case now is pending before the Illinois Supreme Court.

There were other brushes with the law in 1987--"sit-in-type arrests at the federal building," Bean admits--but he can't remember exactly how many. He does recall being convicted on one such charge and fined $25. But "I've never paid any fines as a matter of principle," he says.

In early August 1988, Bean was one of 22 people arrested for blocking the entrance to Williams International, a defense contractor near Detroit. He was convicted and given a 30-day suspended sentence.

Later that month Bean went all the way. He sold his possessions, quit his campus jobs, and gave up his apartment.

There are some 150 nuclear-tipped missiles buried in silos throughout the state of Missouri. They are unprepossessing sites, each maybe 20 yards in diameter and surrounded by chain-link fencing topped with barbed wire. Four electronic eyes keep a silent, ceaseless vigil over each site. Modest signs warn against trespassing on U.S. government property. Travelers can pass within a quarter mile of some of these buried missiles and not even know it.

One August day in 1988 a Godzilla dummy was found by guards inside a silo site not far from Kansas City. The monster carried this written message to the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "You may wonder why I have chosen to visit your missile compound instead of spending my vacation time terrorizing the Japanese Islands. As you know, I would be lying dormant underneath the Pacific Ocean were it not for your A-bomb and H-bomb testing. As is characteristic of your species, you have shown an amazing lack of respect for the planet you live on . . . And they call me a monster!"

The message continued: "And so, I have come to warn you that if you do not stop setting up these missiles that your mad scientists are creating, I will be forced to take dramatic measures . . ."

The dramatic measures Godzilla had in mind were called the Missouri Peace Planting '88. One hundred fifty resisters from around the midwest joined forces to occupy the silo sites. This is how the "Nuclear Resister," a weekly newsletter, described the group's actions: "Early on the morning of August 15, 14 people entered ten Minuteman nuclear missile silo sites in western Missouri. After cutting through locks and scaling fences, some of the activists sat silently and prayed. Some planted trees, and others left crosses bearing the names of Central Americans who have died in regional conflicts. All the participants left personal artifacts at the sites, including World War II medals, family photographs, and children's poetry." The smiling protesters posed for photographs as if they were vacationers.

At one silo, Bean and Franciscan priest Jerry Zawada calmly cut a lock on the gate, entered, then locked the gate behind them with Kryptonite bicycle locks. "We had a lot of work to do and we didn't want to be disturbed by the Air Force," Bean says. They pasted family snapshots to the 120-ton concrete cap covering the missile and poured their own blood over it. Then they sat down and quietly celebrated Catholic mass.

Armed Air Force guards arrived quickly, frisked the occupiers, then arrested them. The 14 were given "ban and bar" letters--warning letters, really--and released.

Bean and five others returned to a silo the next day to hold a prayer vigil. The six were arrested and again issued ban-and-bar letters. The third day, nine people, including Bean, entered yet another silo site. That brought a third series of warning letters.

Some of the protesters, who remained a legal distance from the silos during the vigils, suspected the Air Force would soon grow weary of the game. A local attorney warned them they might be indicted for conspiracy. They wanted out. The core group of resisters, including Bean, renamed the action the Silo Seeding Project '88 and held a press conference on the steps of the federal courthouse in Kansas City. Nine people burned their ban-and-bar letters and pledged to continue their occupations.

Four days later, three people, including Jerry Zawada and a grandmother from Villa Park, entered a silo site and celebrated mass. They were arrested. This time the local U.S. attorney charged the three with trespassing and destruction of government property. That evening, Bean and Chicagoan Kathy Kelly, an organizer for Central American solidarity groups, entered a silo site, hung banners, tied ribbons over the silo doors, and spread seeds. Both were arrested, but they weren't charged because no federal judge could be found at that time of night.

Four days later, Bean, Kelly, and two others occupied another silo. Again the four were arrested. Bean says he and Kelly were held for 30 days in the Cass County Detention Center, until they agreed to sign pledges that they would not enter a missile site again. They were charged with destruction of government property and trespassing. Their trials were set for October.

Just before the trial was to begin, the U.S. attorney dropped the charges of destruction of government property, which effectively deprived Bean and the others of a jury trial and therefore a public forum for their protest (under federal law, a jury trial is mandated for any charge calling for more than six months in prison). "This demonstrates the government's refusal to put nuclear weapons on trial," Bean was quoted as saying in the Chicago Flame, a UIC newspaper. Bean, Kelly, and another supporter held a ten-day public fast to draw attention to their plight.

