A man who was part of the Vietnam War experience as a protester returned Thursday night to Scottsdale, the city where he had lived under an assumed name for nearly 30 years because he was hiding from a crime he said he never committed.
Howard Mechanic, a native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, and now living in Prescott, was one of two speakers for the anti-war movement segment of the Vietnam War experience at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library.
At 59, Mechanic is long removed from a 1972 conviction over throwing a cherry bomb during a Vietnam War demonstration at Washington University in St. Louis in May 1970.
He was pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 2001, and someone else admitted to the crime.
The Vietnam War protester once turned fugitive who went underground in an attempt to avoid the conviction and a five-year prison sentence, lived under the assumed name of Gary Tredway in Scottsdale for nearly 30 years until his past was found out when he campaigned for Scottsdale City Council in 2000.
Mechanic, who now operates a health care products business in Prescott, said his talk marked his first “significant stop” in the city in nearly seven years.
“As far as I’m concerned, I was vindicated a long time ago,” Mechanic said of his conviction. “I was just in a lot of trouble then. The first few days after I turned myself in to U.S. marshals, it was very difficult. People have more of an understanding of what happened now.”
Mechanic spent one year in prison before he was pardoned and then moved to Prescott.
A community activist, he speaks out on issues such as global warming, urban growth and water concerns.
He lost a bid for a Prescott City Council seat in 2005, and told those in attendance he didn’t know if he would run for office again.
At his Scottsdale appearance, Mechanic received a warm welcome and was greeted with loud applause Thursday. He spoke of his anti-war stance on the controversial Southeast Asia war that ended 32 years ago and the war in Iraq today.
“Just because a country doesn’t have human rights and has a dictator, doesn’t give us, the United States, the right to attack it,” Mechanic said.
Mechanic’s life soon could be the subject of a project by one of his playwright friends back in Ohio, to be performed on stage in the future.
He is working on getting an autobiography published, too.
Scottsdale resident Dennis Stout, a former staff sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division, also spoke as part of the exhibit.
Stout spoke of his experiences with the Tiger Force unit in Vietnam when he reported war crimes involving the deaths and torture of innocent civilians, testimony later lost during military investigations.
Stout’s testimony was proved to be true years later.