1972: fighting against the war

a near-sighting

The diary discusses fighting against the war. April 22: the Okie, Uthaclena, Fred, Alice, and Fran drive down to NYC. The Okie was a peace/antiwar demonstration virgin. She was annoyed by the various organizations selling or giving away their newspapers. Uthaclena, conversely, enjoyed getting the unsolicited literature.

We started marching and chanting. The crowd yelled to the onlookers to join us. Though some people waved and gave the peace sign, it was understandable that no one wanted to join us in that cold and wet weather. Of course, a lot of police, some on horses, especially around an Armed Forces building. The crowd cheered loudly when our event made the Allied Chemical Building news.

We finally finished the 40-block walk. Walked through a Nedick’s to maybe get a better view of the speakers, but could see nothing, and the others were cold and tired, so we took a couple of subways from 42nd Street to a Woolworth’s, where Fred and Alice bought raincoats. Then we walked the few blocks to the car, except Alice who took the bus to Poughkeepsie for an event.

Back over the George Washington Bridge, we stopped for a bathroom on the Palisades Parkway. We heard on the radio John Lennon and Yoko Ono spoke at the demonstration, estimated to have had 30,000 to 50,000 participants.

The diary gap

As I noted, some of the diaries were destroyed in a flood in an apartment I lived in during the latter 1990s. Unfortunately one covered May 5 through September 6. This covered three of the most significant events in my life. I remember them, of course, but I wanted more details, more context. Ah well.


When Haiphong harbor in Vietnam was mined, announced on Monday, May 8, it was perceived as an escalation of the Vietnam war. One can debate the efficacy of the strategy in retrospect, but few events in the US antiwar movement galvanized so many people.

My recollection is that my professors at SUNY New Paltz, at least, were understanding and some even sympathetic to the cause that got the students to cease attending their classes.

An attempt to stop traffic on the New York State Thruway – I believe I was riding with Uthaclena – ended relatively quickly on Tuesday.

Our appearance at a demonstration at the United Nations on Thursday was stymied by a too-late bus whether this was intentional on the part of the charter bus company, we would never know. Still, some picketed in front of the armed forces recruitment center.

As I said

Much of this I  wrote about a decade ago. “A large demonstration near the draft board in Kingston, NY was held on Friday.” The board closed preemptively. “The following day, the front page of the newspaper, the Kingston Freeman, had a picture of me and a couple of other people sitting in front of the building. The quality (or reproduction) of the photo was so poor, though, that I didn’t even recognize myself.

“The pivotal event that week was a demonstration at IBM Poughkeepsie on Wednesday, May 10, which building something called the IBM 360. In 1972, the idea of computers programmed to help kill people was quite upsetting to many folks; think an early version of today’s drones. In any case, there were about 360 people protesting – I don’t know if that were actually true or apocryphal.”


“At some point, we were warned if we walked past a certain point, we would be arrested. It was almost a dare, in its tone. As it turned out, twelve people were detained that day. One guy was charged with disturbing the peace, and his bail was set at $50. Everyone else was charged with fourth-degree criminal trespass, much to the chagrin of the district attorney, who was seeking a stiffer charge; 10 of the 11 got out on $25 bail. The 11th person, my friend Alice, had been arrested and convicted at a previous event, was fined $48, and had not paid it. Her bail was set at $250, and she opted not to pay it, and stayed in jail until the trial, eight days later.

“Did I mention I was one of those arrested?” In fact, I noticed, in looking at the Freeman in Newspapers.com, that a number were arrested around the area that month in various demonstrations, including a guy I got arrested with named Michael. The Associated Press said that as of May 11, over 250 people had been arrested for antiwar activities.

The standards of civil disobedience

Civil disobedience is a form of political argument. Normal criminals try to break the law without anyone knowing about it. People who commit civil disobedience, by contrast, publicize their infractions to dramatize the injustice they seek to change.

civil diobedienceWhile I usually find Facebook debates exhausting and unuseful, I was in the middle of one recently that actually clarified things for me. (All names have been fictionalized. Except for mine, because…)

George posted this article from The Atlantic, Left-Wing Protests Are Crossing the Line. “Protesters harassing prominent conservatives in their private lives fall short of the standards of civil disobedience.”

I agreed with Bethany who noted, “Torches at the front door are NOT the best or most civilized answer. One must use discernment and perspective along with the idealism and righteous anger.” I added, “WE need to be BETTER than they are.”

The pushback began.

Doug: So when an individual uses their professional position to target the well being of other individuals, other individuals admonishing and harassing them as individuals for their actions is inappropriate?

Got it. They can use their pulpit to attack other’s private lives, but once they step off, they’re in the ‘safe zone.’

Noel: We’re dealing with people who don’t care about any of that, though. They want power and supremacy, and they’re willing to hurt real people to attain that goal. Kindness and passiveness are wasted on them.

Doug: I have LGBTQ friends and family, and anyone whose stated purpose is to remove their rights or their personhood entirely is no friend of mine.

Atlantic: The people who scream at Tucker Carlson or Kirstjen Nielsen or Ted Cruz have good reason to be angry. The president of the United States is a bigot. He spreads conspiracy theories; he treats the rule of law with contempt.

[Yet] protests like these, that target people’s private lives, are wrong. They violate fundamental principles of civil disobedience, as understood by its most eminent practitioners and theorists. And they threaten the very norms of human decency that Trump and his supporters have done so much to erode.

Margaret: I identify with Doug’s feeling that someone professionally engaged in causing or fostering harm shouldn’t feel ‘entitled’ to insulate him or herself from confrontation. I must agree with Noel that kindness and consideration is wasted on @$$#0!3$, but also take Roger’s warning that we risk coming off as ‘just as bad’. All this stuff is true.

Atlantic: Whatever the merits of the causes they promote, they are embracing methods that are deeply corrosive. It matters how activists oppose a government. When they prevail, the approaches they embraced in opposition to power deeply shape how they exercise it.

The problem [with those protests] is that they are not sufficiently ‘public’ and ‘conscientious.’ By public, Rawls meant that civil disobedience is a form of political argument. Normal criminals try to break the law without anyone knowing about it. People who commit civil disobedience, by contrast, publicize their infractions to dramatize the injustice they seek to change.

For civil-rights activists… the point was to demand service openly, accept arrest, and thus communicate with the public. In his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” In so doing, they “arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice.”

Bethany: It’s the minefield we must cross. We’ve already seen how confrontations… have been quickly turned against us by our privileged adversaries. We need to win the crowd! We need to invite people to join us, not disgust them or scare them away. We need to cling to honor and exhibit discipline — and show some righteous self-control while bravely confronting forces that could literally destroy the planet — or at least, democracy.

[Each] extreme seeks to achieve rule by intimidation. It becomes autocracy by means of bullying and intimidation. Essentially it comes down to ‘we want your vote, but we have no interest in your (closer to the center) ideas.’ No wonder we are so polarized and dysfunctional. There is no dialogue, tolerance, listening.

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