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"The witnesses were so courageous," says 34-year-old Johnstone, who is, admittedly, no stranger to hunger strikes. (Since moving to Berkeley two years ago she has also embarked on a hunger strike against the policies of the California Department of Corrections.) "And I wanted to support their right to speak openly in court. Dr. Greer's speech was incredibly strong and powerful. And he said, "I'm prepared to give my life for this cause because this is that important.' And I thought, "What am I willing to give?'"
Even from the back wall of the overcapacity California Ballroom, it's easy to see Greer's sway. As charismatic, well-spoken, and coolly verbose as a well-trained politician, Greer suggests that open knowledge of alien presence and technology will end poverty, facilitate justice, and lead to global peace. If only we all knew what the government knows.
"The Air Force says they are no longer investigating UFOs," says 20-year-old John Greenewald Jr., whose relentless research under the Freedom of Information Act at Canadian government agencies has led to an archive of more than 80,000 government papers, which he makes available at www.blackvault.com. "I have documents that say otherwise. That is the single most important piece of information anyone can offer. It draws everything else into question."
According to Phillip Krapf, a former copy editor for the Los Angeles Times, government disclosure would have been unnecessary if not for the bombing of the World Trade Centers. While aboard a spaceship (800 feet in diameter) in 1997, and again in 2000, he learned, along with 850 prominent humans known as the Ambassadors, that the alien species known as Verdants were planning for imminent, open contact in 2002, but now they're reconsidering.
"The time line has been changed now," says Krapf during his workshop, "but they've seen this before."
Still, according to a large percentage of expo attendees and most lecturers, there is no shortage of contact.
Melinda Leslie, an employee for a large Southern California architectural firm, claims to have been abducted for the first time when she was a child, and says the contact has continued throughout her life.
"My abduction experiences are pretty typical," says Leslie. "They've taken eggs, introduced me to hybrid children, monitored my reactions as I was presented with possible disaster and catastrophe scenarios."
Leslie doesn't seem terribly troubled by the alien abductions; her real concern is with military re-abduction.
"They [the military] want to know what I know," says Leslie with a calm, sure gaze. "The co-author of my book pulled out of the project because her life was threatened. My roommate's daughter moved out of our house because she was scared."
"Purple Rose,"the manager of an Oklahoma trucking office, can offer countless experiences that people might describe as out-of-body, but that she knows to be extraterrestrial in nature. "They started when I was 4," says Rose, lighting her fourth cigarette, her eyes darting across the parking lot, up at the sky, and back again. "They took me and my sister, but my sister doesn't remember; she was too young."
Rose recalls her first ship sighting at the age of 15 while she and a girlfriend were enjoying a beer with a couple of guys in a pickup truck in Northern California. "They were scared," says Rose, showing a tinge of contempt for her friends. "They thought their lives were going to end, but I was just curious. I got out of the truck to look; the ship was directly overhead. I'm not fear-based."
Among Rose's experiences, which include contact with as many as 10 alien races (including one with amphibian features) and numerous styles of spacecraft (including a long "mall-sized" ship with foliage, huge pedestrian thoroughfares, and ambient lighting that materialized from the air), there have been some frightening turns.
"I've felt very uncomfortable with some of the aliens," says Rose, brushing her waist-length blond hair out of her face but still avoiding eye contact. "Some bad things have happened around me afterwards."
A natural reaction, according to Marshall Vian Summers, who conducts one of the more poorly attended lectures of the weekend. "If a human being took you from your home in the middle of the night and physically and mentally tortured you," says Summers, "you'd want them punished."
Anna K., a 37-year-old shiatsu practitioner from San Francisco, counters that while her abduction 14 years ago seemed invasive at first, she has since come to see it as benevolent.
"There's a lot of emphasis on getting abductees to empathize with their attackers," Summers responds. "That way the [abductees] are more responsive to the biological coding. ... No one should give up their power like that."
After the lecture, however, Anna K. considers, and rejects, Summers' stance. "He sounds paranoid," she says. "Saying all aliens are bad is like saying all humans are bad. There's a lot that's positive in the human experiences as well."
Anna K.'s abduction occurred on a New Zealand kiwi farm while she was outside looking at the stars. She recalls the vivid sensation of falling and the next thing she remembers is being shaken awake by two farmhands and taken to a nearby hospital where she was treated for hypothermia. Bruises were found on her inner thighs -- from alien medical exams and extraterrestrial impregnation, says Anna K. Over the years, with the help of rebirthing techniques, she has pieced together memories of her alien abductors.