April 28, 1978
At the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility, near Denver, over 5,000 protested and nearly 300 were arrested over the following eight months for blocking railroad tracks entering the plant where plutonium bombs used as detonators in hydrogen bombs are produced.
April 28, 1979
A few weeks after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania
[see March 28, 1979], a crowd of close to 15,000 assembled at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production plant near Denver, Colorado. Singers Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt took the stage along with various speakers including Dr. Helen Caldicott. The following day, 286 protesters, including Pentagon Papers source Daniel Ellsberg, were arrested for trespassing in their civil disobedience at the Rocky Flats facility.
April 28, 1996
Sixty-one were arrested for dismantling railroad tracks leading out of the Gundremmingen nuclear power station in Bavaria, Germany.
April 29, 1915
The International Congress of Women convened on this day in 1915 at The Hague in the Netherlands. More than 1,200 delegates from 12 countries— Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Poland, Belgium and the United States—were all dedicated to the cause of peace and a resolution of the great international conflict that is now referred to as World War I.
Often called the Women’s Peace Congress, the meeting was the result of an invitation by a Dutch women’s suffrage organization, led by Aletta Jacobs, to women’s rights activists around the world. Jacobs believed that a peaceful international assemblage of women would “have its moral effect upon the belligerent countries,” as she put it.
Aletta Jacobs, Dutch suffragist and an organizer of the Women’s Peace Congress
This was the origin of the organization known today as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
April 29, 1962
Nobel Prize-winner (for chemistry in 1954) Linus Pauling picketed the White House with others protesting the resumption of nuclear weapons testing. He had been invited there by President John Kennedy, to be honored at a dinner along with other Nobelists.
April 30, 1917
The American Friends Service Committee was founded to provide young Quakers and other conscientious objectors the opportunity to serve those in need as an alternative to military service in what was later known as World War I. They worked with British Friends assisting refugees from that conflict. Quaker values in action
AFSC history AFSC today
April 30, 1967
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a sermon entitled, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” at Riverside Church
in New York City.
“The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism.”
Listen to or read the speech
April 30, 1977
A group of 14 mothers who had met in the waiting rooms of police stations while trying to discover the whereabouts of their children, organized the first of a continuing series of demonstrations in front of the Presidential Palace on the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Their children were among the “disappeared” (los desaparecidos), victims of the Argentina’s “dirty war” against its own people.
Each Thursday afternoon they gathered at the Plaza to demand that the fate of the victims be made known. Some of the mothers, including Azucena de Villaflor, their first president, themselves disappeared. In spite of this, the group soon counted some 150 members and eventually grew to several thousand in 1982-83.
continued (info, photos, links). . .
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April 30, 1996
About 120 activists were arrested over the following eight days in Washington, D.C., in support of a fast by Sister Dianna Ortiz. The Ursuline nun had been kidnapped, tortured, and raped by U.S.-trained and supported Guatemalan Army officers in 1989; she was fasting to demand that the U.S. government release information on her assailants.
Sister Diana Ortiz
May 1, 1886
May Day was called Emancipation Day in 1886 when 340,000 went on strike (though it was Saturday it was a regular day of work) in Chicago for the 8-hour workday.
May 1, 1890
May Day labor demonstrations spread to thirteen other countries; 30,000 marched in Chicago as the newly prominent American Federation of Labor threw its weight behind the 8-hour day campaign.
May 1, 1933
The Catholic Worker newspaper was founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. Dorothy Day said, “God meant things to be much easier than we have made them,” and Peter Maurin wanted to build a society “where it is easier for people to be good.”
May 1, 1948
Senator Glen Hearst Taylor (D-Idaho) was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, for trying to enter a meeting through a door marked for “Negroes” rather than using the “whites only” door, and convicted of disorderly conduct.
Taylor was the Progressive Party candidate for Vice President, running mate of Henry Wallace. He was in Birmingham to address the Southern Negro Youth Congress.
Senator Glen Hearst Taylor
May 1, 1967
Soviet youths openly defied police and danced the twist in Moscow’s Red Square during May Day celebrations. In the early ‘60s the Twist had been banned in Buffalo, New York, and Tampa, Florida. The religious right claimed the Twist was actually a pagan fertility dance.
May 1, 1977
Following a 24-hour occupation at the site of two proposed nuclear power plants in Seabrook, New Hampshire, 1,414 people were arrested.