The trial was perfunctory. After deliberating 15 minutes, chief federal magistrate Calvin Hamilton found Bean and Kelly guilty of five counts each of trespassing. Both received the maximum sentence of 30 months in jail and $25,000 in fines. Because some of the terms would run concurrently, each would serve only a year. On December 12, 1988--Bean chose the day because it's Our Lady of Guadalupe day--Bean showed up in Judge Hamilton's courtroom, laid a rose on his desk, and surrendered.

Bean wrote of his prison experiences in an occasional newsletter he mailed out from whatever facility he was in at the time. "Shortly after my last letter was written back in January," he wrote in the issue dated May 12, 1989, "I was transported via the U.S. Marshalls Service's airlift from the St. Claire County Jail (Osceola, MO) to the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) at El Reno, OK. That was a real exodus experience because the night before my unannounced transfer, another inmate threatened to 'bust open' my head because he mistakenly believed I had written a 'cop-out' to the jail administrator to request that the TV be turned off after the 10:00 p.m. 'lock-down.' When the night guard came around and turned off the TV, the threats began. It was the first time I really feared for my safety. I dreaded the arrival of morning when the electronic cell doors would click open and expose me to this incensed bully. Miraculously, at 4:00 a.m., the guard awakened me and told me to pack for the airlift. It was the first and last time I would be happy to be in the custody of the U.S. Marshalls Service. Moses at the parting of the Red Sea could not have been more elated.

"The airlift is an ongoing horror story that must be experienced to be believed. During the entire period of our transport, which may last 12 hours or more, our legs are shackled and our hands are handcuffed to our waists. Besides the obvious discomfort, you can imagine the difficulty of a simple task like going to the bathroom under such conditions. The U.S. Marshalls are among the nastiest and most brutal people I have encountered in the entire criminal justice system. One example from my imprisoned campanero, Jerry Zawada, will illustrate my point. Jerry writes that during his airlift, "one guy who had been given laxatives the day before shit in his pants and it ran down his ankles. He was forced to stay on the plane all day (handcuffed and shackled, without a change of clothes).' Similar atrocities are routinely inflicted on menstruating women."

Later Bean writes of his first stretch at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the Loop, where he was transferred during that year: "Several of the floors are open dorms; these places are real jungles. Psychological, not physical, violence is the real enemy. In the dorm units, we are deprived of private space, fresh air and quiet. The result is an almost unbearable tension, a palpable pressure that is always pushing you down and threatening to destabilize your sanity. Until two weeks ago, such was my life on the 23rd floor. During my first two months there, I was constantly filled with a barely controllable, violent rage. Though deeply committed to nonviolence, I walked around waiting for someone to say the wrong word so I could blow off a little steam through verbal or physical aggression. The only way I can describe the sensation is to imagine yourself wearing headphones blaring heavy metal music while you are submerged deep under water. Eventually the noise will become a dull roar (probably as a result of hearing loss). While submerged, you are forced to breathe through a narrow straw that sucks in air contaminated with rush hour auto exhaust. As long as you remain calm, you can breathe. But the moment you panic, you begin to suffocate. In such an environment of suspicion, fear and tension, a simple cross word or accidental bump between normally peaceful people can set off an explosion of uncontrollable rage. Sadly, since we can't kick back at the institution oppressing us, we kick each other."

After his release from prison last November, Bean spent a month in a Catholic mission in Mexico. When he returned to Chicago, he hooked up with Kathy Kelly and the two of them began giving seminars in nonviolent resistance at local high schools and colleges. He also found a place to live and work with Synapses.

The prison experience didn't seem to have knocked any respect for the law into Bean's head. It was less than three months before he returned to his life of crime. In January of this year Bean and two others were arrested for crossing a police line while attempting to deliver letters of protest to Senators Paul Simon and Alan Dixon in their federal building offices. Those charges were soon dropped. In March Bean and five others conducted a pray-in at the Salvadoran consulate, on North Michigan Avenue. They were released without charge. In early May, Bean and 44 Christian peace activists crossed the entrance boundary of McConnell Air Force Base near Wichita, Kansas, to demonstrate against military spending. Bean and four other repeat offenders were singled out for prosecution. He pleaded guilty to trespassing and was sentenced to 30 days in federal prison. He chose to surrender on August 6--Hiroshima Day.

