The Few, the Proud, the Spies

Spying on civilians was part of El Toros mission

Parmalee then spoke, according to a transcript in the released files, criticizing the draft for making the U.S. more "totalitarian" but endorsing a suggestion from the audience of a "universal draft" in which "draftees will have the opportunity to decide whether to work for warfare or peace." She asked folks to write to then-President Lyndon Johnson and their congressmen.

The demonstrators encountered only one person who raised objections to the speakers "during the entire program": an unidentified Caucasian, aged 25 to 30, with a black crew cut, according to the surveillance report.

The surveillance team took "still and motion-picture photographs" of the demonstrators; copies of the photos were appended to the report and "annotated to provide identification." Those annotations, some of which are now blacked out, indicate 21 demonstrators were identified, including a Cal State Fullerton junior, a Magnolia High School student, an SDS member from Chapman College, a Cal State Long Beach psychology professor, a Bellflower High School teacher (who also headed the Teachers' Association), and someone wearing a "dark sweat shirt" who had been recently contacted by the Newport Beach Police Department about "similar activities."

Two names were not blacked out: M.B. Ogden of Tustin, who was identified with his address and phone number, and Parmalee, who "would not give her address" but said she could receive mail at UC Irvine. In the annotation is, nonetheless, her full address in Laguna Beach with telephone number. The notation continued: "She is already quite well-known."

Reached in Manhattan, where the 59-year-old now lives, Parmalee said she did not know the Marines had spied on her, although she was well-known: the local media covered her activities.

Of the 1966 demonstration, she confirmed, "Yeah, I organized that." The goal was to educate the draftees about the war since the base was "so close." "People told us we were crazy . . . the Marines will kill us," she said, attributing the warning to the SDS regional office in Los Angeles. She thought the Marines would throw rocks at her, but the ones they passed along the march route were more shocked than angry; they "ogled" in amazement at the first anti-war demonstration at El Toro.

Her FBI file (which she had received under FOIA) didn't indicate the Marine surveillance, although it mentioned the protest. A comparative-literature teaching assistant at UCI when the school first opened the previous fall, Parmalee and Hofmann, a freshman student of hers, started the local SDS because "there was nothing else going on" in Orange County, which was "such a conservative place." "Everybody was shocked that we would stick our necks out," she said. "We had to take on all the issues" with a group of about 20 active students. Her students were "politically naive," largely freshmen from the first class to attend UCI.

Parmalee said she and her dedicated comrades were "the smart people" who worked together during SDS' heyday, before ideological splits tore the national group apart.

Hailing from Salt Lake City, Parmalee and her parents never talked politics at home, and UCI was really where her radicalism flourished (she had organized a teach-in in Salt Lake City). The UCI SDS also helped start a mimeographed underground paper, Oscar, at local high schools in Orange County and distributed the Vietnam War Examination leaflet throughout the county, sparking news coverage. Parmalee said the FBI came around campus asking about her, telling her department head, English professor Hazard Adams, that she was a "bad seed."

Adams stood up to the FBI, she recalled, but her teaching-assistant contract was not renewed. Adams, who was reached at the University of Washington, where he now teaches, could "vaguely recall" that an FBI agent may have come to see him about Parmalee. "I can't remember what transpired," he said. "If Parmalee's [contract] was not renewed, I doubt if it had anything to do with that. . . . I can't imagine the FBI matter having any effect on what we would do."

But other radical UCI faculty members who had supported SDS also got fired, according to Parmalee. And SUNY Press recently published Adams' novel Many Pretty Toys, which is about a faculty firing circa 1970 in which "some of the events . . . are influenced by what went on at UCI," he said.

The El Toro protest led Parmalee to anti-war work with GIs in Berlin, where she lived for a year. On her return, she helped start the Green Machine, a radical coffeehouse outside Camp Pendleton. She is still politically active; she is now engaged in Nicaraguan solidarity work, the Marxist School in New York and the Union of Radical Political Economists.

Hofmann, whose name is misspelled as Gregg Hoffman in the surveillance file, doesn't remember the El Toro demonstration. Reached in San Jose, where he now lives, Hofmann, a graduate of Newport Harbor High School, does recall his undergrad days, when he co-founded the SDS chapter at UCI with Parmalee. He recalled it as an idealistic, turbulent if politically naive time, and he has especially fond memories of SDS' guerrilla theater group, which staged skits and political theater in Orange County, including protesting Marine Corps recruiters on campus. After being reminded that at one such 1968 event, a recruiter was hit with a water balloon, Hofmann took pains to deplore the occurrence, saying it wasn't a part of the skit. But the liberal administration under UCI chancellor Daniel Aldrich agreed with protesters' demands that future Marine recruitment be held indoors, where students had to seek them out. (Today, the Marines recruit in the open at UCI.)

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