The non-violent civil disobedience, organized by the Clamshell Alliance, became a model for anti-nuclear direct actions across the country. National and international news coverage brought the issue of nuclear power into public focus and no nuclear reactors were ordered after that time. Those plants already approved eventually went online, including Seabrook Unit I, but Unit II was never built.
There is still no permanent methed for long-term safe storage of highly redioactive nuclear waste generated by such plants. Most of the radioisotopes in high-level waste have extremely long half-lives (some longer than 100,000 years).
Currently, it is stored on-site at nuclear plants around the country.
continued (info, photos, links). . .
“I submit that an individual who breaks the law that conscience tells him is unjust and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr
May 2, 1963
Hundreds of children ranging in age from six to eighteen were arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, as they marched from Kelly Ingram Park, across from 16th Street Baptist Church, to downtown singing, “We Shall Overcome.”
Part of an ongoing effort to end segregation in that city, and following the arrests of many adults including Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., the children had volunteered to minimize the threat to families if a breadwinner were jailed. A judge had issued an order preventing any of 133 civil rights leaders from organizing a demonstration.
Birmingham, the capital of Alabama, had been the site of 18 unsolved bombings in black neighborhoods over recent years, and the place where mobs had attacked Freedom Riders on Mother’s Day in 1961. Leaving the park in groups of fifty, the kids were put in vans by police, led by Eugene “Bull” Connor, until there were 959 filling the city jails.
May 2, 1968
The Poor People’s Campaign began with groups from several locations around the U.S. setting out for Washington, D.C., to draw attention to the conditions of poorest in the United States. It was conceived and organized by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and, following his assassination the previous month, led by his successor at the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Reverend Ralph David Abernathy.
The first wave of demonstrators arrived in Washington on May 11. One week later, Resurrection City was built on the Washington Mall, a settlement of tents and shacks to house the protesters.
“Bring on your tear gas, bring on your grenades, your new supplies of Mace, your state troopers and even your national guards. But let the record show we ain’t going to be turned around.”
– Ralph Abernathy
Let peace fly
May 3, 1886
At Haymarket Square in Chicago, a rally was being held because of a strike at the McCormick Harvester plant and, just two days after the enormous May Day turnout. Though the mass meeting was peaceful, a force of 176 police officers arrived, demanding that the meeting disperse. Someone, unknown to this day, then threw a bomb at the police.
In their confusion, the police began firing their weapons in the dark, killing at least three in the crowd and wounding many more. Seven police died (only one by the bomb), the rest probably by police fire.
May 3, 1963
In Birmingham, Alabama, Public Safety Commissioner and recently failed mayoral candidate Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor used fire hoses and police dogs on children near the 16th Street Baptist Church to keep them from marching out of the “Negro section” of town.
With no room left to jail them (after arresting nearly 1000 the day before), Connor brought firefighters out and ordered them to turn hoses on the children. Most ran away, but one group refused to budge.
The firefighters turned more hoses on them, powerful enough to break bones. The force of the water rolled the protesters down the street. In addition, Connor had mobilized K-9 (police dog) forces who attacked protesters trying to re-enter the church.
Pictures of the confrontation between the children and the police were televised across the nation.
All great legislation grows out of mass movements organized by people like you and me.
Three important movements from our history that President Obama referred to in his 2nd Inaugural address.
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May 3, 1971
The first broadcast of National Public Radio’s evening news and public affairs program, “All Things Considered,” was aired on about 90 public radio affiliates around the country. The main story was the disruptive anti-Vietnam protests in Washington.
It is now the third most listened-to radio program
in the U.S.
Listen to that first program
May 4, 1961
A group of Freedom Riders left Washington, DC for New Orleans in a first challenge to racial segregation on interstate buses and in bus terminals; it was organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
The Freedom Riders dining at a lunch counter in Montgomery before traveling to Jackson, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Read more about the freedom riders
In the style of the 1963 March on Washington
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May 4, 1970
Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on anti-war protesters
at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine others,
one permanently disabled.
The previous day, President Nixon had announced a widening of the Vietnam War with bombing in neighboring Cambodia.
There were major campus protests around the country with students occupying university buildings to organize and to discuss the war and other issues.
“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
May 4, 1983
A “sense of the Congress” resolution, intended to urge a halt to all testing of nuclear weapons, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives (287-149). The support for a nuclear freeze, ending all American and Soviet nuclear weapons testing, was widespread. In ballot resolutions in 25 states, the freeze had passed in all but one, losing in Arizona by just two points.