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May 14, 1971 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1971-05-14

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Mayday reviewed...

er4x 1A rtn ai
420 Maynard Street, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Edited and managed by students at the
University of Michigan
Editoriats printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual
opinions of the author. This must be noted in al reprints.
Friday, May 14, 1971 News Phone: 764-0552
Failure all around
AS THE LAST federal troops left Washington last week
and the last tired demonstrators hitched home, the
end result of the Mayday anti-war activities was painfully
obvious: everybody lost.
The demonstrators lost because they didn't do what
they had promised - they didn't "shut down the govern-
ment." They didn't even accomplish their more realistic
goal, that of bringing their opposition to the war to the
eyes of the public by the poignant and dramatic tactic of
non-violent civil disobedience.
The forces of "law and order" lost, too, by giving a
horrifying glimpse of Washington as a police state, and by
using the entire police force plus 10,000 federal troops to
keep Washington streets safe for the usual rush hour traf-
And perhaps most tragic of all, the public lost, by
letting the irritant of the demonstrations lull them into
allowing their tax money to be used in an operation that
ignored civil and human rights in its efforts to efficiently
clear the streets.
The Mayday Tribe's plans for the actions called for
affinity groups of about a dozen people to sit down in the
middle of that group's regional target area and hold a
street party, with "passing the pipe," music and conver-
sation. The target areas, some of Washington's most cru-
cial bridges and traffic circles, would then be cleared by
police and the demonstrators would go quietly, the plan
read. As they were marched off, a new affinity group
would take its place in the street.
The plan had the potential to be both dignified and
However, as was to be expected, the plan gave out
when the Monday morning traffic stoppages began. Not
all of the demonstrators were as avowedly non-violent as
the organizers, and others, when faced with tear gas and
troops, degenerated into a "stop the traffic at any cost"
Nobody was hurt as a result of the demonstration,
and in that aspect, the tactic was a success. It was per-
haps a victory in a certain sense, to have had the police
violence met, not with confrontational tactics, but with
singing, chanting, and acceptance.
But the message of the non-violence was ruined by
the disorganized way in which it was carried out.
WORSE BY FAR than the failure of the tactic's objec-
tive was the reaction of the police force and troops to
the demonstrations. Bare minimum rights were ignored as
practically everyone near the trouble areas was teargass-
ed, herded into a police bus, and delivered to one of the
detention centers. Over 12,000 people were detained in
three days of police action; and many were held without
being notified of their rights, charges against them, or
anything else.
The Mayday demonstrators won one costly point by
showing the injustice and disregard for civil rights in the
government's handling of what it s a w as a "threat"
For the public, especially the citizens of Washington,
to have allowed this fiasco' to take place, s h o w s how
numbed people are from years of war abroad and increas-
ing repression at home.
That was the crux of the matter: for the most part,
the public didn't care whether the police were handling
the demonstrators justly, or even legally, they cared only
about getting their streets cleared as efficiently as possi-
Thus, the Mayday actions were a failure from all
standpoints. The demonstrators became obsessed with
stopping the cars Monday morning, the police with stop-
ping the demonstrators, and the public with getting to
work. And few in the three groups gave even a fleeting
thought to the cause of the entire action and reaction__
the war.
And it is this, combined with the fear and remember-
ed horror of tear gas and 20 hours in a crowded jail cell

that will prevent people from ever again embarking on
the sort of unorganized attempt at civil disobedience that
took place in Washington last week.

