The Movement Against War

Anti-Vietnam War demonstration in Dinkytown, April 11, 1967. Photograph by St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press.

This article posting dedicated to Libby Frank of the Northwest Suburban Peace & Education Project

Emilio, - In the summer of 1963, the League of War Resisters created a peace action committee that fundamentally fought against the anti-terrorism terrorism exercised by the US-backed Ngo Dinh Diem government of South Vietnam. On July 25 there were pickets in the house of the permanent observer from South Vietnam to the UN, and in October, a demonstration to “welcome” Mrs. Ngo Dinh Nhu during her visit to New York.


The first important demonstration against the war took place in New York on December 19, 1964, and was supported by the WRL, CNVA, FOR, the socialist party and SPU. One thousand five hundred people took to the streets despite a temperature below zero to hear the war denounced to Muste, Norman Thomas and. Philip Randolph. In San Francisco, one hundred people heard Joan Baez sing. Other demonstrations took place in Minneapolis, Miami, Austin, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, Boston and Cleveland. A feature of the mobilization was the disclosure of "a Call to American Consciousness," which prompted an immediate ceasefire and the earliest possible withdrawal of US troops.


1965 was "the year of Vietnam." The statement of the first US bombing in North Vietnam on February 7 generated pickets and seated throughout the country. These were perpetuated throughout the month, and many efforts were invested in collecting signatures for a new appeal that prompted civil disobedience. The Cincinnati Pacifists group organized a “Committee against taxes for the Vietnam War” to claim fiscal resistance. In December 1969, an independent War Resistance to War group was created that had about 200 tax resistance centers throughout the country. On March 16, 1965 Alice Herz, an 82-year-old widow who had fled from Nazism, set herself on fire at a busy intersection in Detroit; She died ten days later. On November 2 Norman Morrison, secretary of a Friends Encounter, burned himself to death in front of the Pentagon. A week later, Roger La Porte, a young volunteer from the New York Catholic Labor movement, set himself on fire in front of the UN. The first national anti-war demonstration was organized on April 17 by Students for a Democratic Society, as a march through Washington to end the Vietnam War. The Assembly of Unrepresented Persons, from August 6 to 9, brought together the pacifist and civil rights movements in what resulted in the largest demonstration in Washington for civil disobedience to date. A march from the Washington Monument to the Capitol ended with a sitting in which 350 people were arrested. At the same time, students from Berkeley and other Bay Area schools tried to stop trains arriving in Oakland with soldiers destined for Vietnam. The Assembly of Unrepresented Persons also generated the National Coordinating Committee to End the Vietnam War, which made preparations for the demonstrations of October 15 and 16, 1965, Days of International Protest. This led to the formation in New York of the Fifth Avenue Pacifist Parade Committee, a unique coalition of all groups opposed to the Vietnam War, including liberals, pacifists, communists, and the new and old left. Under the direction of AJ Muste, a march on Fifth Avenue reached more than 50,000 participants, and an organizational model was created for future mobilizations nationwide.


On October 15, David Miller, a Catholic Worker, decided to burn his military draft card instead of delivering a speech. The act received tremendous publicity, as it was the first draft card burned after the promulgation that summer of a law of Congress that equated the destruction of a military draft card to the serious crime of not going to the ranks. Burning the cards had been a traditional form of pacifist protest against the call to the ranks. In May 1964, twelve men burned their cards in New York City as a protest against mandatory military service. A few weeks before the Assembly of Unrepresented Persons, there was another burning of cards in New York, which was denounced in the national media, and caused the Washington patriots to rush to pass a bill in Congress to ban this practice. On November 6, in New York City, AJ Muste presided over a very well organized draft card burn.


The pacifists had long encouraged people to stop working in war industries and to separate themselves from the bellicose government. Many young people came to consider the whole society as part of a warlike culture, and they self-asserted; they would no longer collaborate with the American way of life that had generated Vietnam. This movement was intended to be apolitical, but in reality it was a decisive political rejection of militarism and the State. Because they were opposed to violence and appealed to lifestyle rather than covert rhetoric, radical pacifists saw that they could relate to this counter cultural lifestyle very easily. The New York WIN group, Jim Hayes and some friends from New England, the people around the WRL-West of San Francisco and a new anarchist orientation chapter of the WRL in Los Angeles began to address the self-organized community in an attempt to fill the new lifestyle with political content. The opportune moment for this type of transformation had arrived and, consequently, the pacifist movement was more than a movement against the Vietnam War, and the changes that it produced reached the deepest of the basic way in which the Americans looked and structured their lives.


