Gandhian nonviolence

"Nonviolent refusal to cooperate with injustice is the way to defeat it.”
                                                                                                      --Mahatma Gandhi

"Generally speaking, the first nonviolent act is not fasting, but dialogue. The other side, the adversary, is recognized as a person, he is taken out of his anonymity and exists in his own right... To engage someone in dialogue is to recognize him, have faith in him. At every step in the nonviolent struggle, at every level we try tirelessly to establish a dialogue, or reestablish it if it has broken down.”

                                                                                                       --Hildegard Goos-Mayr

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"I fully support Campaign Nonviolence and call upon friends across the U.S. to join
this new movement to work for the abolition of war, poverty and environmental destruction
and pursue with new vigor Dr. King's vision of a culture of peace and nonviolence.
Together, we can create a new world of peace."

--Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Take the Campaign Nonviolence Pledge


Waging Nonviolence

Pace e Bene



Campaign Nonviolence Nationwide Actions
September 20-27th, 2015

Campaign Nonviolence
August 6-9, 2015
Santa Fe and Los Alamos

The New Abnormal – Reflections on Paris
Michael Nagler 111415

8 ways to defend against terror nonviolently
George Lakey 012215






Mahatma - A Great Soul of 20th Century

Mahatma Gandhi - Pilgrim of Peace

M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence



The Peace Alliance


Global Strategy of

Take the Vow of

Iran - Why we Protest

Albert Einstein Inst.


New Dimensions

Pace e Bene

Nonviolence Works

Transforming Violence



Videos, audios...

The success of nonviolent civil resistance: Erica Chenoweth at TEDxBoulder 110413

Son of Victim in Sikh Temple Attack Unites with Former White Supremacist to Fight Violence and Hate 080913

Dennis Kucinich: A Culture of Peace 020813
Speech delivered to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

May Day and Nonviolence - 2nd hour 01:01:13

Audio from KPFA Sunday Show 042912
Positive Peace Warrior Network

Ameena Matthews -The Interrupters PBS 021412
An intimate journey across the violent landscape of our cities
through the eyes of those fighting to sow peace and security

2012 Season for Nonviolence Events

nonviolence - a short history.wmv 012311

OCCUPY WITH ALOHA: Makana at the APEC Dinner, Hawaii

Aung San Suu Kyi on Non-Violence 1999

Aqeela Sherrills -- Gang intervention - the Reverence Movement

audio from Sacred Awakenings

The Story of Budrus -- nonviolence in Palestine , video

Deena Meetzger -- Personal Disarmament

audio from New Dimensions Radio

John Dear, SJ -- A Journey towards Love

audio from New Dimensions Radio

John Dear protesting war & nuclear weapons 042009

Satish Kumar on Nonviolence & the Spirit of Ecology

Satyagraha 100 Years Later: Gandhi Launches Modern Non-Violent Resistance Movement on Sept. 11, 1906 090806

Revolutionary Non-Violence: Remembering Dave Dellinger, 1915-2004 052704

Mahatma Gandhi First Television Interview (30 April 1931)


Audio Resources

New Dimensions Radio

Peace Week 2011

Path of the Peacemaker
7-session self-paced course with James O'Dea


When Cowboys and Indians unite — Inside the unlikely alliance that is remaking the climate movement 052214

64 Ways to Practice Nonviolence: Curriculum and Resource Guide

Gene Sharp: "From Dictatorship to Democracy"

Peter Dreier: The Man behind the March - Remembering Bayard Rustin 060812

Shauna Crockett-Burrows 1930–2012 053012



"The motivation underlying our activism for social change must be transformed from anger and despair to compassion and love. It is not to deny the legitimacy of noble anger or outrage at injustice of any kind. Rather, we seek to work for love, rather than against evil. We need to adopt compassion and love as our foundational intention, and do whatever inner work is required to implement this intention. Even if our outward actions remain the same, there is a major difference in results if our underlying intention supports love rather than defeating evil."

--Will Keepin, Satyana Institute




Seeds of nonviolent resistance sown in Iraq 060204
Berkeley Monument to César Chávez - A memorial to Chávez's name 033104
Martin Luther King, Jr.: Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam   
Delivered April 1967 at Manhattan's Riverside Church

Clayborne Carson: King and Country / March on Washington -- a look back after 40 years 082403
The Skills of Peace - Waging war... how does one go about preventing it? 050403
Robert Collier: Activists in Baghdad switch gears to help 042903
Long walk to prison for political activists 042803
Pablo Picasso has words for Colin Powell from the other side of death
Martin Luther King, Jr.: What would Martin do? 022303
Starhawk: Anti-war vs. Pro-peace 020303
Philip Berrigan - Reinventing Resistance Feb 2003
Gandhi's influence on King 012003
Deb Reich: Parallel Sovereignty for Palestine/Israel?
Nigerian women on the move!
We are either going to have a democracy ...
Colombian women march against war 072502
A survivor's victory ~ Salvadoran torturers found guilty 081902
The balance of power
Daniel Ellsberg on Democracy NOW 061702
Interview with Diane Nash 012398
Salute to Fannie Lou Hamer
David Halberstam: The Children
Victorious campaigns
Civil disobedience training




“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
                                                                                                                                  --Thomas A. Edison


"Generally speaking, the first nonviolent act is not fasting, but dialogue. The other side, the adversary, is recognized as a person, he is taken out of his anonymity and exists in his own right... To engage someone in dialogue is to recognize him, have faith in him. At every step in the nonviolent struggle, at every level we try tirelessly to establish a dialogue, or reestablish it if it has broken down."
  --Hildegard Goos-Mayr






All articles reprinted
under the Fair Use
doctrine of

copyright law
). All
copyrights belong to
original publisher.







Berkeley Monument to César Chávez

A memorial to Chávez's name and virtue

Santiago Casal
Wednesday, March 31, 2004

There is an old saying that "to speak the name of our ancestors is to keep them alive." Today, on his birthday, I speak the name of labor leader and environmentalist César Estrada Chávez. He was a man who died prematurely at 66 in 1993, his life marked by dedicated service, personal sacrifice and constant threats to him and his family, as well as the formidable efforts of agribusiness, Teamsters and government agents to derail everything he tried to accomplish.

Those of us who lived during his time on this earth have a special obligation to speak his name today and to find enduring ways to remind our children and ourselves of his legacy. Over the years, Chávez, more than any other person, was able to bring light, energy and forward movement to the struggle of farmworkers in this country. He tirelessly brought attention to society's detachment from the source of our nourishment, the faceless farmworkers who labor in the fields to put food on our tables and who suffer the vicissitudes of a yearly harvest.

Inspired by Mohandas K. Gandhi, Chávez set an example for the nation in his nonviolent leadership. He used Gandhi's notion of "moral jujitsu" to describe its effect on the opposition. He fasted for enlightenment as well as to protest against intransigent growers or grocery chains or to restrain his own followers when the impulse to violence reared its ugly head.

Chávez's successes were many, including the signing of the first agricultural worker agreements, passage of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, banning use of the dreaded and disabling short-handled hoe and raising the public's awareness about the dangers of chemicals and pesticides used in modern farming.

In the vernacular of my youthful street self and the many Chicanos who grew up in the barrios of California and the Southwest, Chávez was "the Vato" -- the man who stood up to "The Man," the one who met danger without giving way to fear. He was courageous and it gave us courage. He was determined and it made us determined. He practiced tolerance and nonviolence and it made us more tolerant and nonviolent. He was persistently hopeful, and it gave us hope. Though he rejected the rhetoric of the defiant La Raza Movement, he was still ours and he made us proud.

Chávez combined a set of virtues to sustain the struggle he led, relentlessly championing those who have no voice and resisting the allure of a society propelled by a consumer definition of happiness. So how do we perpetuate the speaking of his name, to perpetuate his virtues -- determination, courage, tolerance and hope? How do we adapt them to the challenges of the future as Chávez might have?

In Berkeley, the César Chávez Memorial Solar Calendar Project has chosen a dual approach, with an educational curriculum (K-12) integrated with a unique memorial that would serve as a field classroom. The project, more than five years in the making, aims to create a major work of "site-specific" public art in the form of an ancient solar calendar, a fitting monument to a man who devoted his life to the earth and to the farmworkers who have always lived by understanding the cycle of the seasons. Think of Stonehenge if you are searching for an image -- or check the Web site ( if you want to see the proposed design in detail.

The Berkeley City Council has provisionally reserved 1.5 acres at César Chávez Park for the memorial, a site with a sensational 360-degree panoramic view of the horizon and a perfect place for reflection. The project connects art, science, culture and history. The memorial calendar will incorporate the four Chávez virtues into the four cardinal directions of the site. When the memorial is completed, it will be both contemplative and educational. The companion educational curriculum will link the legacy of Chávez with the pressing need for environmental stewardship and service to the community.

There are many ways to honor an exceptional leader. One is to speak his name and to tell his story. The César Chávez Memorial Solar Calendar and educational curriculum will ensure that we speak his name, reflect on his life and serve his legacy through service to our community. There are few major monuments to individual Latinos in this country. May this be the first one for Chávez here in the Bay Area.

Santiago Casal is director of the Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar Project and Rhythm of the Seasons Curriculum (

San Francisco Chronicle









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). All
copyrights belong to
original publisher.


Slaughter of Innocents

Pablo Picasso has words for Colin Powell
from the other side of death

Ariel Dorfman

Yes, even here, here more than anywhere else,
we know and watch what is going on
what you are doing with the world
we left behind

What else can we do with our time?

Yes, there you were, Mr. Secretary,
I think that is how they call you
there you were
standing in front of my Guernica
a replica it is true
but still my vision of what was done
that day to the men to the women
and to the children to that one child
in Guernica that day in 1937
from the sky

Not really standing in front of it.
It had been covered, our Guernica,
covered so you could speak.
There in the United Nations building.
So you could speak about Iraq.