Not even the most imaginative fiction writer could have conjured the path taken by Duane Bean. His life as a self-sacrificing peace activist is the result of a conversion that at first glance seems as sudden as the one Saul experienced upon being knocked from his horse. But it was actually years in the making. As a college student this pacifist was a jingoistic ideologue; later, of course, he worked for Ronald Reagan. Of his transformation Bean says, "It was a question of destiny."

"During my early and middle childhood, I was raised in a home that was something less than tranquil," he wrote in a brutally frank (unpublished) autobiography. His parents split when he was nine or ten years old. He recalls a long and bitter custody fight, which resulted in the termination of his father's visitation rights. "I did not see my father for almost ten years," he wrote.

Now he says, "Some painful things that happened in my life have allowed me to identify on a very deep level with other people who are suffering."

His mother remarried and Bean took the name of his stepfather, Moore. (Bean reassumed his original name when he reconciled with his natural father some years later.) The Moore home was more placid and productive than the Bean home. Duane went to a Jesuit high school in Cincinnati. There he wrote poetry and got involved with the theater crowd. He was also, however, something of an outsider. The jocks called him "faggot." "I . . . learned what it means to be persecuted because one is perceived as 'different,'" he wrote. "In an all male high school pervaded with homophobia, any trace of feminine characteristics is quickly and brutally suppressed. This suffering however, taught me to be strong in my convictions."

Two weeks before graduation Bean organized a student protest. An authoritarian teacher had been fired; Bean thought the termination unfair, a violation of the man's due process. Questions of fairness and constitutionality aside, the school administration took offense at Bean's action. He was suspended and his graduation was in jeopardy. He eventually ended his protest and was allowed to graduate.

The young activist moved on to Evanston and Northwestern University. There, he wrote in his autobiography, "I was plagued by a gnawing sense of inner emptiness which I tried to fill with alcohol and drugs." He remembers walking down the middle of the el tracks near Noyes Street one night hoping the next train would run him down. "I said to myself, 'This is crazy.'" Bean turned back before he got too far.

Constant partying didn't hinder his success in the classroom, nor did it prevent him from becoming the president of his fraternity. His position of leadership there thrust him into the public eye for the first time, when the Iranians seized the American hostages in 1979. Bean responded by leading his fraternity brothers in a rally that culminated in the burning of an effigy of the Ayatollah Khomeini. He remembers thinking at the time "This'll be a good opportunity for us to get our names in the paper."

The results went far beyond even some punk fraternity kid's expectations. The next day, the rally made the front page of the Daily Northwestern. The next week, the Daily Herald ran a profile of Bean, calling him "a symbol of that new post-Vietnam, post-Watergate conservatism." Pioneer Press's Evanston edition ran a full page of photos of the rally and, in its accompanying story, quoted Bean as saying "The cost of freedom is not free." He had led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the paper reported. (What it didn't report was that he forgot the words halfway through.) He was called in to debate Iranian students on "Straight Talk," a public affairs program on WFYR FM. In the Sun-Times feature writer Paul Galloway wrote a mawkish paean to Bean, describing him as an admirable example of the new breed of campus activists whose "rallying cry is 'God bless America.'"

All of this was the result of what Bean describes as essentially a schoolboy lark. "The next day [after the rally], WBBM TV called me up and said 'We think this is really great. We're interested in local student response to the hostage crisis. What else is going on?' There wasn't a damned thing planned but--and I don't know what occurred to me to this day--I said 'I'm glad you called, we've got a big organizing meeting tonight, you'd better cover it.'

"I kind of panicked and called 30 of my buddies together and we formed this group called 'Students for the Reestablishment of American Pride' with the goal of staging an 'I Love America' rally," he remembers.

Combining his organizational skill with sheer brashness, Bean pulled the meeting off. He even invited presidential candidates to attend. None came, but in doing so Bean had made some connections--he got to know the schedulers for the various candidates. After graduation Bean went back to working the phones. "I was getting out of college and I wanted some kind of glamorous job," he says. "The idea of working on a presidential campaign fascinated me so I called around."

One of the fellows he tried to put the touch on was Ronald Reagan's chief advance man. "I must have called him 50 times," Bean says. "Finally he said 'If I give you a job, will you get off my back?'"

