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This week at a glance.

May 2

•Outrage in Birmingham
•Poor People converge on the capital

May 3
•Haymarket Riot
•Children attacked as they march for integration
•All Things Considered

May 4

•First Freedom Ride
•Four dead in Ohio
•Freeze support warms up in House

May 5
•Author of communism born
•Bio teacher arrested for teaching biology
•Last cruise missile leaves U.K.

May 6
•No Conscription League founded
•Gandhi once again free
•Equal Rights for U.S. women considered
•March in DC against nuclear power
May 7
•Battle of Dien Bien Phu
•Martyr for voting rights
•Agent Orange Settlement
•Nuclear Waste Shipments Opposed

May 8
•Peace Society
•Gandhi Fasts in Prison
•Belgians: No Nukes

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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 Rev. 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.

Peace quote

"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

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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 living conditions of the poorest Americans. 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.

Resurrection City
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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.
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“While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free”
- Eugene V. Debs

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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.

Peace quote

“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

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.

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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

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.
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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.

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May 5, 1818

Political philosopher, social scientist, historian and revolutionary Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany. His ideas, laid out in the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, and in many other publications, considered the state, class divisions, the nature of industrial capitalism, and culture and religion as oppressive forces.

A young Karl Marx

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May 5, 1925

Biology teacher John T. Scopes was arrested for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in a Dayton, Tennessee, high school in violation of state law. Working in a public school, he was prohibited by statute “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”

John Scopes

Charles Darwin
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May 5, 1991

The last U.S. cruise missile left Greenham Common Air Base in England, the site of a decade of women's anti-nuclear protests. The encampment persisted for nearly another decade until it was returned to public access.

Protesters leave Greenham Common for the last time
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May 6, 1916

Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman started the No Conscription League in the U.S. to discourage young men from registering for the draft which had passed Congress the previous month.
This was prior to American troops’ being sent to Europe in what is known as World War I.

Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman
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"All wars are wars among thieves who are too cowardly to fight and who therefore induce the young manhood to do the fighting for them."
- Emma Goldman, 1917

May 6, 1944
Mohandas Gandhi, due to declining health, was released from
his last imprisonment in India, having spent 2,338 days in jail
during his lifetime.

May 6, 1970
U.S. Senate hearings began on ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Similar amendments had been introduced in every Congress since 1923.

Writer and editor Gloria Steinem testified: “During twelve years of working for a living, I've experienced much of the legal and social discrimination reserved for women in this country. I have been refused service in public restaurants, ordered out of public gathering places, and turned away from apartment rentals, all for the clearly stated, sole reason that I am a woman.”

Gloria Steinem in 1970
Steinem’s full testimony FAQ on the ERA

Peace quote

Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood."
- Gloria Steinem

May 6, 1979
125,000 rallied in Washington, D.C. to oppose nuclear power.


May 7, 1954

The battle at Vietnam’s Dien Bien Phu ended after 55 days with Viet Minh insurgents overrunning French colonial forces, and forcing their surrender. An agreement for complete French withdrawal was negotiated within two months in Geneva, Switzerland.

The battle began in March, when a force of 40,000 Vietnamese troops armed with heavy artillery surrounded 15,000 French soldiers holding the French position under siege. The Viet Minh guerrillas had been fighting a long and bloody war against French colonial control of Vietnam since 1946.

French prisoners being marched by Viet Minh out of Dien Bien Phu, May 7, 1954

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May 7, 1955

The Reverend George Lee, one of the first black people registered to vote in Humphreys County, Mississippi, and who used his pulpit and his printing press to urge others to vote, was murdered in his hometown of Belzoni.
The county sheriff had initially refused to accept Reverend Lee’s poll tax (a tax collected before someone was allowed to vote, which became unconstitutional in 1964), but he was later allowed to vote after contacting federal authorities. That, and the subsequent registration of 92 other negro citizens he helped register, angered some white residents of the county.
Rev George Lee

His assailants were never caught, and Reverend Lee is considered the first martyr of the civil rights movement.

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May 7, 1984

American veterans of the Vietnam War reached a $180-million out-of-court settlement with seven chemical companies in a class-action suit relating to use of the herbicide Agent Orange in Vietnam. The veterans charged they had suffered injury and illness from exposure to the defoliant used widely in the war to eliminate jungle cover for Vietnamese forces opposing the U.S. military presence.

Book review about the ongoing effects of Agent Orange

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May 7, 1996

15,000 protesters demonstrated against the import of French nuclear waste to Gorleben, Germany. Water cannons were used to disperse the crowd.

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May 8, 1882

The American Peace Society was established when the peace societies of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania merged to become a national organization. Currently based in Boston, the merged organization was a result of the leadership of William Ladd, an advocate of a "Congress and High Court of Nations" for solving international disputes.

William Ladd, one of the founders of the American Peace Society

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May 8, 1933

Mohandas Gandhi began a 21-day fast to support political rights for the Dalit (or untouchables) whom he called Harijans, the children of God. He had been jailed by the British to interfere with his movement to end colonial control of India. He was released the day after he began his personal purification because the colonial authorities were afraid he might die in prison.

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May 8, 1962

An estimated 9,000,000 people in Belgium participated in a ten-minute work stoppage to protest nuclear weapons.

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