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Diag Demonstration Brings It All Back Home!

Diag Demonstration Brings It All Back Home! image
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We in the Rainbow People's Party decided to relate to electoral politics and the Presidential race by supporting McGovern because he signed the 3-point pledge to end the war and phony CIA governments in Indochina. Rather than stand on the principle of not supporting existing politics in any way, we decided to stand on a more primary principle of taking drastic measures to try and help bring the end of the war sooner. We were really disappointed when McGovern's campaign people made it clear that he would not be campaigning in Michigan because of Wallace and the overwhelming phony issue of bussing. We felt really strongly that if a people's campaign had been organized that McGovern and the issue of the war could mobilize all kinds of people to be working together to make the war the single most important issue of the primary. Instead, McGovern backed out from Michigan, no substantial campaign was developed and Wallace won the primary with a landslide 51% of the vote.

In the meantime the war continues to escalate beyond our wildest imagination and a lot of people are flipping out trying to figure out what to do about it. Demonstrations planned over the years have ranged from violence and trashing to non-violent civil disobedience to totally symbolic pacifism. During these recent weeks people in Ann Arbor have planned and carried out a number of different marches, rallies and demonstrations, but none of them had been able to involve a wide range of supporters, and people were ready to try and do something that could.

At the Tribal Council steering committee meeting on May 9 we talked a lot about what kind of thing we could do. People from Youth Liberation brought up the fact that a lot of people had been coming up to them in school and suggesting that maybe what Nixon was doing was right because it could end the war. In other words, people still don't understand that we don't want to just end the war, that what we want to do is end the war and give Southeast Asia back to the people who live there to best decide how to repair their land and their homes and define their own lives. So we talked about having some kind of huge event that would clearly be in solidarity with the Indochinese people, with workshops and lots of music and talking. We agreed on a meeting time within the next two days to deal specifically with formulating ideas about such an anti-war event.

Another idea that was very strong in people's minds was the bomb crater that Interfaith Council for Peace had dug over on Jewett Street in cooperation with Clonlara School. A lot of people were able to relate to that digging as a clear statement against the war and during the course of conversations it was suggested that a good way to dig a bomb crater would be to have a concert and pass out shovels for people to dig it together. At the Tribal Council Defense Committee meeting the following day the ideas began to mesh when it was reminded to us that the following Friday May 19th was Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh's birthdays. The idea arose that we should have the killer concert and workshops in solidarity with the Indochinese people on Malcolm and Ho's birthdays and dig bomb craters (more than one). There were a lot of spots suggested for the craters to be dug: in front of City Hall, in front of the ROTC (North Hall) building, on President Fleming's front yard, in various other people's front yards, indeed it was suggested to dig them ALL OVER TOWN! The idea was always to bring back the focus to the Vietnamese and other Indochinese people and the terror and destruction they are going through right this very moment. The harbor and the Russians (which is important too, because is there or is there not a great business conspiracy between Russia and the United States, as poet Charles Olsen asked many years ago?), but the mining of the harbor and the weird relationship with Russia has become the focus of U.S. media attention and is trying to help people here forget about the . conditions caused by bombs.

We wanted to show our solidarity and express our heavy hearts concerning all those people. The Diag was finally decided on as the best spot because of the obvious connection with the University. People felt very strongly that we had to focus on the University since it is so directly responsible for so much of the development of the war. We had to choose a spot that would be a strong enough and clear enough statement that would not let people forget about the people over there and what they are going through. We also wanted to do something that was non-violent and that would be able to involve the widest possible range of antiwar people here in Ann Arbor.

Negotiations with the "officials" included the President of the University Robin Fleming and Mayor Harris. Our original idea was to involve as many groups as possible, including the entire City Council and whoever in the University would relate. We felt that in view of the other demonstrations that had been going on here in Ann Arbor and all over the country that something like digging bomb craters would be a very small contribution to the anti-war movement, and very small indeed compared to the real bomb craters and other horrors the University is involved in.