Bean began making trips around the country as an advance man for Reagan. "I staged political theater events that make the nightly news," he says. "I did everything from making sure the press luggage got picked up to making sure there were pretty girls behind Reagan."

Even though most friends and colleagues now characterize that as Bean's "Republican period," Bean says he was "depoliticized. I didn't have a political thought in my head. It was the game. It was all just very exciting."

After Reagan won the election, Bean expected to be invited to take a job in Washington. To his surprise, no offer came. He was a frustrated man in the fall of 1980. "You come off the adrenaline of a campaign and you don't want to just flip hamburgers at McDonald's, for God's sake!"

Bean eventually hooked up with a Reagan supporter he'd met during the campaign who owned a small ad agency in Milwaukee. He worked there writing copy and designing ad campaigns, then at another small "sweatshop" agency in Milwaukee. Finally, in 1982, Bean got a break.

He landed a job at the Chicago ad firm of Bozell & Jacobs. There, he worked on local marketing for a chain of muffler repair shops. Like many another "suit" working the fast track, Bean felt some dissatisfaction. "I hated the fact that I was working 60-plus hours a week for two lousy weeks of vacation a year," he says. "But all I wanted to do was survive in this job and move up the corporate ladder. Somewhere along the line something broke, because I'd started to ask myself 'At the end of my life, what do I want to say I'd accomplished?' The idea of saying I'd sold so many units of mufflers or bought so many national network television spots just seemed like utter and complete bullshit!

"I felt utterly dehumanized by the whole business experience. It seemed hard, brutal. I'd get up in the morning and growl at myself in the mirror trying to put on my game face. At night, I'd have three or four scotches just to calm down enough to sleep. I said, 'I've got to get out of here. I don't know what I want to do but I cannot continue to live like this.' It had become a prison and I had to make a break."

A trip Bean had made just before starting at Bozell had undermined his corporate mind-set even further. "I took a one-week wilderness solo. I put a pack on my back, went down to the Smoky Mountains and hung out by myself. I was struck by the fact that the places I love, the mountains, were being destroyed, the wilderness was being destroyed by pollution," he says.

The one-time "depoliticized" frat brother and adman began to make some mental connections. He figured that the brutality of the corporate jungle and insensitivity toward the environment emanated from the same troubling mentality in the American culture. After he quit his job and enlisted in the National Guard, he tied in another disturbing facet--militarism.

Bean decided to go back to school. He joined the Illinois National Guard so he could take advantage of its scholarship program. All he had to do was give the Guard one weekend a month and two weeks a year for six years and they'd pay for graduate school.

After basic training, he took a succession of jobs waiting tables. In one, at the Metropolitan Club in Sears Tower, he met a woman named Kathleen Hannon. Less than six months later they were married.

During basic training, Bean assuaged his newborn conscience by asking to be trained as a medic. "At least I'll be healing and not killing people," he remembers thinking. He was surprised to discover that even medics must be trained in killing methods.

"I wasn't prepared for the heavy-duty psychological brainwashing that occurred in basic training, nor how much I would buy into it," he says. "I was really serious about being what they called a 'strack' soldier--Mr. GI Joe--and doing it as superbly as I possibly could.

"Even when I'd come back on weekends to play soldier, I'd get hooked up with a rifle company that was really gung ho. So I got really gung ho. It was scary. To have played at killing people is terrifying to me now. I look back at that Duane and say 'What was going on?' It was a total lack of awareness, a sleepwalk."

During those weekend sessions, Bean learned about a primal urge young men have to band together and fight, an urge that he later concluded might lead to the U.S. mixing it up in Central America or the Middle East. "There's power in death and killing," he says. "When you are a young man growing up in a society where virility is defined by machoness, where strength is defined by the power to destroy, when you put an M-16 into that young man's hand, it is an incredible feeling of power, almost a kind of sexual potency. You feel absolutely fearless because you have this weapon that can spit out a 30-round clip in a couple of seconds. When you're with a bunch of guys who also have that power, it's like a wolf pack. There's a sense of being invincible and a lust to try and test that power and strength."

In 1986, when Bean was no longer able to rationalize the violence, he chucked the Guard commitment. He was having personal problems, he told his commanders, he couldn't save his troubled marriage and play soldier at the same time. In truth Bean wanted to get out because he was disgusted with the military. The failing marriage was only an excuse.

