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  History from the grass roots . . .

This Week in History is a collection designed to help us appreciate the fact that we are part of a rich history advocating peace and social justice. While the entries often focus on large and dramatic events there are so many smaller things done everyday to promote peace and justice.

To the real peace advocates - YOU!

Publisher, Carl Bunin • Editor, Al FrankDetroit, Michigan
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This week at a glance.

Sept 29

•Hunger strike against censorship
•Dutch resist cruise missiles
•Londoners protest preemptive war

Sept 30
•U.S. troops enforce court order

Oct 1
•The Jerry Rescue
•Integration comes to Ole Miss
•Berkley Free Speech Movement began
•Trident II Plowshares

Oct 2
•Leader for peace born in India
•Disarmament march ends in Moscow
•Civil rights champion on Supreme Court

Oct 3
•Britain's first A-bomb
•Singer for justice passes on in NYC
•SALT I treaty
•Non-proliferation at work
Oct 4
•Cabinet secretary leaves in disgrace
•Space launch danger opposed

Oct 5
•Nuclear plant accident in Detroit
•No Uranium mines in Black Hills
•Raoul Wallenberg Day

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September 29, 1943

Six conscientious objectors, imprisoned at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, for refusing to serve in World War II, began a hunger strike against censorship of mail and reading material by federal prison authorities.

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September 29, 1983

The municipal council of Woensdrecht, a southern Dutch town, voted against cooperating in the possible siting of 48 U.S. nuclear-tipped cruise missiles at the nearby air base.
The council voted Tuesday by 9 to 4 not to cooperate with the national government, and to stop any activities that might lead to the missiles being sited at the base.

from the '80s
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September 29, 2002

A London crowd - estimated between 200,000 and 500,000 - protested British and U.S. plans for a "preemptive" (that is, without provocation) invasion of Iraq.


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September 30, 1965

Hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members, white students and others, tried to keep a black student, James Meredith, 29, from attending classes at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. They were supported by the governor, Ross Barnett, who had explicitly resisted the order of the Federal Circuit Court.

In spite of the efforts to block his court-ordered registration, a deal to allow Meredith to register had been made between U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Governor Barnett. Meredith was secretly escorted onto campus; deputy U.S. marshals, border patrolmen and federal prison guards were stationed on and around the campus to protect him. Those standing guard were assaulted throughout the night with guns, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and bottles.

James Meredith being escorted to his classes
by U.S.marshals and the military.

Tear gas was used to try and control the crowd. Federal troops arrived, bringing the total to 12,000 (President Kennedy had activated soldiers and national guardsmen totaling 30,000), and the mob finally retreated. In the end, two were dead, 160 U.S. Marshalls were injured (28 shot), 200 others injured, and 300 arrested.

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October 1, 1851

In the "Jerry Rescue," citizens of Syracuse, New York, broke into the city’s police station and freed William Henry (known as Jerry), a runaway slave who had been working as a barrel-maker. The federal Fugitive Slave Law required "good citizens" to assist in the return of those who had fled “ownership” by another. A group of black and white men created a chaotic diversion and managed to free Jerry but he was later re-arrested.

Jerry Rescue monument. Syracuse, New York

At his second hearing, a group of men, their skin color disguised with burnt cork, forcibly overpowered the guards with clubs and axes, and freed Jerry a second time; he was then secretly taken over the border to Canada.

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Samuel Ringgold Ward, whose parents were also escaped slaves, urged the crowd to help release Jerry. “They say he is a slave. What a term to apply to an American! How does this sound beneath the pole of liberty and the flag of freedom?” He asked those present not ever to vote for those who support “. . . laws which empower persons to hunt, chain and cage men in our midst.” Ward also fled to Canada.

More on Sam Ward

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October 1, 1962

James Meredith became the first black American to attend classes at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. In the nearly two years Meredith spent trying to register for classes at then all-white “Ole Miss,” he had to file a federal lawsuit and, ultimately, be escorted through registration by U.S. Justice department attorney John Doar, protected by U.S. Army troops.
The night before whites had rioted and attacked U.S. Marshalls after Mississippi Highway Patrol officers withdrew as the crowd became larger and more unruly.

President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent the troops and federalized the state’s National Guard to enforce the federal court’s order which Governor Ross Barnett refused to accept.
Meredith went on to graduate in 1964 and still lives nearby.

Meredith’s struggle
Role of the U.S. Marshalls

Inspired by the U.S.
Declaration of Independence

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October 1, 1964

The Free Speech Movement was launched at the University of California – Berkeley when mathematics grad student Jack Weinberg was arrested for setting up an information table for CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) in front of Sproul Hall, the administration building.
Hundreds of students surrounded the police car holding Weinberg for 32 hours, keeping him from being taken away. Many made speeches from atop the car, and ultimately Weinberg’s release was negotiated.

University Chancellor Clark Kerr had been under pressure from the Board of Regents to ban expression of views considered communist, but the students, inspired by the Civil Rights movement, questioned and resisted the restrictions.

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Jack Weinberg 

Peace quote

"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."

Mario Savio, Berkeley Free Speech Movement

October 1, 1984

Five activists, in what became known as the Trident II Plowshares, hammered and poured blood on six missile tubes and unfurled a banner which read: "Harvest of Hope – Swords into Plowshares" at shipbuilder Electric Boat’s Quonset Point facility in North Kingston, Rhode Island.

