"Signs!" the television cameraman gasped to the television news personality. "These pickets here don't have any signs. What are we going to do for a set-up?"
Tom Rieke, the man who brought the pickets to the shareholders' meeting but forgot to prepare them for the television cameras, said he was sorry.
The picketers were here for the sharholders' meting of Rockwell International. They were against the controversial $24 billion B-1 bomber, for which Rockwell International is the principal contractor.
"I'ce got the issues here," he told the TV men as they walked out of his press conference, "but I don't know about the signs."
Rieke, a research coordinator for the University of Michigan, took it all in stride. "It's like the 60's," he said. "There's always an issue, but the demonstration makes the news."
As a representative of the Interfaith Council for Peace in Ann Arbor, Rieke was one of only a handful of pickets to gain entry to the shareholders' meeting, which was held in the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The shorthaired, conservativley dressed Rieke, armed with press kits and position papers, made a neat end run into the lobby while a large hotel functionary gave the bum's rush to two dozen shaggy demonstrators.
Inside the meeting Terry Provance of the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia, a Quaker group that owns Rockwell stock, was getting ready to try again. For the past three shareholders' meetings Provance had been trying to pass a resolution condemning the B-1 project. His results, like cost overruns, had been predictable.
"It's not realistic to expect the resolution to pass," Provance said, "but it's good to shake these people up; may be you can make them think."
Rockwell officials humored Provance, though some grumbling was heard when he asked for "detailed information" on Rockwell's campaign contributions and public relations effort in behalf of the B-1 program.
Provance's resolution was defeated by a vote of 29 million shares to 9,442.
The controversial bomber, which has been flight-tested since 1974, is designed to replace the 25-year-old B-52 as the nation's strategic nuclear-bomb-carrying airplane.
Several religious groups, including Rieke's have criticized the B-1 program as a misuse of existing resources. "With energy and industrial capability at a premium in this country, the last thing we need is another war weapon," Rieke said.
The bomber program received a brief but glowing treatment from Rockwell International President Robert Anderson during his address to the stockholders.
Meanwhile, outside the hotel, a fresh busload of pickets had arrived carrying homemade signs and a handpainted bedsheet. The 50 or so demonstrators stood in a circle and offered a silent prayer while delighted cameramen scrambled for shots.
But for every sign which condemned Rockwell as a warmonger, there were two signs flaying the B-1 program as inflationary and counterproductive.
Tom Rieke looked at the economic signs and smiled. "Not exactly like the '60s after all," he said.