Once out of the Guard, Bean's conversion became complete. "He was changing when I met him. He was no longer a Republican," Bean's former wife Hannon says. Then, after enrolling at UIC, Bean made no more compromises. He worked as a teaching assistant to former alderman Dick Simpson, then and now associate professor of political science. According to Hannon, "Simpson made a very strong impression on Duane Bean."

"He was looking for something different but when he first came here, he didn't know what that something was," Simpson says.

It was Simpson who introduced Bean to the teachings of Gandhi and King. Bean watched the documentary King: From Montgomery to Memphis again and again, tears flooding his eyes each time. Then a thought occurred to him: "Why am I teaching this stuff if I'm not going to be doing it myself? That's the kind of person I want to be: a man who stands for justice, not the chairman of the board!"

Simpson suggested Bean work with the homeless, and he began volunteering at the Wellington Avenue Church shelter in New Town. "Being a privileged white person, I'd never had any contact with the homeless," Bean says. "When I started hearing their stories my heart just broke."

"It was an obvious connection," he says."I saw all this lawlessness. I saw the method used to oppose this kind of evil. Why not put it together in my own life?"

Duane Bean embarked on a career as a resister.

"Oh, my God!" That was the response of Marc Ganis, Bean's old frat brother and cofounder of Students for the Reestablishment of American Pride, when he learned that Bean was now a peace activist who'd served time in prison. "He was always gung ho," Ganis said when he regained his composure. Ganis runs Sportscorp Ltd., a Chicago-based stadium development and franchise consulting firm that sets up deals, like the LA Raiders' aborted move back to Oakland, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Bean doesn't even own a car.

The two were tight, though, back in college. Their fraternity, Phi Kappa Sigma, had been, ironically, the headquarters of Northwestern's branch of the radical Students for a Democratic Society. By the late 70s, the fraternity had become a dinosaur. Then came the ayatollah, the hostages, Duane Bean and Marc Ganis and SRAP.

"The idea of him being an activist in either direction is not a surprise," Ganis says. "There is no shading with Duane. He sees things so crystal clearly. The personality traits that Duane exhibited in college and the Reagan campaign are consistent with his work now. The idea of lone voices gathering together is consistent."

It was a member of Bean's family who challenged him on his turnabout. When he participated in the CIA action in Virginia, Bean took a few of his pals to visit his brother, Alex Moore, who lived nearby. "Do your friends know you used to work for Ronald Reagan?" Moore demanded. "It was apparent to me that he hadn't made that clear to them," Moore says now.

Moore, who now works in the mergers and acquisitions department of a major Wall Street firm, originally was shocked by Bean's conversion. Now, though, any doubts about Bean's commitment have been dispelled. "There's no question," Alex says, "he's doing what he believes is correct."

Kathy Kelly believes Bean's tale is a cautionary one. "The story of his past serves as a bridge for people to imagine 'Hey, that's what I'm getting sucked into,'" she says.

"It's an evolution," Dick Simpson concludes. "And I'm not sure he's done evolving."

"Look at me now," says Bean.

His packing complete, Bean returns from his room across the street. The last of the packages are being taped up and labeled. Gene Stoltzfus, a big middle-aged guy with a gray beard, and his wife, Dorothy Friesen, own this clapboard house in Pilsen. Back when Synapses was brand-new, they lived here, and turned an unused bedroom into the organization's office. But eventually Synapses took over the whole house and pushed the couple out; they now live on the west side. Bean has an office in the basement of the Synapses house.

Stoltzfus and Friesen have just returned from Canada, where they participated in a Mennonite-sponsored protest at a group of Minuteman III missile silo sites. More than 350 people made the trip from all over the country, Stoltzfus says proudly. Then he searches through one of his bags and finds a beat-up copy of the Winnipeg Free Press. The protest made the front page. "It was wonderful," he beams as he shows the paper around. "Do you know how much planning went into something like that?"

Another visitor shows up and marvels at the hustle and bustle. "Yep," Bean smiles, "I'm goin' to the big house!"

Now some of the visitors, Synapses members all, press Bean for details about his surrender this afternoon. When he chose to surrender, Bean explains, he took the responsibility of getting himself to whichever federal facility in the country the Bureau of Prisons chose to send him to. Where would I dig up the money, he wondered, if the BOP sends me to California? He'd waited apprehensively until just three days ago to find out where to report.