Undisturbed by Guernica.

Why should it disturb perturb you?
Why did you not ask that the cover
                    be removed
                                   the picture
                    be revealed?

Why did you not point to the shrieking
the horse dying over and over again
the woman with the child forever dead
the child that I nurse here in this darkness
the child who watches with me
as you speak
                     and you speak.
Why did you not say
This is why we must be rid of the dictator.
Why did you not say
This is what Iraq has already done and undone.
Why did you not say
This is what we are trying to save the world from.
Why did you not use
Guernica to make your case?

Were you afraid that the mother
would leap from her image and say
no he is the one
they are the ones who will bomb
                                         from afar
they are the ones who will kill
                                         the child
no no no
he is the one they them
from the distance the bombs
keeping us always out of sight
inside death and out of sight

Were you afraid that the horse
would show the world the near future
three thousand cruise missiles in the first hour
spinning into Baghdad
ten thousand Guernicas
spinning into Baghdad
                                         from the sky

Were you afraid of my art
                                         what I am still saying
more than sixty five years later
the story still being told
the vision still dangerous
the light bulb still hanging
                                         like an eye from the dead
my eye that looks at you from the dead


beware the eye of the child
in the dark

you will join us
the child and I
the horse and the mother
here on the other side

you will join us soon
you will journey here
                     as we all do

                    is that why you were
                    so afraid of me?

join us
and spend the rest of eternity
                     next to us
                     next to the remote dead
not only of Iraq
not only of

                    is that why you were
                     so afraid of that eye?

your own eyes sewn open wide looking
                     at the world you left behind

there is nothing else to do
with our time

sentenced to watch
and watch
by our side

                    until there will be no Guernicas left
                     until the living understand

and then, Mr. Secretary,
and then

a world with no Guernicas

and then
yes then
                     you and I
yes then
                     we can rest
you and I and the covered child


Ariel Dorfman's latest books are "Exorcising Terrror: The Incredible Ongoing Trial of General Augusto Pinochet" and the poems, "In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land (Duke University Press)." He has just completed a play about Picasso during the Nazi occupation of Paris. 03/09/03

San Francisco Chronicle

What's so controversial about Picasso's Guernica?

View large image of Guernica

History of a profound painting

"Bombardement de Guernica en Espagne"
(stunning image of Guernica inferno with dog)




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doctrine of

copyright law
). All
copyrights belong to
original publisher.




What would Martin do?

by Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Adapted from his writings and public statements by Clayborne Carson)
Sunday, February 23, 2003

On a beautiful afternoon in 1959, Coretta and I journeyed from our hotel in Beirut to take a plane for Jerusalem. After about two hours in the air we were notified to fasten our seat belts -- we were beginning to descend for the airport in Jerusalem. Because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, this city has been divided.
And so this was a strange feeling -- to go to the ancient city of God and see the tragedies of man's hate and evil which causes him to fight and live in conflict.

Israel's right to exist as a state in security is incontestable. At the same time the great powers have the obligation to recognize that the Arab world is in a state of imposed poverty and backwardness that must threaten peace and harmony. Until a concerted and democratic program of assistance is affected, tensions cannot be relieved. So there is a need for a Marshall Plan for the Middle East.

At the heart of the problem are oil interests. As the American Jewish Congress has stated, "American policies in the Middle East have been motivated in no small measure by the desire to protect the $2.5 billion stake which U.S. oil companies have invested in the area." Some Arab feudal rulers are no less concerned for oil wealth and neglect the plight of their own peoples.

The solution will have to be found in statesmanship by Israel and progressive Arab forces who, in concert with the great powers, recognize that fair and peaceful solutions are the concern of all of humanity. Neither military measures nor a stubborn effort to reverse history can provide a permanent solution.

As I said in my Nobel Peace Prize Lecture: Nations are not reducing, but rather increasing, their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has not been halted. The fact that most of the time human beings put the risk of nuclear war out of their minds because it is too painful does not alter the risk of such a war. Man's proneness to engage in war is still a fact, but wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete.

If we assume that life is worth living, that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative. In a day when guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war. A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil and political disillusionment. A world war, God forbid, would leave only smoldering ashes as a mute testimony to the human race whose folly led to ultimate death. If modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno even the mind of Dante could not imagine.

It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must shift the arms race into the peace race.

In 1967, when I took my stand against the war in Vietnam, I recounted that I had lived in the ghettos of Chicago and Cleveland, and I knew the hurt, the cynicism and the discontent. As I walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I told them Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I tried to offer my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.

But they asked, and rightly so, "What about Vietnam?" They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. This need to maintain social stability for our investments . . . tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. . . .

It is with such activities in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. He said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments.

When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.

Clayborne Carson is director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University. -- © Estate of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

San Francisco Chronicle







Anti-war vs. Pro-peace

(Following is a 2/3/03 response by Starhawk
to a post on

I wrote a long response to your query, but didn't send it because I realized I was angry when I wrote it--not at you, because I respect your grappling with these issues, but at what I consider some of the deeply warped New Age ideas that you've got to grapple with...

What it comes down to is a set of assumptions about what constitutes 'spirituality' and even 'peace'--there's one set of things associated with calm, light, benign thoughts, lack of conflict, and general positivity that is assumed to be 'spiritual'. And another set of things associated with conflict, rage, anger, dirt, darkness, and saying 'no' that is assumed to be non-spiritual.

First of all, I don't accept those divisions. My spirituality is about dirt, passion, emotion, and even rage--which is a great life force emotion, a sign that something is wrong somewhere.

But what makes me angry in these debates is that those espousing the first group of things often claim the moral high ground. But in moments when great acts of violence are being proposed and perpetuated, responding with only that first group of things is, to my mind, unethical and inadequate.

It's a weakened, watered down form of spirituality that is not effective either spiritually or politically. It's unethical because what we DON'T resist definitely persists--and spreads all over the place. Imagine if there was no resistance to Bush's policies, no marches, no demonstrations, no protests---we'd already be nuking Iraq back to the stone age. In fact, over the last ten years when there has been very minimal resistance, sanctions have caused the death of over half a million Iraqi children--many from the cancer caused by our depleted uranium.

And no, I don't think it's adequate or appropriate or terribly useful to respond to this only by praying or meditating or beaming love at world leaders who already are getting more than enough attention. I think an honest, ethical, and spiritual response that includes the whole spectrum of spiritual energies MUST involve a loud and public saying NO! and our rage, our anger, our passion, our outrage as well as our vision for what we want.

Without that loud NO! the system is not getting the feedback it needs to get reset back on a saner course. If you have a car about to run over a cliff, you can't save it simply by showing it a better route--you first have to stop it from continuing in the direction it's going. NO is sometimes necessary and life affirming.

And 'peace' can be a code word for 'I want all those other bad people to go away and disappear and stop making uncomfortable demands.' When I got back from Palestine, I almost couldn't use the word because I'd heard so many people claiming they were for 'peace' when what they meant was, "I want the problem--and by extension, the Palestinians--to disappear so I don't have to feel endangered or uncomfortable or guilty any longer."

If our spiritual tools of prayer and meditation and energy work are powerful, they are most powerful in the midst of the 'No'--in the protest, in the actions, at the point of confrontation when people need someone there who can embody faith and nonviolence and love in the midst of battle. If we use them as an excuse to stay silent in the face of great injustice, to stay safe when others are taking risks for justice, to avoid conflict when conflict is necessary, we diminish ourselves and the spirit and collude with the violence.

Love, Starhawk




Philip Berrigan, 1923-2002

Reinventing Resistance, One Break-in at a Time

By Judith Mahoney Pasternak
Jan/Feb 2003, Nonviolent Activist

He once said he wanted “to die in the trenches, not on the beach.” He came closer than most do to getting his wish: Philip F. Berrigan, the former priest who helped originate the Plowshares movement against weapons of mass destruction, died December 6, less than a year since the end of his last prison term. He was 79.

Philip Berrigan and Liz McAlister in Portland, ME, on the occasion of his sentencing for his last Plowshares action. Photo Roger Leisner /Radio Free Maine

The metaphor — “the trenches, not the beach” — was rather martial for a pacifist, but it fit the man. Philip Berrigan was among the most militant of U.S. peacemakers, an activist who spent some 11 years in prison for multiple acts of extreme nonviolent resistance committed over a span of 32 years. A radical’s radical, Berrigan defied not only the state, but the church, as undeterred by excommunication as he had been by prison; he then went on to challenge the conventions of the very movement he was part of.

Along with comrades including his brother, the equally radical poet-priest Daniel Berrigan, Philip Berrigan engaged in new forms of protest not once, but (at least) twice. During the Vietnam War, the Berrigan brothers were among the “Baltimore Four” and the “Catonsville Nine” who destroyed draft files instead of draft cards. More than a decade later, they and six others broke into a General Electric nuclear missile plant, dented nose cones with hammers and poured blood—their own—onto the deadly weapons in the service of fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy that one day humanity will “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

Resistance was bred in the Berrigans’ bones. Born in Two Harbors, MN, in 1923, Philip Berrigan was the last of the six sons of German immigrant Frida Fromhart Berrigan and railroad engineer, labor organizer and radical Thomas F. Berrigan. The family moved to Syracuse, NY, in Philip’s childhood, and he went to school there and played semiprofessional baseball before being drafted in 1943.

Basic training in Georgia honed his consciousness of racial injustice in his homeland; combat in Europe gave him his lifelong opposition to violence (although he came out of the war a second lieutenant). His older brother Daniel had joined the Jesuits at 21 and been ordained in 1952; some combination of those experiences led Philip to ordination as a Josephite priest in 1955.