General Dynamics built the fourteen Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarines there, each of which is armed with 24 Trident II nuclear-tipped missiles (3.8 megatons each) launched from underwater with a range of 4000 nautical miles (4600 miles; 7400 kilometers).
Plowshares participants, individually or in groups, actually or symbolically damage parts of the U.S. first-strike nuclear arsenal or its conventional weaponry, and take public responsibility for their actions.

 Read more about this action  A chronology of Plowshares actions

Readers comment

"...well I am here at work trying to think of a little gift I could give my co-workers and I have been thinking about peace a lot lately and I thought, how about a peace sign button like we used to wear, and I wondered if they were still around so I googled peace sign and there you were. I like the way they look and the history was very cool to have included. Exported from Detroit didn't hurt either.
I'm sure people will ask where I got them so keep up the good work."

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Berkeley, CA


October 2, 1869

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Indian nationalist leader whose philosophy of nonviolence would influence movements around the world, was born in Porbandar, one of the cities of Gujarat State. He came to prominence as the leader of the successful nonviolent resistance to British colonial rule of India.

A brief biography

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October 2, 1961

Ten months after its start in San Francisco, an anti-nuclear peace march sponsored by the Committee for Nonviolent Action arrived in Moscow’s Red Square where they distributed leaflets calling for disarmament.

October 2, 1967

Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, the first African American on the nation's highest court. He was appointed to the Court by President Lyndon Johnson who previously had appointed him Solicitor General, the legal officer in the Justice Department responsible for representing the United States before the Supreme and federal appellate courts. Marshall had been the lead attorney in the Brown v. Board of Education case which led to the end of legal segregation in the nation’s schools.

Read more about Thurgood Marshall

Peace quote

"Today's Constitution is a realistic document of freedom only because of several corrective amendments. Those amendments speak to a sense of decency and fairness that I and other Blacks cherish."
- Justice Thurgood Marshall


October 3, 1952

Great Britain successfully tested its first atomic bomb, dubbed Hurricane, at the Monte Bello Islands, off the northwest coast of Australia.


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There's more peace and justice history to see

For a more complete listing for this week or to visit another month

October 3, 1967

Woody Guthrie

Folksinger/songwriter Woody Guthrie died in New York City at the age of 55. He had spent the last decade of his life in the hospital, suffering from Huntington's chorea. Woody called his songs "people's songs," filled with stinging honesty, humor and wit, exhibiting Woody's fervent belief in social, political, and spiritual justice.

Extensive bio with photos and Woody’s writing:

Peace quote

"I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent the implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, make me less of an American."

- Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger
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October 3, 1972

The SALT I treaties, which placed the first limits on nuclear arsenals, went into effect. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks succeeded when U.S. President Richard Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev agreed to limit anti-ballistic missile systems, and to freeze
the number of intercontinental and submarine-based missile launchers (1,710 for the United States, some of which had multiple warheads,
and 2,347 for the Soviet Union).

October 3, 1994

The United States and South Africa signed a missile non-proliferation agreement committing South Africa to abide by the The Missile Technology Control Regime, and to end its missile program and its space-launch vehicle program.

More about MTCR


October 4, 1976

Earl Butz resigned as President Gerald Ford’s agriculture secretary with an apology for what he called the "gross indiscretion" of uttering a racist remark.

October 4, 1997

Demonstrations across the country occurred protesting the scheduled launch of the space probe Cassini because its power source was three plutonium-fueled Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators.
The probe carried 72.3 pounds of plutonium, the most ever put on a device to be launched into space. The concern was for an accidental release in the event of a launch mishap. Plutonium is the most toxic substance known.
"It is so toxic," says Helen Caldicott, president emeritus of Physicians for Social Responsibility, "that less than one-millionth of a gram is a carcinogenic dose. One pound, if uniformly distributed, could hypothetically induce lung cancer in every person on Earth."
Radioactive dangers and space An interview with Dr. Caldicott

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October 5, 1966

A sodium cooling system malfunction caused a partial core meltdown at the Enrico Fermi I fast-breeder nuclear power reactor in Monroe, Michigan, on Lake Erie near Detroit.
While conducting a power test, two fuel assemblies overheated and two others partially melted, but there was no release of radiation. The public did not find out until one of the engineers who witnessed it wrote the book, “We Almost Lost Detroit.” The event inspired the Gil Scott-Heron song of the same name.

The Fermi plant

Read the lyrics What actually happened

No Nuclear
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October 5, 1979

2,000 activists demonstrated against development of uranium mines in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This followed the Department of the Interior’s releasing its final environmental impact statement, endorsing the North Central Power Study's plans to turn the Black Hills into a "national sacrifice area." The plan was to devote nearly 200,000 acres to mineral extraction and energy production with up to 25 nuclear power plants.

Uranium Mining in the Black Hills

October 5th

Raoul Wallenberg Day, honoring the Swedish diplomat who saved as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews from deportation and probable death in concentration camps during WWII.

He did this through bargaining with Nazi officials, establishing safehouses, distributing false passports, disguising Jews in Nazi uniforms and setting up checkpoints to avert deportations. He had attended the University of Michigan.

Read more about Raoul Wallenberg
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