Cops pop ‘Boner’
Former ‘Growing Pains’ star and son of ‘Star Trek’s’ Chekov is only anti-China float protester arrested
By Joe Piasecki 01/03/2008
The towering floral creations that cruised past television cameras just after sun-up New Year’s Day were really only part of the spectacle at the 119th annual Rose Parade.
Among hundreds of thousands of parade viewers were pockets of political activists with colorful signs of their own drawing attention to the scourge of human rights abuses in China and calling for an end to the war in Iraq and the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
One of those protesters was anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who was joined at the event by about 100 others opposed to the war and the administration.
Another was 39-year-old Andrew Koenig of Venice, an actor and film editor who is perhaps best known for his role as Richard “Boner” Stabone in the popular 1980s sitcom “Growing Pains.” Koenig is also the son of actor Walter Koenig, who portrayed Lt. Pavel Chekov in the “Star Trek” films and television series.
Carrying a sign decrying the Chinese Communist Party’s political and financial support of
the military dictatorship in Burma, Andrew Koenig stood in front
of the controversial 40-foot-tall Beijing Olympics float, paid for by the Pasadena-based Avery Dennison Corp. and a group of area Chinese-American business owners and supported by the Chinese government, after it turned onto Colorado Boulevard from Orange Grove Boulevard at the start of the parade route. He was immediately hustled off the street by police and arrested without incident.
But other than Koenig, no other political protesters were arrested Tuesday. In fact, for all the intense security at this year’s event, much of it prompted by the presence of the Olympics float — police, sheriff’s deputies, CHP, Homeland Security and the FBI — only 22 people were arrested, most for public drunkenness along the 5.5-mile parade route, said police spokeswoman Janet Pope Givens.
Koenig and his father visited Burma together in July and toured Burmese refugee camps in Thailand with the humanitarian group US Campaign for Burma. At the parade, he carried a cardboard sign written in English and Chinese that read “China: Free Burma.”
“People wonder why someone would do such an obnoxious thing, but it’s the only way the news will pay attention. And until pressure is put on China to condemn what’s going on in Burma, things aren’t going to change,” Koenig told the Weekly shortly after being released on his own recognizance just before 7 p.m. that night.
Even though Koenig’s protest and subsequent arrest could be seen on KTLA Channel 5, the official station of the parade, cameras quickly panned away from the brief fracas and announcers Bob Eubanks and Michaela Pereira did not mention it, or the controversy surrounding the Olympics float.
Nor did the pair once mention anti-Bush and anti-war protesters stationed directly across the street from their booth as they held up signs that read “KUCINICH and “IMPEACH” in front of TV cameras.
The younger Koenig is set to be arraigned Feb. 4 in Pasadena Superior Court for suspicion of interfering with a special event, which carries penalties up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, said Givens.
“I broke a law, but I didn’t commit a crime,” said Koenig.
After the parade, Sheehan, who is running in the next congressional election against Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and members of the anti-war group CODEPINK walked from their spot during the parade in front of the Norton Simon Museum to the Euclid Avenue side of Pasadena City Hall, chanting “We want our Constitution back!”
Before the parade, Caltech Falun Gong Club President and chief anti-float organizer John Li announced plans to file a civil rights lawsuit against the city for what he described as attempts to stifle plans for a pre-parade human rights march that had been worked out with Tournament of Roses officials.
Last week, negotiations for such a demonstration broke down after Li refused to agree to scale back his plans, complaining that the city’s restrictions would have forced it to occur before sunrise and away from TV cameras.
“I had really hoped for a sanctioned event to show how different America is from China, the real American Way,” said Tseten Phanucharan, president of the Los Angeles Friends of Tibet. She led a demonstration at the corner of South Orange Grove Boulevard and Ellis Street, where the China float — surrounded by police and a barricade — stood sequestered until it joined the parade.
Across the street, Montrose peace activist Roberta Medford, part
of a pro-impeachment gathering, shouted “Boycott China” — the only audible overlap of the anti-float and anti-Bush efforts.
“China has a terrible human rights record,” she said, and so does Bush: “It’s not too late [for impeachment]. Think of all the wars they could start in a year.”
Sheehan focused as much ire on Democrats.
“It’s the Democratic leadership who are holding impeachment back,” she said.
As for the ongoing controversy surrounding China hosting the Summer Olympics, “People have to recognize the Chinese government — not the people, I want to make that distinction — is dirty in a lot of ways, from supporting Burma and [genocidal forces in] Sudan to sweatshops there to the lead-paint toys we’ve been sending back, and they’re trying to make an effort because of the Olympics to come off as good guys.” Koenig said.
“China is putting on a good face because of the Olympics, but [it’s time to] send a message to the Chinese government that they have to not just change their face, but change the way they do things,” he said.