From the beginning, his clerical career was turbulent. No matter where the church sent him—to the poverty-stricken Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, DC, to an all-Black high school in New Orleans, to another poor community in Baltimore—and over the hierarchy’s increasing objections, he inveighed against poverty, segregation and injustice: In 1962, he published the first of many books, The Catholic Church and the Negro.

He didn’t stop with criticizing social ills; he resisted them. He was arrested for the first time during a civil rights demonstration in Selma, AL, and as the decade wore on, he joined the growing opposition to the escalating war in Vietnam. In the mid-’60s he founded a Peace Mission in Baltimore, the city that had become his home and would be for the rest of his life. In 1966, he joined pickets in front of the homes of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

Sabotaging the Draft

But protest, whether in print or on the streets, didn’t appear to be stopping the war; on the contrary, its scope and impact were widening. U.S. soldiers were dying by the thousands, Vietnamese by the tens of thousands. Some of the nation’s youth were advocating armed resistance, and the Berrigans, ever committed to unarmed resistance, nevertheless felt the need to go further than they had up until then.

On October 17, 1967, Phil and Dan and their friends Tom Lewis and Dave Eberhardt (the “Baltimore Four”) committed the first of what became a series of daring break-ins, entering the Baltimore Selective Service office and pouring their own blood on a number of draft files. Exactly seven months later, on May 17, 1968, the “Catonsville Nine”—Phil, Dan and Tom Lewis, along with their associates David Darst, Thomas Melville, Marjorie Melville, Mary Moylan, George Mische and John Hogan—walked into the Selective Service office in nearby Catonsville, MD, seized some files, carried them out into the parking lot and burned them with a home-made version of napalm, the jellied gasoline that was being used to such deadly effect in Vietnam. Phil, Dan and Tom were in the middle of their trial for the Baltimore action.

The Baltimore Four and the Catonsville Nine were convicted. Phil and Dan received concurrent three-and-a-half- and six-year prison sentences. But the system moved slowly; it was not until the spring of 1970 that the sentences were due to take effect, and by that time, Phil had published another book, A Punishment for Peace, and committed yet another kind of disobedience: He had fallen in love with, and secretly married, a nun, Elizabeth McAlister.

In the spring of 1970, the brothers decided not to cooperate with the sentences and went underground, but were soon captured—Phil in April, Dan in August. They had become famous as symbols of the nation’s opposition to the war; in 1971, they appeared on the cover of Time Magazine.

While in prison, Phil corresponded with Liz through an intermediary to elude the prison censors, but the ploy failed, and the letters were read. The authorities weren’t interested in his love life, but the political content resulted in yet another trial, this time for conspiracy to commit various acts of illegal resistance including kidnaping Henry Kissinger. That trial, in 1972, resulted in one of Phil’s few acquittals.

Upon Phil’s parole in 1973, he and Liz were married in a formal ceremony; the church responded by excommunicating both of them. They settled in Baltimore, founded the intentional community Jonah House and began constructing what was, for them, a normal domestic life: They wrote, organized and had children—Frida in 1974, Jerry in 1975 and Kate in 1981.

Nose Cones into Plowshares

But before Kate’s birth, Phil and Dan had come up with their second innovation in resistance. In September of 1980, the “Plowshares Eight” (the Berrigan brothers, WRL’s Elmer Maas, Dean Hammer, Father Carl Kabat, Sister Anne Montgomery, Molly Rush and John Schuchardt) entered the General Electric plant in King of Prussia, PA, and symbolically disarmed two nose cones—beating them, they said, into plowshares. At their trial, the eight attempted to introduce a “necessity” defense, arguing that the action was necessary to save lives. The judge told them, “Nuclear warfare is not on trial here; you are.” He sentenced the eight to prison terms of five to 10 years. (The sentences were later reduced on appeal.)

The Plowshares concept had critics within the peace movement as well as outside of it. There are pacifists who believe that the destruction of property—even such property as nuclear weapons—is not nonviolent. Plowshares activists, on the other hand, urge that such weapons ought not to exist in the first place. Over the two decades after the symbolic disarmament in King of Prussia, Phil Berrigan would engage in five more Plowshares actions and serve a total of 11 years in prison; Liz participated in one in 1983 and served 26 months.

Between prison sentences, they published more books, including Phil’s Whereupon to Stand: The Acts of the Apostles and Ourselves in 1993; his and Liz’ The Time’s Discipline: The Beatitudes and Nuclear Resistance the same year; Phil’s autobiography, Fighting the Lamb’s War, in 1996.

In 1999, Phil participated in the Plowshares vs. Depleted Uranium action in Middle River, MD. The next year, at the age of 76, he was convicted of malicious destruction of property and conspiracy to maliciously destroy property. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

It was his last Plowshares action. Four months after his final release from prison in December, 2001, he broke his left arm in a fall, and his health began to fail. In October of last year he was diagnosed with cancer of the liver. He died two months later, as he had lived: surrounded by friends, family and comrades, talking peace and politics to the last. His family rode to his funeral in the pickup truck that carried the casket, with hundreds of people carrying peace signs and flowers following on foot behind it. His daughters Frida and Kate delivered the eulogy. To date, some 175 people across the globe have committed about 80 Plowshares actions.

Longtime journalist and writer Judith Mahoney Pasternak is the editor of the Nonviolent Activist.

War Resisters League



Commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gandhi's influence on King

Placido P. D'Souza
Monday, January 20, 2003

In a world racked by terrorism and violence, it is appropriate that we commemorate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of love and nonviolence.

It is also fitting that while remembering his relentless fight for equality and justice, we mull the wellsprings of his philosophy that changed the face of this nation.

Initially, King believed that becoming a minister of the church would be the best way to lead his people to equality and freedom.

During a period of soul-searching, he had, in his words, "despaired of the power of love in solving social problems." At this point, he was coincidentally introduced to the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi in a sermon by Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University, who had just returned from a trip to India.

King was so moved that he immediately bought a number of books on the Indian nationalist leader. He read with fascination of the life of one who had successfully transformed the ethic of nonviolence into a political instrument against British colonial rule.

The impact they made on him is best described in his own words: "As I read, I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform."

"The 'turn-the-other-cheek' philosophy and the 'love-your-enemies' philosophy," he went on, "were only valid when individuals were in conflict with other individuals; when racial groups and nations were in conflict, a more realistic approach seemed necessary. But after reading Gandhi, I saw how utterly mistaken I was."

King came to realize that Gandhi was the first person in history to re- invent the Christian ethic of love as a "a potent instrument for social and collective transformation." It was a short journey thereafter to unreserved acceptance of the Gandhian technique of nonviolence as the only viable means to overcome the problems faced by his people.

After completion of his theological studies, it was once again by chance that King had his first opportunity to test his newfound theories of love and nonviolence. Following the well-known Montgomery bus incident -- in which Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man -- King helped organize within 24 hours a complete boycott of the buses, which lasted for more than a year until, on Nov. 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional, vindicating his cause --and more important, the philosophy behind it.

"The experience in Montgomery," he was to explain later, "did more to clarify my thinking in regard to the question of nonviolence than all the books I had read. Nonviolence became more than a method to which I gave intellectual assent; it became a commitment to a way of life."

The Montgomery campaign had not only united his people but also stirred the conscience of the country. From then on, the civil rights movement gained momentum under his leadership, leading from one victory to another.

King was to explain later the rationale and evolution of his thinking. "It was the Sermon on the Mount, rather than a doctrine of passive resistance, that initially inspired the Negroes of Montgomery to dignified social action -- (and) to protest with the creative weapon of love."

He added: "As the days unfolded, however, the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence, was one of the most potent weapons available to the Negro in his struggle for freedom."

Today, freedom remains in peril in many parts of the world. The anniversary of King's birth is an occasion to reflect on the seemingly impossible challenges he faced in his time, and whether our current condition can be alleviated by adapting his philosophy.

Placido P. D'Souza is a former ambassador from India now working as a visiting journalist in the East Bay.


"I would say that I'm a nonviolent soldier. In place of weapons of violence, you have to use your mind, your heart, your sense of humor, every faculty available to you....”
                                                                                                                                           --Joan Baez










Nigerian women on the move!



Ijaw vs. Chevron: Women to the rescue

Mike Oduniyi
This Day

Lagos, Nigeria, August 2, 2002

When dialogue fails, parties resort to war. This is the situation that Chevron Nigeria Limited has suddenly found itself in as Itsekiri and Ijaw women of the Niger Delta have openly declared war on the American oil company.

The setting looked like one that was masterly scripted by Hollywood producers/directors. Only that this was for real. The scene was the river-rine area of the oil-producing Niger Delta region. The actors were Ijaw women, 'directed' by stern looking ten women-leaders.

As night fell on Monday July 15, the women had six speedboats and carefully anchored them in readiness for an undisclosed mission.

Woman climbs over fence of Chevron's Abiteye facility

At the dawn of the next day (Tuesday July 16) the women numbered 1,500 and drawn from ten Ijaw communities of the Gbaramatu and Egbema Kingdoms, filed out in groups for a trip that was to set a new dawn in relationship between oil producing companies and their host communities.

For about two hours later, they stormed four oil flowstations namely, Abiteye, Maraba/Otunana, Dibi and Olero Creek, operated by Chevron on behalf of the NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture. Thus began the drama that would last for 11 days.

"There was no warning signals from the women to anyone, not even the paramount rulers, community leaders or opinion leaders", said Chief Wellington Okirika, the traditional Prime Minister of the Gbaramatu Kingdom.

