The MX nuclear missile entered the Nuclear Free Zone city of Takoma Park last night as Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) appeared before a town meeting to defend his support for the weapon.
Most of the 100 people attending the meeting appeared to oppose the MX, as Hoyer was peppered with numerous questions critical of his support. Most anti-MX statements were followed by applause.
But tempers stayed cool and most residents seemed to want to coax Hoyer into the fray.
The first questioner asked: "If people like you believe this, how the hell are we ever going to stop the arms race? You of all people. Say it ain't so."
Another questioner, Robert Alpern, 57, said he voted for Hoyer last time because he agrees with his stance on civil rights and social issues. "But on this issue, which is a central issue that overrides all other issues, he seems to have a blind spot." Alpern said he did not know if he would vote for Hoyer again. It would depend on his position a year from now, he said.
"The MX is a deficit producer which you should be aware of and which many people in this room are aware of," said Alpern. "When are you going to be satisfied that the U.S. has enough weapons?"
Hoyer said that he believes that the Soviet threat requires a strong U.S. arsenal and that nuclear weapons are needed to keep the balance of power. He said that the U.S. has a strong arsenal of weapons, "but we are dealing more with perceptions than with reality."
The meeting was called by Mayor Sammie A. Abbott a few weeks ago as a way to defuse the controversy between him and Hoyer.
The crusty, 76-year-old Abbott criticized Hoyer for supporting the MX and withdrew an invitation to Hoyer to attend an April 4 ceremony memorializing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
As a way to patch things up, the town meeting was called. City officials passed the hat last night to pay for the $66 of postage needed to publicize the event.
The City Council adopted a resolution last month opposing aid to the contras in Nicaragua and in 1983, the council declared the city a nuclear-free zone.
The meeting last night was opened with a song: "They Say in Takoma Park, a Nuclear Free Zone, We don't need no MX missile for our families and our home."