But the bureau tossed him a curve. It assigned him to a work-release program run by the Salvation Army in a halfway house at Jackson and Ashland, not three blocks from where Stoltzfus and Friesen now live. The bureau offered him a pretty good deal. He could continue to work at Synapses but would return to the halfway house immediately after work and remain there on weekends. But there was a hitch: he'd have to give up a quarter of his monthly earnings (Synapses pays him $350 a month, a salary so low that he doesn't have to pay "war taxes").

Bean decided not to cooperate with the halfway-house plan because he couldn't bear to give money to the system. "That goes against just about everything I stand for," he tells his friends.

Instead his afternoon will go like this: he will hold a press conference outside the MCC at one, then go directly to the halfway house at two and announce that he will not cooperate.

What will happen then? someone asks. "Well," Bean replies, "after they see that I'm not going to be moved, I suppose they'll send for the federal marshals who'll take me to the MCC."

Dressed simply in jeans, a red-striped button-down shirt, and Birkenstock sandals, Bean speaks calmly, almost as if he's talking about someone else.

Friesen announces that lunch is ready. This is a daily routine here at Synapses. Whoever's around is invited for pot luck. One afternoon Sandra, a Salvadoran, described being threatened and detained by security police in her native country; Lebo, a South African, tearfully shared the story of her brother's detention and death. It is one of Bean's favorite times of the day. He often leads the table in prayer and always helps draw new visitors out so they can talk about their work or their country.

But today Bean takes a pass on lunch so he can keep his appointment at the MCC. Kathy Kelly and I will accompany him to the MCC, and the others will join us after lunch.

We step out into the sunshine for the walk down to the 18th Street el station on the Douglas/O'Hare line. Just a few steps away from the house Bean stops: "Say, just in case they put me in an air-conditioned room, I better go get a sweater." With that he runs back to his house. A minute later he returns, tying a blue sweater around his neck.

The three of us pass Harrison Park in silence. A guy sits in the grass strumming an acoustic guitar. Two others pitch horseshoes. Another bunch plays basketball. The sky is deep blue with high cottony clouds. The wind is brisk and refreshing--a perfect day.

Bean breaks the silence. "All I brought were my flip-flops, my toothbrush, two pairs of underwear, and a pair of socks," he says. After a moment he speaks again. "Maybe I should have brought two pairs of socks."

Kelly turns to me to explain, "The shackles can cut into your leg tendons." But we are too far along to turn back now.

After a ten-minute ride, we arrive in the Loop. As the train doors slide open, our path out is blocked by two burly cops. Bean stops dead in his tracks. The cops nod, say "Excuse me," and walk onto the train. Bean smiles sheepishly. "After all this time," he says, "my heart still jumps when I see uniforms. I always think they're coming for me."

We climb the stairs out of the subway, then stop. Bean turns his face to the sky, closes his eyes, and basks in the sunlight. Finally he speaks. "Have you ever been to the great ape house at Lincoln Park Zoo? The MCC is just like that--only from the apes' perspective. It's all Plexiglas and steel."

Soon we stop at the corner of Federal Street and Van Buren. Duane points at a window high near the top of the MCC tower. "See that window, second floor from the top, second one from the left? That was my room for ten months," he says.

A couple of reporters are waiting in the stark plaza. Bean greets them warmly, thanks them for taking time out of their day, and begins an informal press conference. One reporter asks him why he won't take advantage of the halfway-house scheme. "People donate their money to Synapses for peace and justice. Why should I turn it over to the criminal justice system?" Bean asks back.

Soon more reporters and about a half dozen supporters gather around. Why do you choose to go to prison? he is asked. "People think you have to be either a hero or a masochistic nut to take an action that lands you in prison. But I'm not really different than the average guy. I'm just one confused man with a deep sense of pain over what's happening in the world. I'm struggling to find some reasonable and meaningful way of responding."

Two young, well-scrubbed kids show up. They met Bean at their respective high schools when he and Kathy Kelly visited. The girl, Missy, goes to North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka; the boy, Paul, attends Loyola Academy in Wilmette. Both are 16.

"I don't know if I would do this," Paul says, marveling at Bean's resolve. Missy tries valiantly to imagine what prison would be like. "It's . . . it's just horrible. Nobody listens to a thing you have to say," she surmises. "Nobody cares what your needs are. They treat you like everybody else."