Indeed as THISDAY checks revealed, co-ordinating the invasion of the flowstation had been one that was carefully marshalled by four of the Ijaw women leaders, Chief (Mrs) Josephine Ogoba, Mrs Esther Bubor, Madam Fanti Wariyai and Madam Mary Olaye, who used the Global System Mobile telephone (GSM) to their fullest advantage.

According to Madam Wariyai, the women decided not to inform anyone, not even their leaders for fear of 'sabotage'.

On the flowstations, the women distributed themselves into groups of 400 on each flowstation handed by a 'Platoon Commander', wherein they then ordered all oil workers and security details to vacate the facility. Perhaps, giving credence to the imense power of women, the officials heeded their command without any opposition.

Thus, a total of 110,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil was shut in, resulting in huge loss of income for Chevron and Nigeria.


Nigerian women end protests at ChevronTexaco facilities

July 26, 2002
By D'Arcy Doran, Associated Press Writer

LAGOS, Nigeria — Village women chanted jubilantly Thursday as they ended their weeklong occupation of a series of ChevronTexaco oil pipeline stations in exchange for jobs, a micro-credit plan, schools and hospitals.

Hundreds of women left the captured flowstations in canoes and on foot after protest leaders signed an agreement with company executives late Wednesday, both sides said.

"History has been made," said Esther Tolar, a spokeswoman for the protesters. "Our culture is a patriarchal society. For women to come out like this and achieve what we have is out of the ordinary."

Environmental News Network


Hands up or we strip!

Six hundred Nigerian women held a US oil giant to ransom armed with a simple weapon - the threat of taking all their clothes off. And it worked. Tania Branigan and John Vidal explain.

Monday July 22, 2002

The Guardian


Nigerian Women End ChevronTexaco Protest

Feminist Daily News Wire
July 15, 2002

After more than eight days of protest, 600 unarmed Nigerian women who took over ChevronTexaco’s Escravos oil terminal agreed today to end their siege after the company offered to hire at least 25 villagers and to build schools, electrical and water systems. Early last week, the women occupied the terminal and held 700 workers inside to demand that the corporation provide their oil-rich community with jobs and infrastructure development. The women plan to wait until the verbal agreement is put in writing and signed before they withdraw from the facility in southeastern Nigeria.

The protest — organized by women between 30 and 90 years of age — has been peaceful. As a show of “good faith,” the women released 200 workers on Sunday. However, they have threatened nudity, a tribal shaming gesture against ChevronTexaco and its workers, if their demands go unmet.

Feminist Majority Foundation


Nigerian women's protests spreading!

Another women's protest rocks Chevron

Onwuka Nzeshi
Warri, Nigeria 7/31/02

The spate of communal protests directed against Chevron Nigeria Limited shifted yesterday to Ekpan, near Warri in Delta State, as a multitude of women sealed up the operational base of the oil conglomerate demanding for jobs for the people of the community.

Over a thousand women defied the early morning heavy downpour to take part in the protest that saw them barricading the gates of the company.

The Ekpan women had actually issued an ultimatum to Chevron last week, threatening to storm the company's base located along the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) Expressway, Warri, if it failed to meet a set of demands. The ultimatum expired on Monday.


Hundreds of Ijaw women protest inside a fuel station in Abiteye
(AP Photo/Saurabh Das)












We are either going to have a democracy...

David Glick
excerpt from a speech given 12/21/02

We are either going to have a democracy in this country or an imperial presidency rushing headlong down the path of global domination.

And unless we ordinary people mobilize to stop this rush toward war and the undermining of our constitutional rights, the generations to follow will judge us harshly for our failure. History will record that the tragedy of our age was not only the aggression and violence of those who would wage war for the prize of oil, but the silence and apathy of us good people who lacked the courage to speak out and stand up to this administration hellbent on plunging the world into darkness.

We are here tonight to light a candle against the darkness. To cry out, "Not in our name!" But that alone is not enough. Spirituality alone, without political activism, is lame. And political activism without spirituality is blind. We must yoke the two into a powerful movement of conscience and commitment to create a world of love and caring, of peace and freedom, of economic justice and reverence for our sacred Earth.

David Glick is a psychotherapist living in Fairfax, California, and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, the Social Justice Center of Marin and the Marin Peace and Justice Coalition.













Beyond the Onion of Blame

Parallel Sovereignty for Palestine/Israel

by Deb Reich

If you are a decision-maker or opinion-molder in a position to act on the creative idea presented here, you are earnestly urged to read on. Nine million desperate Palestinians and Israelis will thank you for taking the time. The paper introduces a concept called "parallel sovereignty"--an innovative ultramodern paradigm for resolving the longstanding sociopolitical impasse in Israel/Palestine. Oslo advocates may find it attractive because it could be termed a "post- quantum-physics two-state solution," and Oslo opponents may find it attractive because in this scenario, believe it or not, Greater Israel and Greater Palestine both emerge intact.

* * *

The conflict between Palestine and Israel, between Arab and Jew, goes back a very long way--over a hundred years in its present form (and a lot longer, if you go back to Sarah, Hagar and Abraham).

In our time, at least, all the usual approaches to resolving this conflict share one basic dynamic: Let us call it "peeling the onion of blame." We take the conflict in its most current incarnation and peel away a layer, looking for who is to blame, and why and how--and as the first layer of the onion is peeled away, we are all weeping, because the facts are tragic, our situation is tragic, and the history of this conflict is a history of tragedy.

When that first layer has been peeled away, someone who doesn't like the answer that has just emerged, and who feels that the finger of blame should be pointed elsewhere, goes ahead and peels away another layer, and someone else peels another, and so on. Some of the best minds on both sides of the aisle are engaged full-time in this dead-end endeavor. Meanwhile, more innocents have been killed and injured, more youngsters turned into killing machines, more lives and more families blighted, and there's no resolution in sight. And we continue to weep.

Indeed the end of each such exercise is that, when all the layers are peeled away, and blame has been cast in every direction, and an ocean of tears has been wept, the conflict is still not resolved--but of the onion, and all our efforts, all that remains is compost.

Only an entirely new approach that embraces a new conceptual framework, a fundamentally different perspective, can possibly bring a long-term resolution. Conceptually, the new approach, if it is to be effective, cannot revolve around apportioning blame. If we want to get anywhere worthwhile, we have to let go of the onion of blame. Let us agree that we are all to blame, or that none of us is really to blame, and move on.


All rational Israelis and Palestinians and outside observers decry the present situation (October 2002) of mutual bloodshed, economic collapse, and the implosion of both societies. Leaders are sticking stubbornly with their present course because they don't know of any better option (or, in the worst case, because the current brutal path suits their ultimate objectives in some way). The people have stuck with their present leaders only because they don't know where to find any better ones. Nobody seems to have a clue how to get out of the impasse. Most analyses simply rehash, with greater or lesser eloquence and increasing desperation, the same tired old arguments that have not proven effective in the past and are unlikely to do so in the future. The familiar two-state (Oslo) solution has become like the proverbial water to which the thirsty horse can be led, but which he cannot be made to drink.

What's needed right now

At a minimum, what's needed immediately is either better leadership or a better plan (or both). A better plan is the more urgent, because if there's a persuasive vision of a better path to follow, leadership will galvanize around its electoral value--whereas replacing the leadership will not automatically produce better options.

A profile of the dynamic of change required

Look to the essential unity among the sane, rational majority on both sides. The moderate rational public (both Palestinians and Israelis) are actually all on the same side in this game--i.e., in favor of a rational, reasonable solution and against winner-take-all, coercive non-solutions. Many people already realize this, though the media tend to ignore them; and the momentum will snowball, given the right catalyst.

Harness youthful energy. The process of revisioning our future requires participation by young people in as visible and massive a way as possible, because they can make or break the process and they are now very radicalized and confused and angry (on both sides). Let them help to fashion a more constructive future for themselves by providing an option that speaks in a language young people can embrace.

Provide a charismatic, marketable, intellectually solid alternative. It's still not too late... if we can offer an interesting new alternative that gets the ball rolling again, an idea that stimulates discussion and gets people moving together in a creative new direction. This new alternative should be simple, vivid, and highly "marketable"; it should "re-brand" the idea of peace, so to speak, yet be based on respectable intellectual foundations.

Potential problems (to be avoided)

Certain obvious pitfalls must be carefully avoided:

A religious veto: Avoid a program that religiously observant people cannot sign on for. Make sure the basic conception is religiously acceptable, and bring religious figures on board early.

Political brain death: Avoid a program that blames a specific political party, sector, or constituency for the current mess, or that deals them out of the solution. We are all responsible for having got to where we are now. As for the future, "peace" and "security" and "national honor" are no one's exclusive property; they belong to everyone.

Moral collapse: The program must unequivocally put its foot down, once and for all: No more grabbing of what belongs to others; no excuses. No more killing and mayhem; no excuses. (Nearly everyone will agree to this if the process gets cooking well enough; the tiny minority of true fanatics on both sides will then be increasingly isolated.)


Human beings are patterning organisms. Cultures are collectively patterned entities. Hostilities like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are complex, evolved, dysfunctional patterns. Re-patterning on such a profound cultural level typically takes a very long time. Arguably, however, the process can be short-circuited; chaos theory, for example, supports this possibility.

Harnessing the dynamic for a sudden and rapid repatterning requires (a) a visionary new idea which, by definition, will be totally unfamiliar and which therefore, initially at least, may be hard to grasp and may appear unworkable, and (b) some way to help people plug the strange new idea into their existing conceptual grasp of reality so as to make it less fearsome and easier to get a grip on: one simple, persuasive analogy will do.

