Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hit and Stay

by DAVID SWANSON

The CIA has been so busy consulting on Zero Dark Thirty (as detailed in the latest subscriber-only issue of CounterPunch), not to mention funding Hamid Karzai, bribing Russians, lying about weapons, and conducting humanitarian drone murders, that it didn’t have any time at all to help out with Hit and Stay, and yet arguably the latter turned out to be the better film despite such a severe handicap.  You can check it out at http://hitandstay.com

This is a film about people taking risks to prevent killing rather than to engage in it.  The focus is on the Catonsville Nine action on May 17, 1968, 45 years ago this Friday.  That action, in which activists burned draft cards and apologized for burning papers rather than children, was preceded by the Baltimore Four action of October 27, 1967, in which four activists poured their blood on draft papers.  It was followed by countless other actions, leading right up to the Transform Plowshares action in Tennessee for which three are currently awaiting sentencing.

The Catonsville action received so much publicity that it had something of an Occupy effect.  That is, others who felt the same way about the slaughter of the Vietnamese people but didn’t believe they could do anything, suddenly began doing something.  Some did very similar actions.  Others tried their own approaches to the same problem.  Catonsville Nine inspired other tactics, enlarged marches and rallies, and generally moved the peace movement forward.  The creativity and novelty of the action even made people think about the war who hadn’t before.

Draft records were destroyed, preventing the drafting of those people.  So, this was substantive resistance that couldn’t be undone.  At the same time it was educational and inspirational.  It didn’t inspire sadistic shouts of “Bin Laden’s dead!”  It inspired people to act on their moral outrage.  There were over 100 actions taken at draft boards over the next few years.  Many thousands of people’s draft records were destroyed, saving them from the draft and saving those they would have killed from that fate.  Some of the draft offices were shut down permanently.  In the end the Selective Service declared it was under assault, and Nixon declared that the military would now be volunteer.

Some of the actions went after FBI offices and U.S. attorneys offices.  Activists never yet apprehended stole COINTELPRO documents and sent them to the media, exposing the FBI’s abuses and creating a major news story that lasted until it was overshadowed by the Pentagon Papers — released by Dan Ellsberg, himself inspired by the activism shown in Hit and Stay.  The people shown engaging in these actions are, in many cases, still active today — although they look a bit older.  In other cases, their sons and daughters are still involved.

The name “Hit and Stay” comes from the method of engaging in civil disobedience (or civil resistance for those who prefer to point to laws being upheld through the violation of other laws deemed less important) and then staying at the scene of the crime to take responsibility.  This was a communications strategy, not a masochistic drive toward suffering.  Some of the Catonsville Nine went into hiding to avoid their trial and remain active, even after having stood still long enough to be arrested and charged.

The film shows us the Milwaukee 14, the DC 9 who went after the Dow Chemical Company, and the New York 8.  The New York activists hit more than one location and chose not to stay.  Instead, they held a press conference to claim responsibility without identifying who was at which location or agreeing to answer questions.  They were not prosecuted.

We see the Boston 2, the Rhode Island Political Offensive For Freedom (RIPOFF) — modeled after the New York 8.  We see the Rochester Flower City Conspiracy, the Buffalo, the Camden 28.  That last one was encouraged, assisted, and then busted by an informant, but in the trial the judge allowed defense witnesses including people like Howard Zinn.  The jury nullified the law by acquitting defendants who openly admitted to their actions.  The jury joined in singing “Amazing Grace,” and the foreman threw a party for the defendants.

Activists have not entirely figured out how to counter the brilliant move of creating a “volunteer” poverty draft, but neither has it shut down resistance in quite the way as is generally imagined.  The stories of these long-ago actions and so many thousands of actions since still inspire.  And resistance is in many ways greater now.  Wars are protested before they even start, and sometimes prevented from starting.  There is much to inspire us in independent media reports of nonviolent actions today, but I suspect this movie has the power to inspire us further.

David Swanson is author of War is a Lie. He lives in Virginia.

David Swanson wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org  His new book isWar No More: The Case for Abolition.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Andrew Sullivan
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Richard W. Behan
Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]