As the reporters leave one by one, the remaining people gather in the middle of the plaza, forming a circle and holding hands. They pray and sing. The el train roars by overhead. Passing pedestrians ignore the ritual. After a moment of silence, Bean hugs each of his supporters.

Stoltzfus pulls up to get us in his big brown Ford van. The ride to the halfway house only takes a couple of minutes. We park in front of the facility and wait. Someone cracks a silly joke and everybody laughs nervously. Someone else cracks a sillier joke. This goes on for what seems like ten minutes. At last, Bean's voice turns somber. "I guess I don't need to wait any longer."

We follow him into the building. He explains why he is there to a guard, who tells us to wait in an anteroom. Kelly discovers a book on a coffee table in the room: You Can Make It! by Jim and Tammy Bakker. She laughs, "You'd be OK here!"

Kelly passes out song sheets and begins to lead the group in a protest song. The front desk guard seems slightly amused. Paul leans close to me; he whispers nervously, "They're laughing at us."

Between songs some of the veterans reminisce about past actions. Kelly remembers a federal building sit-in where she passed out bags of smuggled Nicaraguan coffee. Stoltzfus laughs broadly. "There were more cops than protesters," he says.

The facility's administrator finally comes down. She is puzzled by this crew singing in her anteroom. Kelly hands her a song sheet. The administrator looks at it, then shakes her head. Bean tells her his reason for not cooperating. "That's your business. It's up to you. My responsibility is to call the federal marshals," the administrator replies.

"I understand," says Bean. Before she leaves, the administrator warns him that if he leaves he'll be considered an escapee. She turns to go, then stops and says "It's rare when somebody would say they'd rather go to prison."

Stoltzfus can't resist taunting her. "Does your social-work manual have a section covering this?"

She rewards him with a dirty look and leaves. Five minutes later she returns. "I talked with the Bureau of Prisons and you have two choices. One, you can register here, or two, they'll send the federal marsh--"

Bean interrupts her. "I'll wait right here."

"OK," the administrator says skeptically.

"Thank you for making the call," Bean tells her as she leaves.

While waiting for the marshals, Bean and Kelly discuss a student march they're planning for the spring. If all goes well, they'll bring into the Loop 50 students from each of 50 schools. Every time someone comes in the front door, everybody turns. Each time it turns out not to be the marshals, there is an audible sigh.

"This reminds me of when we were waiting for the security guards at the missile silos," Bean says to Kelly.

At 3 PM exactly, a black Chevrolet four-door pulls up on Ashland. Three men get out. Two are casually dressed but carry guns. The other is dressed in a well-tailored dark suit. He is young and slick. He whispers a few words to the front-desk guard. The guard points at our group. Slick walks into the anteroom and says "Mr. Bean?"

Bean replies "Here!"

Slick asks Bean to come out to the front desk. The two armed men pat him down then begin to shackle him. The group comes out and starts to sing a song. Slick's eyes grow wide. He starts to giggle. He holds his hand over his mouth. Finally, he walks into another room to regain his composure.

As the armed men lead Bean toward the door, he says to the group "I want to thank you all for sharing this time with me. I love you."

Bean's legs are chained together and his wrists are chained to his waist. The armed men must help him get into the backseat of the sedan. They slam the door, jump in, and squeal away. "Look at that," says Paul. "They're treating him just like a criminal!"

Bean was released from the MCC on September 4. His stay in prison this time was particularly traumatic. His natural father's second wife died in mid-August. Bean asked for and received a furlough to attend the funeral. During his time away from the MCC, he had to wear leg and wrist shackles, and had to be accompanied by an armed guard, for whose pay Bean was responsible.

After his release, Bean stayed with his lover, Sarah Kooinga, who had just returned from a trip to Ecuador. He also took a teaching job at Saint Malachy, an all-boys Catholic school on the west side. It is difficult, Bean says. "I'm the first male authority figure in many of the boys' lives," he says. "It's a fight. Some of them have never been told what to do."

He has just covered apartheid with his sixth-graders, not a single one of whom, he says, had ever heard of apartheid. Soon the class will stage an informational picketing of a local Shell station (Shell Oil being an investor in South Africa).

Tomorrow's headlines probably will determine Bean's future in civil disobedience. "If we go to war in the Middle East," he says, "I'll have some big decisions to make."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lloyd DeGrane.

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