The visionary idea

The land of Israel/Palestine is actually two parallel kingdoms, so to speak, in one territory. Instead of repeatedly attempting to divide that territory in a way that satisfies no one, why not multiply the territory into two simultaneous parallel (virtual) sovereignties, both with precisely the same boundaries, neither entity to be more legitimate than the other? Let each side "win" what is dearest to its heart, but not at the expense of the other side.

Greater Israel and Greater Palestine will thus exist simultaneously, with identical boundaries, on the identical territory--in parallel.

How to plug the new idea into our present worldview

Take the Microsoft Windows TM environment as an analogy: With many programs open at once on the same personal computer, none of them is any more valid than any other, and the one in the forefront at any given time is determined by what the user desires to accomplish at that point. (The old transparent overlay maps that some of us used in school half a century ago were based on the same idea, with a simpler technology.)

Any psychologist will agree that quality of life--our subjective, experiential reality--is determined largely by a process of selective attention. Dr. Richard Merrill Haney, a Canadian psychologist, has gone farther, positing a holographic, multiple-realities conception of the human psyche as a spectrum (in contrast to the relatively rigid, dichotomous Freudian model of a conscious and an unconscious, period): While the old model of the psyche is more like a typewriter (on/off), Haney's conception is more like Windows on a PC, or a multiplex theater. This same evolving impulse is animating new thinking in many disciplines, and the old "my way, or not at all" is giving ground before a much more flexible, postmodern approach. What the new paradigm proposed herein seeks to do is to take this evolving perspective and apply it in a field with unique challenges: geopolitics.

Who says it has to be the way it's always been?

Nowhere is it written that there must necessarily be a 1:1 ratio between a given sovereign nation and a given land area. It's a longstanding assumption, but it's not a law of nature. If we so choose, we can dispense with "exclusive sovereignty" in favor of "non-exclusive sovereignty" or "parallel sovereignty." Physicists have speculated for half a century about the existence of parallel universes (the first published reference to the idea in the literature of physics goes back to the 1950s); meanwhile, in terms of how people subjectively view the world, parallel universes clearly exist. (Ask any Israeli what this place is and be told: Israel; ask any Palestinian and be told: Palestine.) Rather than struggling to unify the two by force, or amputate various parts and expect the people concerned to like it, let us simply acknowledge the existence of the two realities. Let them exist in parallel, on a basis of absolute formal equality, creating massive new synergies.

In this new paradigm, each of the parallel nations of Israel/Palestine will have its own flag, anthem, government, institutions, tax structure, membership in the United Nations, etc. Military questions are in a class by themselves, and will not be easy to resolve, but the first principle is that the armed forces must be clearly subordinate to civil authority. Decisions that affect foreign entities (treaty regimes, etc.) will be coordinated between the two nations.

Consider the advantages

One supreme advantage of the idea is that, having adopted it, reasonable and moderate people from each of the two warring nations can thereafter think of themselves as being on the same side, in the framework of this novel and creative solution. Another advantage is that the mirror-image symmetry in legitimacy puts Palestinians and Israelis on a truly equal footing for the first time: My stature is only as tall as yours and vice versa; the incentive to score at the other's expense is dramatically reduced. A further advantage is that the claims of classical religious sources are not rudely contradicted, but rather courteously and respectfully outflanked: Who would dare imply that the prophets of old, had they been alive today and given the opportunity to learn what contemporary physics is learning about the world, would have failed to welcome the great goodness that the parallel universes concept bestows on all the people of this region?

All these advantages greatly simplify the task of addressing the admittedly thorny practical problems on the ground.

Use teamwork to address all practical issues on the agenda

Concrete issues on the ground will be resolved by multidisciplinary, mixed Jewish-Arab (perhaps multinational) teams of professionals. Who will live in such-and-such a house in Jaffa for which a Jewish family holds a registered deed while a Palestinian family still has the key to the old front door from 1948? How will refugee families be compensated? How will unequal access to resources between Jewish and Arab citizens of Palestine/Israel be redressed? How will manifestly illegal land grabs be rolled back, and how far? Who will determine what "manifestly illegal" is? How can a general amnesty be organized and declared, enabling people to put down their weapons once and for all, with the release of all political prisoners? Should there be a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the South African model?

And finally, how will the new paradigm affect the people who don't fit into the obvious major categories (e.g., the 1.1 million Palestinian- Arab citizens of the present State of Israel; other ethnic/linguistic/religious minority citizens and residents seeking secure and equal status; Israelis currently living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza)? Some people may prefer dual citizenship. Meanwhile, how can the very substantial claims of the Palestinian Diaspora be addressed respectfully and comprehensively, so as to build new and more positive outcomes? How can the status of Jerusalem be addressed, not in terms of who owns it or controls it (for a change), but rather in terms of what's best for the city, its residents, its pilgrims, and its many stakeholders around the world?

If you reread the foregoing paragraph, you will notice a complete absence of incendiary buzzwords (Zionist, right of return, racism, colonialism, terrorism, shaheed, etc.) that long ago lost all utility except the power to strike fear into the hearts of the listeners from the other camp. This should be sufficient to prove that it is indeed possible to pursue a constructive discussion about our future without reference to the lexicon of instant mutual alienation and mistrust.

Why not try it?

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians are searching desperately for a way out of the present bloody impasse. A parallel sovereignty model may offer one. Even just a lively public discussion of the merits of the idea can demonstrate that there is still an alternative to the terrible suffering the two sides have been inflicting on themselves and on one another for lack of a clear way out.

As an added bonus, the idea itself almost mandates a certain profile of the leaders who would be fit to implement it in practice. At a minimum, they should certainly be cyber-literate. Senior military figures should probably be disqualified, for many reasons. Those two criteria together would eliminate most of the present leadership on both sides, which would perhaps be no bad thing.

"If we want to solve a problem that we have never solved before," wrote physicist and Nobel laureate Richard P. Feynman, "we must leave the door to the unknown ajar." Indeed, we must leave it open wide enough for Palestinians and Israelis to walk through it together into a better future. If we get started right away, commentaries like this one that are written about us ten years hence will laud our courage and imagination, and will employ the word "tragedy" only in reference to the past.

Let whoever is brave enough to step over this threshold together, kindly stand and be counted... now.

Deb Reich is a creative thinker living in Israel/Palestine.
Write to her at
Copyright Deborah Reich 2002. Published 10/30/02 in CounterPunch.







Women March Against War

July 25, 2002

A diverse crowd of more than 20,000 women (4,000 according to Associated Press) came from all over Colombia for a march and rally on July 25 in the capital, Bogotá, to call for active nonviolent resistance against war and demand a negotiated solution to the country’s armed conflict. “We don’t want to bear children for war,” said Popular Women’s Organization (OFP) President Yolanda Becerra. The OFP was one of five national groups or coalitions—representing some 600 organizations from around the country—which convened the National March of Women for Peace; the others were the Peaceful Route of Women (Ruta Pacífica de Mujeres), the Women’s Initiative for Peace, the Women’s Concertation Group (Mesa de Concertación de Mujeres) and the National Women’s Network.

“We women from various initiatives have decided to put all our political determination and effort into pressuring for the emergence of a new negotiation process that includes ethnic groups, races, genders, generations, professions from all the social classes and religions, those who live in the country and in the cities; that is, a process that includes the diverse country that we are,” said Patricia Buriticá, a spokesperson for the Women’s Initiative for Peace and a member of the march organizing committee. The marchers rejected a proposal by President-elect Alvaro Uribe Vélez to arm a million civilians to act as a sort of auxiliary military force. Participants also pledged to pay no taxes for war. (El Espectador (Bogotá) 7/26/02; La Jornada (Mexico) 7/26/02 from AFP; CNN en Español 7/26/02 from AP)

On July 21 thousands of people marched in the Colombian cities of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Barranquilla as part of a day of civil resistance against the violence of illegal armed groups, and in support of the mayors and other public officials who have been threatened with assassination by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) if they don’t resign their posts. The day against violence was organized by eccentric Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus. (LJ 7/22/02 from AFP)

The secretariat of the FARC’s general staff issued a communiqué on July 9 giving its reasons for demanding the resignation of all the country’s local officials, and threatening them with death if they don’t comply. After a lengthy review of the origins of Colombia’s armed conflict, the communiqué explains that the Colombian state has closed off the route of dialogue, and therefore all the country’s provincial, municipal and village officials are being targeted “not because of who they are as people, but rather because they represent the state.” (FARC Communiqué 7/9/02)



Bay activists win in fight to get human rights cases tried in U.S.

Robert Collier
August 11, 2002

Bay Area organizations, backed by high-powered corporate attorneys, are taking the lead in a growing movement that uses U.S. courts to go after abusers of human rights worldwide.

Far from being just a rhetorical exercise, the potential impact of the movement became clear three weeks ago, when the Center for Justice and Accountability, based in San Francisco, won a $54.6 million judgment against two former Salvadoran generals living in Florida.

The ruling in favor of San Francisco high school teacher Carlos Mauricio and two other Salvadorans, who were tortured by security forces during El Salvador's civil war in the early 1980s, was the movement's biggest legal victory to date.

San Francisco Chronicle



The Balance of Power

by Linda O'Brien

Why don't we recognize how much power we have?

By "we" I mean the hundreds of thousands of people in this country who know that the old ways of interacting with the world are not working any more. The people who have ideas, commitment and knowledge to change things and are disgusted with the lack of accountability in this administration and sick at heart at the way killing is routinely proclaimed as a solution to the world's problems.

Our leaders refuse to lead. The most inspiring thing we hear these days is "be very afraid." But we've always waited to be led, every four years choosing someone we expect to define our vision, give substance to ourhopes, and protect us from our fears. "If only we could find a real leader," we're saying now, "we could become a force in this country." We can't wait for that, and we don't need to.