This change occurred gradually: it began in 1966, reached its highest point with the euphoria of the summer of love of 1967 and ran into the reality of the Chicago demonstrations in 1968. Street demonstrations were frequent in 1966. The minimum provocation it was enough to gather people picketing a dinner whose host was Secretary of State Dean Rusk, to block traffic as a protest against a new bombing of North Vietnam, to block the way for recruitment officers at universities, to occupy the offices of Dow Chemical against the production of napalm; to distribute pamphlets against the call to the ranks in fifth centers late at night, induce young people to refuse military service and advise them on how not to return - there was a demonstration for everything.


Radical pacifists had always insisted that "wars would cease when men refused to fight." Therefore, much of its energy was poured into organizing activities of resistance to military service. During the early years of the Vietnam conflict, there were numerous examples of men who refused to go out and even get ready. The Pacifists published a list of non-collaborators that lasted every month, and many CNVA-related activists burned military draft cards or refused to form fifths, but none of these efforts were organized collectively. The first collective action against military service took place on April 15, 1967 in what became the largest pacifist demonstration in US history. until the time: a group in Sheep's Meadow, in the New York Central Park, followed by a march to the UN of hundreds of thousands of participants. That morning, 175 men burned their draft cards. Non-quintable Friends also met, who organized support groups that eventually met as Resistid: Support-in-Action. The first restitution of the draft cards to the government was carried out by more than 1500 men on October 3, 1967. The second, on December 4, brought with it 475 more resistant; and on April 3, 1968, another 630 began their noncooperation with military service.


The crucial, and probably the most memorable, action was announced as a "confrontation with the warmongers" and took place at the Pentagon on October 21 and 22, 1967. Thousands of people marched on the building and, when the soldiers blocked the step, they sat at their feet in an improvised collective educational group that lasted all night from Saturday to Sunday night. Hundreds of people were arrested, and many received a beating at the hands of US justice officials, who tried to discourage protesters with unbridled brutality. People took different memories: some remembered the community that was created among strangers on the Pentagon stairway, the sharing of food, the resolution not to counterattack or break ranks in the face of government aggressions; others remembered more the feeling of unity with the soldiers, and left with the idea that these were not the enemies, despite the uniforms, which shared many values ​​and beliefs of the movement and should be treated as brothers. And others, irritated because they failed to pass the military barrier or invade the Pentagon, considered it a failure and blamed the nonviolent tactics. A second crucial action occurred in the Bay Area during the week of the confrontation at the Pentagon. In order to close the Oakland fifth center, Week to End Military Service was organized. On Monday, a pacifist sitting closed the center for three hours and generated 123 arrests. On November 15, 1969, more than half a million people went to Washington to the largest anti-war demonstration in the history of the United States. Peace centers were also set up throughout the country, which organized the people in the struggle for an immediate end to the war.


Throughout the war, some pacifist and anti-war groups advised recruitment-resistant people, and occasionally helped them find refuge in Canada and elsewhere. Thus, people regularly sheltered absent soldiers without permission, and provided them with security in the same way that abolitionists created an underground railroad for runaway slaves during the United States Civil War. It is estimated that there were between 80,000 and 100,000 deserters and fugitives, especially in Canada, but also in Sweden, in France and in most countries of Western Europe, in many of which they had been granted legal asylum.


In the 70s, the whole of the anti-war movement was fragmented into violent and nonviolent factions. None could channel the enthusiasm of a large number of activists as the SDS had done in 1969. Later we learned that part of this was due to the destructive tactics of the FBI. In May 1970, one hundred thousand people moved to the capital, with a week's notice, to protest against the invasion of Cambodia and the murder of four students at Kent State University, Ohio. For the pacifists, the beginning of the 1970s was marked by small nonviolent assaults on recruitment selection offices and, on one occasion, at the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. Approximately one million files of fifths were destroyed in several widespread actions; Participants destroyed reports in public seeking their detention or fled later. Although many ended up in jail, these assaults sharpened and fostered anti-war sentiments.


In May 1971, the SOS Tribe, a group formed by pacifist and non-pacifist activists, organized a one-week demonstration with the aim of paralyzing the city of Washington through a nonviolent traffic obstruction tactic. More than 13,500 people were arrested in three days of nonviolent action.


On January 20, 1973, thousands of protesters went to Washington to protest against the inauguration of the office of President Richard Nixon and against the Christmas attempt to frighten and subdue North Vietnam with 36,000 tons of bombs. When the Paris Peace Accords concluded, most Americans were relieved that the Vietnam War was finally over. They did not know that the war would actually continue for more than two years, with more and more Vietnamese victims. Peace finally arrived in April 1975, but not as a result of the Paris Accords. Despite the enormous support of the US, the war effort in South Vietnam and Cambodia was demoralized and failed. On May 11 at Sheep's Meadow, in New York's Central Park, some 80,000 people came out to celebrate the end of the war.



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