Non-violent commitment;
The potential of self-sacrifice

AHATMA GANDHI'S s p i r i t
would probably approve the
non-violent tactics used during
the recent anti-war demonstra-
tions in Washington.
Gandhi's concept of peaceful
civil disobedience focused on
shaming others into a realization
of a truth through the self-inflic-
tion of pain or imprisonment.
Demonstration organizers t h i s
spring interpeted Gandhi's civil
disobedience as militant non-vio-
lence, envisioning protest actions
of people "governed by the readi-
ness to get hurt and yet not to
hurt" in an attempt to close down
the government to raise conscious-
ness about the war.
"What comes to mind," a May-
day tactical manual said, "is
thousands of us with bamboo
flutes, tamborines, flowers and
bglloons moving out in the early
light of morning to paralyze the
traffic arteries of the American
military repression government
nerve center. Creativity, joy, and
life against bureaucracy a n d
ed to paralyze the government.
but theydidnot fail in their com-
mitment to non-violence. Amid
tear gas, some clubbings, and even
some trashing by non-disciplined
demonstrators, the bulk of the
protesters maintained the peace-
ful aura of the demonstrations.
But in a sense, the instances of
trashing make the month's dem-
onstrations more a learning ex-
perience for the future t h a n a
success for the present. Upon real-
ization of the massive police and
military force they w e r e up
against, demonstrators, especially
during the first day of street dis-
ruptions, broke disciplined ranks
and resorted to "stop traffic at
any cost," including tire slashing
and highway trashing. But this
violence was minimal, a n d the
guerrilla hit-and-run tactics dom-
inated only one day of protest.
In addition to the one day of
trashing, there were 16 days of
peaceful rallies, marches, and sit-
ins. They included the veterans'
march and discarding of war med-
als, the federal workers rally, and
the People's Lobbies - sit-ins at
governmental institutions such as
the Selective Service and the Dept.
of Health, Education, and Wel-
underline the tactical corrections



needed in the brand of non-vio-
lence touted by the demonstra-
tors. It was made evident t ha t
more, better disciplined protesters
were necessary to insure the suc-
cess of a mass peace tactic.
Even with the minimal violence,
there was no harm done to people
by the demonstrators. Gandhi
would have been pleased with the
image of the thousands of unarm-
ed, unresisting demonstrators sur-
rounded by riot-equipped police,
for the image evokes a central
'point to the protests. By breaking
the law, the protesters caused a
government reaction which in-
cluded the deployment of massive
numbers of police and military
force, and the suspension of nor-
mal arrest procedures, with the
apprehension of 7,000 in one day.
The temporary police state cau -
ed, in a sense, a shadow of Amer-
ican militarism a n d its violent
ethos to burst into the open in the
streets of the nation's capital.
It may be though, t h a t the

message brought by the militant
"prisoners of peace" was obscured
by the anger of the press and pub-
lic about the disruption caused by
the civil disturbance. Possibly the
fact of the confusion is another
lesson for future tactics -- if the
demonstrators had united to fo-
cus on one target, s u c h as the
Pentagon, the masses of demon-
strators would not have been dis-
persed in acts of civil disobedi-
ence throughout the city, which
temporarily hindered motorists
but did not greatly inconvenience
them. It was evident after the
failure of the traffic tie-ups that
such disruption cannot succeed
without significantly larger num-
ber of better organized demon-
IN ANY EVENT, even the learn-
ing experience provided by the
errors underscored the potential
non-violence has as a tactic in
violence-torn America. While the
Mayday tribes yippie infusion in-
to the tactic added the dimension
to the mass dissent of the linikage
of politics to a lifestyle, it vas the
willingness of thousands to ; e t
gassed and not resist the police
which underlines the new signifi-
cance of the Gandhian principle.
It would have taken little f o r
Washington to mirror Chicago af-
ter the Democratic Convention of
1968, but this was avoided as a
result of the commitment to
peaceful actions.
A basic problem which the anti-
war movement must now d e a 1
with is how to best utilize the tac-
tic of n o n-violent civil disobe-
dience, to effectively communicate
the urgency of its message to the
public, The puzzle of transcend-
ing the annoyance of the Ameri-
can at the immediate results of
civil disobedience to reach a depth
of understanding as to why that
disobedience is occurring is the
next step for the movement.




lice millions in massive acts of civ-
il disobedience. T h e demonstra-
tions of the past week have shown
that Americans, too, appear cap-
able of mass acts of civil diso-
bedience, but only with the tacti-
cal adjustments. If the commit-
ment of personai self-sacrifice
can be maintained, it is possible
that the Gandhian ideal of ef-
fective non-violent protest can yet
be reached in the continuing storm
against the continuation of the

rHE NEXT TACTIC may be stronger, or tb
may simply not exist, but for all concern

ext tactic'
this was a

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