A critical shift happened during the Clinton administration. A collective will gathered against the power of Congress and the mainstream press--against, in effect, all the things that we'd always let make our decisions for us. And without taking to the streets or riots or any use of force, that collective will made the decision for the country. Something happened that hasn't yet caught up with our collective consciousness: we stopped waiting to be led.

Last month I attended a book signing and discussion with environmental activist/author Derrick Jensen sponsored by the Gaea Foundation in Washington, D.C. The discussion facilitator asked us to consider a quote from one of Jensen's books to the effect that he has learned to embrace times of dissonance and confusion, because that is when the seeds of change take root. The talk quickly became about "what is happening in this country." There was a striking degree of agreement on things that haven't been voiced in the mainstream media or Congress. Everyone simply knew, for example, that we're being manipulated by this administration. One person said it, and another picked it up: "And do you get the feeling they're always five steps ahead?" (You know it too, don't you? But how many of the politicians and pundits have told you so?) Our power comes back to us when we claim what we know. Seeds of change are taking root in the wind, really just in the wind, born of individual spirits who aren't needing the old grounds of media sanction or governmental or religious leaders to guide them, are in fact having to stand in opposition to them.

"if we'd gone fully into our grieving after September 11 rather than going to war,
a powerful transformation could have occurred."

The talent, passion and knowledge of true leadership are evident everywhere in the grassroots movements. Just in the group of 20 or so at the Gaea meeting, there were: a white-haired woman who'd spent her life protecting Colorado mountain trails; a 20-year-old man in a business suit who quietly detailed the suffering of Iraqi children as a result of sanctions; an environmentalist with vast experience fighting the government's neglect and abuse of the earth; a Smithsonian researcher who devises creative solutions to conflict; and a young wise woman who pointed out that if we'd gone fully into our grieving after September 11 rather than going to war, a powerful transformation could have occurred. The evening opened my mind to how many such people are among us, and how gifted, how strong, how--powerful.

One of the last to speak at the meeting was a shy young woman who offered hesitantly that she wasn't quite sure what she was trying to say, but (and her voice rose, her head lifted) we're all saying that people are asleep, so it seems that those of us who are awake must speak, must act! We have an obligation! As she found her words and her courage, the power of it multiplied through the group. We despair at the futility of our single raindrop, but forget about the power of rain.

We already are our own leaders. That will become clearer as we set our agenda and define our goals. We can no longer afford not to be organized, not to be a force to be reckoned with. It will help if we identify a common thread among our causes. A demand for accountability--non-negotiable--would work for me. Accountability to the earth; accountability to the people of this country; accountability to the rest of the world.

A pendulum hangs still quivering, waiting for a breath to start it. Breathe.

Linda O'Brien is a freelance writer living in Bethesda, Maryland and welcome comments at

Common Dreams









Victorious campaigns

Six Twentieth Century campaigns for social justice won with strategic nonviolent noncooperation are dramatically depicted in the PBS documentary A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict.

• The 1930 Salt March in western India, led by Mohandas Gandhi, father of nonviolent civil disobedience, challenged the British monopoly and tax on salt. Gandhi led Indians on a 240 mile walk to the ocean to collect salt. It led to a wave of strategic boycotts and noncooperation which undermined British rule and eventually led to India's independence.

• The 1960 Nashville, Tennessee campaign to integrate lunch counters was begun by students at American Baptist College, trained by Rev. James Lawson, Jr. His intensive workshops on non-violent resistance drove the sit-ins and boycotts that ultimately ended segregation in public places. Tactics included sitting at lunch counters in spite of nonservice, doing their homework until proprietors closed shop without earning money, being arrested in waves that choked jail and court facilities.

• The 1985 Port Elizabeth, South Africa boycott of white-owned businesses, led by Mkhuseli Jack, spread throughout the Eastern Cape Province. The devastating consumer boycotts of the next several years by black township residents awakened whites to black Africans' grievances and weakened business support of apartheid, ultimately leading to its defeat.

• The World War II noncooperation of Denmark's citizens during the Nazi occupation undermined Nazi attempts to exploit Denmark for war supplies and labor. In addition to sabotage and tactics such as working at half speed and leaving work early en masse to go home to water their gardens, the Danes' underground resistance saved all but a few hundred of Denmark's 7,000 Jews from the Holocaust.

• The 1980 Gdansk Shipyard strike, headed by Lech Walesa, won Poles the right to organize free trade unions. Before calling the strike and before their would-be isolation by Communist Party cutting of power lines, they alerted workers in other cities, and locked themselves into the shipyard to avoid being provoked and arrested by authorities. It launched the Solidarity movement reaching to 10 million strong which led to the fall of communism in Poland.

• The 1983 national days of protest led by Chilean copper miners showed that public opposition to the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet was possible. Brutally suppressed, opposition forces persisted and eventually removed Pinochet's military government in a 1988 referendum.--For more information, see victories

• The 1955 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott --led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a student of Gandhian nonviolence-- began with a simple act of resistance by Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat to a white man. Following her arrest, forty thousand flyers were distributed throughout the African American community. Churches became rallying points. Once the boycott began, African Americans endured harassment and hostility as they walked, pooled rides, rode bicycles to and from work. They remained steadfast when the homes of Dr. King and E.D. Nixon of the NAACP were bombed. A year later segregation on public buses ended when the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.

• Beginning in 1965, California farm workers --led by Cezar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers union-- engaged the public in a series of boycotts against large growers and gained historic achievements. Among them are: The first union contracts requiring rest periods, clean drinking water, hand washing facilities, protective clothing against pesticide exposure, banning pesticide spraying while workers are in the fields, outlawing dangerous pesticides, and guaranteeing farm workers seniority rights and job security. The first comprehensive union health benefits for farm workers and their families through the UFW's Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan; the first and only performing pension plan for retired farm workers--the Juan de la Cruz Pension Plan, and the first functioning credit union for farm workers. Etc.

For more information, see







Democracy NOW!
June 17, 2002

On the thirtieth anniversary of Watergate, one of the greatest whistleblowers in US history recalls


Daniel Ellsberg, former defense and state department official who revealed the Pentagon Papers 30 years ago. He is author of the book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, forthcoming from Viking press in October.


30 years ago ... on the morning of June 17th, 1972, Washington police answered a call at the Watergate office complex and found five men burglarizing the office of the Democratic National Committee. The burglars had been hired by staff members of the committee to re-elect the President (known as Creep). That was President Richard Nixon. That day was the beginning of the Watergate scandal. Two years later, Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in disgrace.

Ellsberg worked as an analyst at the Department of Defense. He went public with the classified documents known as the Pentagon Papers during that time. The Pentagon Papers were a 7,000-page study of America's 30-year involvement in Indochina that led to the Vietnam War. The Pentagon-commissioned report revealed a massive government cover-up.

After the Times published the classified documents on June 13, 1971, the Nixon Justice Department responded quickly and furiously. Just after the third installment was published, the Justice Department secured a restraining order preventing further installments from being printed. Within two weeks, the Supreme Court ruled that the government had not shown compelling evidence to justify blocking publication.

Ellsberg was charged with espionage, theft and conspiracy for leaking the papers. But the charges against him were eventually dropped by a federal judge, who wrote that a pattern of "gross government misconduct" was so appalling that the administration's retaliatory actions "offend the sense of justice."

Listen to entire program


Interview with Diane Nash
Esly Caldwell III, Staff Writer,
Earlham Word online
Diane Nash, Nashville, Tennessee 1960

Diane Nash was a black student leader in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She participated in student sit-ins and Freedom Rides and was an instrumental member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as well as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

EC: What was your most memorable experience as a student activist?

DN: One was the Selma movement. It was important because my involvement began the day that the four girls were killed in Birmingham, Alabama [Sept. 15, 1963].

Jim Bevel and I were determined not to just let the children be murdered. So that day, we drafted the basic strategy for what became the Selma "Right to Vote" movement and we worked with it until its conclusion and were successful in getting the right to vote in Alabama for blacks.

It was a highlight because it was an experience where we took a very negative, devastating event and caused something good and important to come out of it. The girls getting killed was awful, but what would have been even worse was if some good for a lot of people hadn't come out of it.

It was an experience working from an initial concept to its conclusion. At the end of that Dr. King presented Jim Bevel and me with SCLC's [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] highest award for that year which was the Rosa Parks Award. It was the year 1965.

Another one ... being involved with the nonviolent workshops that Jim Lawson was conducting in Nashville, Tennessee. Jim Lawson had been to India and had studied Gandhi's movement directly. He was also a Conscientious Objector and he had been to federal prison for refusing to go the Korean War. So he was very well versed in the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence.

I went to weekly workshops that he was conducting over a period of months and I got a very good grounding in the philosophy and strategy. It has made just a major difference in my life because I also use the principles that I learned in those workshops in many areas of my life.

You can use nonviolence as a tactic or as a way of life. I was using it as a tactic first but I came to understand it more and more deeply through action and through seeing how successful and powerful it is and I use it [now] as a way of life.

EC: What factors contributed to the decline of student activism?

DN: The people that really control this country went to work.

There were hundreds of thousands of young Americans marching and working to exert appropriate amounts of control over what was done. For young Americans to exert an appropriate amount of control would mean less power for the people who are making the decisions now. And I think that fact did not escape them.

They went to work in a lot of different ways. There was a gigantic public relations campaign in magazines and newspapers that said that being a person who really loved other people and cared about not killing people -- that there was something wrong with that. Being a flower child and a hippie and all these negative things were applied to that. There was a period where they said that young people coming along in the '70s are getting smart. They're more stable. They're interested in being businessmen and making money. So there was a giant p.r. [public relations] campaign.

Drugs were introduced into the society in order to space people out and make them less conscious and less capable of working efficiently and effectively.

A number of assassinations were carried out. People who held great potential for leadership. Malcolm X ... Dr. King ...

Organizations were infiltrated and undermined. There were massive things like wiretaps and opening people's mail.

There was just a tremendous onslaught from people who exert power. Right now, American citizens do not see ourselves as rulers of this country. In a democracy, the people are supposed to rule.

Not many of us have made a decision to deindustrialize the country. We're not the ones deciding to send jobs overseas. We're not the ones deciding to lower the standard of living in this country.

No one's asked me or my parents or grandparents how to distribute housing. We are not making the decisions about national resources.

American citizens had better begin to see themselves as rulers of this country if we are going to have democracy.

The main mistake that people make who want to make social change is that they never get around to actually acting.

EC: What were the major successes and limitations of the movement?

DN: There's no question that we in the movement set goals and reached them.

In Nashville, for example, we set a goal of desegregating six lunch counters and restaurants first. We reached that and we set a goal for six counters and reached that. And interstate bus travel and voting rights and other public accommodations.

Diane Nash, second from right

Public accommodations definitely were desegregated. Getting the extensive conversation about race in the country was achieved. Voting and a marked increase in black elected officials.

Clearly the movement did not achieve many things economically. I have heard a lot of younger people criticize the movement for that. They blame integration for there once having been many black businesses and there now being many fewer.

It's a mistake to expect anyone to accomplish everything. During a given period of time life is really very dynamic. Every individual and every generation is presented with the challenge of creating a better society. So the economic things which we did not achieve, are not because of the movement of the '60s. It's because of so much inaction since. It therefore falls to the people who think that's important to do.

EC: What advice to you have for student activist today?

DN: Notice that the nonviolent strategies were very efficient given the number of people who were injured or killed, and understand that even one injured or killed is serious and far too many. But there were relatively few casualties and a lot was achieved.

People should study how to practice nonviolence. Study what you need to know about the issue you want to change. Doing the best you can in terms of working out a plan of action and then do it.

You are going to make mistakes but when you make a mistake go back to the drawing board and correct it. Trust yourself.

The main mistake that people make who want to make social change is that they never get around to actually acting.



The first comprehensive history of the role of women in the civil rights movement, Freedom's Daughters fills a startling gap in both the literature of civil rights and women's history.

Stokely Carmicheal, Andrew Young, John Lewis, and other well-known leaders of the civil rights movement have admitted that women often had the ideas for which men took credit. In this ground-breaking book, credit finally goes where credit is due--to the bold women who were crucial to the movement's success and who refused to give up the fight. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynn Olson's Freedom's Daughters offers a remarkable corrective to the standard history as she tells the long overlooked story of the extraordinary women, both black and white, who were among the most fearless, resourceful, and tenacious leaders of the civil rights movement.


Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie talks about registering to vote

Fannie Lou Hamer
(excerpts from God's Long Summer -- Stories of Faith and Civil Rights by Charles Marsh)

Rough times would not end with the coming of warm weather. In the summer of 1963, Mrs. Hamer was invited by Annelle Ponder, the SCLC field secretary in the Delta town of Greenwood, to attend the organization's citizenship school in South Carolina. Seven black Mississippians were chosen for the long bus ride to Charleston, where they were led by well-known civil rights activist Septima Clark in training sessions on voter registration. A week later, on June 9, near the end of the all-night ride home from South Carolina, the Continental Trailwaysbus stopped in Winona, Mississippi. When members of the group sat down at the lunch counter and asked to be served, several Winona policemen and highway patrolmen entered the station and forced them to leave. (As in much of the South, town officials had not accepted the ruling of the Interstate Commerce Commission outlawing segregated transportation facilities.) Once outside, Annelle Ponder made a point of writing down the license number of one of the patrol cars, so infuriating a police officer that he began arresting everyone in sight. Mrs. Hamer had returned to the bus because her left leg, disfigured from polio as a child, was sore from the strenuous week. But when she saw the officers herding her companions into police cars, she came out and asked Ponder what the folks left on the bus should do. Should they drive on to Greenwood or wait at the station? Before her friend could answer, an officer in one of the police cars noticed Mrs. Hamer and shouted to a colleague, "Get that one there, bring her on down in the other car!" Mrs. Hamer was then shoved into the back seat, kicked in the thigh, and cursed repeatedly on the drive to the jail. "They carried us on to the county jail. It wasn't the city jail, [but] the county jail, so we could be far enough out. [They] didn't care how loud we hollered, wasn't nobody gon' hear us.... When we got to the jail they started beatin' the man--his name was James West--and they put us in cells, two to a cell, and I could hear all this hollerin' and goin' on. Then they took Miss Ponder. I could hear these awful sounds and licks and screams, hear her body hit the concrete, and this man was yellin', `Cain't you say yes sir, you nigger bitch?'"

Each time that Annelle Ponder refused to say "yes sir" to the police officers, the swing of the blackjack was harder. Mrs. Hamer heard the sounds from her cell down the hall. "She kept screamin', and they kept beatin' on her, and finally she started prayin' for 'em, and she asked God to have mercy on 'em, because they didn't know what they was doin'.... I don't know how long it lasted before I saw Annelle Ponder passing the cell with both her hands up. Her eyes looked like blood, and her mouth was swollen. Her clothes were torn. It was horrifying."

June Johnson, a fifteen-year-old black teenager who had attended the voter registration workshop, was the next person led by Mrs. Hamer's cell in this grim parade of tortured bodies. "The blood was runnin' down in her face, and they put her in another cell." In the booking room, whence Johnson was coming, the sheriff had pulled the young girl aside for his own personal whipping. He asked her whether she was a member of the NAACP. She told him yes. Then he hit her on the cheek and chin, and when she raised her arms to protect herself, he hit her on the stomach. He continued to ask her questions about the NAACP--"who runs that thing?" "do you know Martin Luther King?" Soon the four men in the room--the sheriff, the chief of police, the highway patrolman, and another white man--threw Johnson onto the floor, beat her, and stomped on her body in concert. The men ripped Johnson's dress and tore her slip off; blood soaked her tattered clothes.

The men came next for Mrs. Hamer. "Get up from there, fatso," one of the policemen barked. When the officers confirmed that this was Fannie Lou Hamer from Ruleville--the same woman stirring up trouble in the Delta--they began to revile her with insulting words. "I have never heard that many names called a human in my life," she said later. "You, bitch, we gon' make you wish you was dead," an officer said, as he brought two black inmates into the bullpen to carry out his ghastly design for torture. Mrs. Hamer asked them, "You mean you would do this to your own race?" But an officer quickly warned the men, "If you don't beat her, you know what we'll do to you." Mrs. Hamer recalled, "So they had me lay down on my face, and they beat with a thick leather thing that was wide. And it had sumpin' in it heavy. I don't know what that was, rocks or lead. But everytime they hit me, I got just as hard, and I put my hands behind my back, and they beat me in my hands 'til my hands ... was as navy blue as anything you ever seen." She tried to put her hands over the leg that was damaged from polio, but this only made her hands vulnerable to the beating. When the first inmate grew exhausted, the blackjack was passed to the second inmate. "That's when I started screaming and working my feet `cause I couldn't help it." One of the white officers became so enraged when he heard Mrs. Hamer's cries that "he just run there and started hittin' me on the back of my head." The torture became more brutal. "I remember I tried to smooth my dress which was working up from all the beating. One of the white officers pushed my dress up. I was screaming and going on--and the young officer with the crew cut began to beat me about [the] head and told me to stop my screaming. I then began to bury my head in the mattress and hugged it to kill out the sound of my screams." By the end, the flesh of her beaten body was hard, one of her kidneys was permanently damaged, and a blood clot that formed over her left eye threatened her vision. "They finally told me to get up, and I just couldn't hardly get up, and they kept on tellin' me to get up. I finally could get up, but when I got back to my cell bed, I couldn't set down. I would scream. It hurted me to set down." Back in her dark cell, Mrs. Hamer was left alone to bear the physical and spiritual effects of torture.


But then the next day something happened that slowly transformed the killing despair of the jail and dispersed the power of death. "When you're in a brick cell, locked up, and haven't done anything to anybody but still you're locked up there, well sometimes words just begin to come to you and you begin to sing," she said. Song broke free. Mrs. Hamer sang:

Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer and other members of the MFDP delegation in Atlantic City

Fannie Lou Hamer sings

Paul and Silas was bound in jail, let my people go.
Had no money for to go their bail, let my people go.
Paul and Silas began to shout, let my people go.
Jail doors open and they walked out, let my people go.

"Singing brings out the soul," she said. And at Winona, singing brought out the soul of the black struggle for freedom, for Mrs. Hamer did not sing alone. Sitting in their cells down the hall, June Johnson, Annelle Ponder, Euvester Simpson, and Lawrence Guyot joined her in song. Church broke out, empowering them to "stay on `the Gospel train' until it reaches the Kingdom."

Mrs. Hamer "really suffered in that jail from that beating," June Johnson said. The physical and psychological effects of Winona stayed with her for a long time--she almost never talked about her life without talking about Winona. Even so, her songs of freedom gave voice to her suffering and the suffering she shared with her friends. Their singing did not remove their suffering or the particularities of their humiliation; rather, it embraced the suffering, named it, and emplotted it in a cosmic story of hope and deliverance. At first tentatively, and then with growing confidence, their song floated freely throughout the jail, exploding the death grip of the cell. "Jail doors open and they walked out, let my people go." Despair turned into a steady resoluteness to keep on going. A miracle happened. And at least for Mrs. Hamer, a peaceable composure, incomprehensible apart from a deep river of faith, transformed not only her diminished self-perception but the perception of her torturers. She said astonishingly, "It wouldn't solve any problem for me to hate whites just because they hate me. Oh, there's so much hate, only God has kept the Negro sane."


In the short term, nothing changed as a result of her beating and incarceration. The cases brought by the Justice Department against the City of Winona would come to a dismal end. June Johnson explained, "They picked an all-white jury to try the policemen, and there were lots of white students from Ole Miss in the courtroom with Confederate flags." Both civil and criminal charges filed by the Justice Department were decided in favor of local law officials. The defendants--the City of Winona in the civil suit, and officers Patridge, Herrod, Surrell, Basinger and Perkins in the criminal suit--were found not guilty. But even more disheartening news awaited Mrs. Hamer and her friends when they were released on the afternoon of June 12. They learned that civil rights leader Medgar Evers had been gunned down the night before in front of his own home--just seconds after his wife Myrlie and their three children had walked out into their carport to welcome home the weary traveler. The news of the murder was heavily felt. Evers stood as the animating center of the burgeoning Jackson movement, leading sit-ins and church visits, and organizing a wide range of strategic attacks on the city's segregated institutions. More than ever it seemed that the call to freedom was a call that might very well lead to death.

The torture left Mrs. Hamer in considerable pain. "I wouldn't let my husband see me for a month, I was in such bad shape." In fact, after her release from jail, she stayed away from her family for six or seven weeks, traveling back and forth to Atlanta, Washington, and New York. Nonetheless, Mrs. Hamer emerged, as the ancient Christian theologian Athanasius wrote of Antony after his years in desert isolation, "with utter equilibrium, like one guided by reason and steadfast in that which accords with nature." Or as she explained with an earthier candor, "If them crackers in Winona thought they'd discouraged me from fighting, I guess they found out different. I'm going to stay in Mississippi and if they shoot me down, I'll be buried here." The experience brought her face to face with her worst fears about white racist violence, civil rights activism, and herself, but empowered by freedom songs and "the truth" she emerged full of courage and righteous anger. She said, "I'm never sure any more when I leave home whether I'll get back or not. Sometimes it seem like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I'll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I'm not backing off."







David Halberstam
talks about his book
The Children

with David Gergen,
editor-at-large of U.S. News & World Report
May 22, 1998

DAVID GERGEN: David, in the brief time we have we cannot do justice to the drama and moral force of this story, but sketch out, if you can, the outlines.

DAVID HALBERSTAM, Author, "The Children:" Well, it’s a compelling story. In February 1960, a fast backwarding, it’s six years after Brown Vs. Board of Education, the landmark case on ending segregation. A group of young black students in Nashville, a border state, a liberal—seemingly liberal—city, and nothing has happened in their lives to change it. And so they take courses in Christian non-violence and Gandhi and non-violence from a brilliant young minister, Jim Lawson, and with that, they make an assault upon downtown restaurants, which will take their money but not serve them at their counters.

DAVID GERGEN: Jim Lawson—black—had been persuaded to join this effort by Martin Luther King.

DAVID HALBERSTAM: Very similar background to Dr. King. Both sons of black ministers, born in the same year, a great sense of civic non-violence in a Gandhian way was the answer. Jim Lawson had gone to India for three years, spent a year in a federal penitentiary, because he didn’t believe in the Korean War, in that violent a scenario. And so when King met him, and they met at Oberlin in 1958, and they started exchanging bios, and Jim said, well, one day I would like to come down, get my doctorate, and I’ll come down, he said, come now, we need you now; you’re way ahead of the curve. You know, it’s exploding around us. So he comes down, and one of the first things he does is teach these young people the power of an idea.

DAVID GERGEN: The Lawson teaching I found to be absolutely fascinating.

DAVID HALBERSTAM: Well, there are two aspects. One, that you had to love those who would oppress you. You had to—you know, you had to find the love of Jesus Christ, that you would love your neighbor, love everyone around you. But you couldn’t do that until you loved yourself. You had to find self-esteem, and these were black kids, and called pejorative names all their lives and been suppressed, and taught them self-esteem first, that if they esteem themselves, then they could find the goodness to love the segregationists. That was part one. Part two was the power of the idea, that, you know, you had no money, there’s the segs, and they have a mayor and the police and the restaurant owners, they’ve got all the power levers. But if your idea is powerful, you do the right thing in the right way, then the restaurant owners either have to accede to you, or they arrest you, in which case you begin the process—and this is quite Gandhian—of martyrdom. And if you’re a martyr, then you’re no longer anonymous; you have power from your action. And it was a prophetic vision.

DAVID GERGEN: When these young kids came out of these—out of these workshops and started this—you were a young reporter at that time, just graduated from college.

DAVID HALBERSTAM: It was amazing! You could see it. I mean, I was a kid. I was innocent, but I knew I was watching history.

DAVID GERGEN: Did you think they were going to win?

DAVID HALBERSTAM: Yes, yes, because I saw their purpose. I saw their dignity. I knew I was watching the cream of Southern young black manhood and womanhood who were doing this thing, that there was—the word I would use now that I didn’t have the grasp of then was nobility, that—I mean, people were raining down rocks and epithets, pouring ketchup on them, pouring coffee on them, putting out cigarettes on the back of their hand, and they were oblivious. Their vision of what they were doing was so powerful, I thought they’d win. And I also didn’t think that it would end with a cup of Woolworth’s coffee and a Woolworth’s hamburger, and I was right. A year later, the go into the valley of the shadow of death—as they call it—they take over the freedom rides into Alabama and Mississippi.

DAVID GERGEN: Right. And that really turned the civil rights—

DAVID HALBERSTAM: That really ratcheted up, and it makes it—becomes part of a great national moral teleplay, with Martin Luther King sort of casting it; the young people I write about, who were the infantrymen, the foot soldiers, you know, John Lewis, Bernard Lafayette, James Bevel, Diane Nash, they’re out putting their bodies on the railroad tracks, and the idea is we will go into the most dangerous venues, Bull Connor in Birmingham, Jim Clark, the sheriff in Selma, and we will risk our lives and television cameras will be there, and reporters will be there, and America will witness it. And what they were doing was they were taking a white hat and putting it on black heads and black heads and putting it on Jim Clark and Bull Connor, and it was brilliant, and in four years they won.


DAVID GERGEN: And they were beaten.

DAVID HALBERSTAM: Beaten. They were almost killed. Bernard Lafayette, who’s one of the young heroes in this book, I mean, was almost murdered in Selma. He was the first guy to do voter registration in Selma. On the night that Medgar Edwards was murdered, they almost murdered Bernard as well. I mean, by chance he escaped. There’s a picture of him in there that looks like he’s beaten half to death. The level of heroism—but David, it’s not just heroism. It’s a special kind of heroism, because it’s driven by faith. This is a religious movement. This is black Protestant Christianity, with a Gandhian overtone of how to do it. And it’s faith. I mean, faith drives them. I once asked John Lewis, who is, I guess, my favorite public citizen. I said, John, where did the courage from?

DAVID GERGEN: A congressman.

DAVID HALBERSTAM: Congressman. He said, faith, faith in our God, faith in Jim Lawson, White House o had taught us so well, faith in each other that we would not, you know, desert each other in this moment of need, a little smile--he said, and faith in this country, which had never done anything for us or for our parents and families. So it really is a great moment of faith.

DAVID GERGEN: The other part of this, these were ordinary people.


DAVID GERGEN: These were kids who were not—

DAVID HALBERSTAM: Not even ordinary. They were in a way—I mean, that’s the great thing. I love the book, because it’s about democracy in action. This is the best moment in American democracy since World War II and not because Lyndon Johnson signs an act or Burt B. Hickamooper switches sides, but because young Americans least advantaged, from the poorest part of the country, the poorest parents, born late in the Depression, in the South, black parents, barely in the cash economy, most of them about to be the first members of their family to go to college, take it unto themselves, risking their lives, making out wills when they go into Birmingham and Selma, making out—19 year old kids—to make this country better, and they do it. And it’s an incandescent moment.

DAVID GERGEN: Do you think the civil rights movement would have succeeded without them?

DAVID HALBERSTAM: No. It wouldn’t have succeeded without them. It wouldn’t have succeeded without Dr. King and the group around him, and it wouldn’t have succeeded without the coming of television at that particular moment. I think the fact that they could amplify this as a moral story into the homes of so many millions of Americans on this brand new instrument, national network television, in its infancy, when it was just going through fifteen to thirty minutes, Huntley, Brinkley, and Cronkite, the innocence of the instrument and the innocence of the country watching all came together. It’s an amazing moment.

DAVID GERGEN: What does this all tell you about white America?

DAVID HALBERSTAM: I think it teaches you—I mean, the system can be changed, that there is a reservoir of goodness and a desire for a just society, but it has to be done in the right way, at the right time, you have to sort of create a condition, and you have to appeal to an American sense of fairness. So I think there’s a powerful desire in America for two things: to have your own kids live a better life than you lived, or at least as good a life, and secondly, a sense of fairness that other people’s kids should have this good a life and as fair a shot as yours. I think that’s elemental in our society.

DAVID GERGEN: What lessons for today?

DAVID HALBERSTAM: Well, I think that the society can be changed; that there’s elasticity; that the country can under certain conditions listen; that people want a better country; they want a fair country; that if you make people understand what doesn’t work and what should work. It can be done. It’s more complicated now, because this was an assault upon legal and state sanctions segregation, and now to the degree that racism exists, it’s much more pernicious. It’s the historic relic of 200 years of a troubled history from slavery, but it still can be done. I think people want a good country.

DAVID GERGEN: It takes some people with moral passion.

DAVID HALBERSTAM: Passion—commitment--and willingness to pay a price.

DAVID GERGEN: David Halberstam, thank you very much.

Online NewsHour

The Children's Crusade



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