Our first indication of just how heavy a struggle was coming up was when President Fleming himself met with us at 8:30 a.m. to discuss our plans. By this time we had met with Mayor Harris and he had agreed to support the demonstration as long as we could agree on a site with the University and that we would not stress that it was Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh's birthdays in the publicity since that was going a little further than he and his constituency would care to go as far as support. We agreed on that because we knew the Interfaith Council for Peace felt the same way, and we did want to work with them and we would make plans to talk to people a lot while we were there about why we were there and put out a wall poster about Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh and the relationship between the struggle for self-determination for black people in this country and the struggle for self-determination of the Indochinese people in their countries (after all, it's the same enemy in both struggles). Mayor Harris offered to go with us to see Fleming after he heard we were going to try and help the situation.

What followed was a series of three meetings, the first one at 8:30 a.m. the 18th, the second one that afternoon at 4:00 and the next one around 10:30 a.m. the morning of the 19th and the thing itself.

The people who attended these meetings included President Fleming, Mayor Harris, professors and people from SACUA, people from the University Council, the University Secretary Richard Kennedy, the University Attorney Mr. Dane, and more. It was ridiculous. I was the main negotiator for the event. Some people felt it was a waste of my time to even talk with them about it and thought it was so simple a thing that we should just do it. Others felt it was really important to negotiate a site and were fearful of a police confrontation. During our talks the only thing they could come up with against the idea was the University's liability in case anyone was hurt if we ran in to any electrical wiring that would be running beneath the ground on the Diag. I asked to see their maps and was shown them. They refused to negotiate a site on the Diag and insisted that the best place was on a spot between Hill Auditorium and the Michigan League. On the maps it was very clearly the most dangerous spot as a high voltage cable ran through there. It was also very clear on the map that there were very safe and clear spots large enough on the Diag around North University and State St. (the ideal spot being so visible to almost any one going through town) and around the Economics building near the center of the Diag. We did not want to dig bomb craters all over the place and ruin the Diag- we wanted a couple of gaping ugly holes to remind people and be a statement about the viciousness of the University. At one point Fleming said he could not allow bomb craters on the Diag because "we would be admitting our guilt"!

Throughout the negotiations I kept trying to tell them that people wanted to do a lot more than dig bomb craters on the Diag, and that it was clearly in their interest to agree to this demonstration. Finding a site for a permanent memorial was negotiable, but a couple of bomb craters until the war is over, again, is a very small thing in comparison to the reality of the situation.

We reached a stalemate with them refusing to allow bomb craters to be dug on the Diag, but agreeing to the site between Hill Auditorium and the League. They did not threaten prosecution but only said they would be moved to try and prevent such a thing. I told them that people were determined to do it and it was going to be enough of a job to just keep people on the Diag at the sites we picked from the map.

It turned out that there was not one problem with digging on the Diag in terms of running into anything, but just as predicted the site they chose was clearly dangerous and a high voltage wire encased in pipe was run into at the site they chose, and it had to be abandoned.

Reporting on the day itself would be another whole article, and I don't have space enough here. It began at noon with a kick off from the Up, and continued all day long and into the night and then the morning with bands and speakers that included Nancy Wechsler, Kenny Cockrel, John Sinclair, the Stash, Marcus, Icarus, and more and Newsreel films and even Monterey Pop was about to be shown around 2:30 a.m. when the projector broke down in some way connected with the generator we had to use because the University would not give us access to their electricity. That night people stayed in sleeping bags and a few tents and talked into the morning. By the next day bands all over had heard about what was going on and by noon things were going again with Bad Luck and Trouble Blues Band and Sunday Funnies and more and speakers and on into the night again. An incredible two day thing all outside in beautiful weather. It turned out that four bomb craters were dug, one near the economics building, one at the site they chose, and two around North University and State Streets.

At 5:00 a.m. Monday morning the University began filling in the bomb craters with bulldozers. At one point we heard of students sitting in the craters to try and prevent that and we started getting phone calls about it later in the morning. There is a lot of rumors that the University may prosecute the people who did the digging. University officials photographed everyone who picked up a shovel.

Suggestions have been made to do it all over again and continue to over and over if necessary until the University agrees to leave them there until the war is over. And we still have to figure out just how to end the war. The Vietnamese say we have to make every politician in the country face the war and make a clear stand one way or the other. And we have to do that whenever possible, especially in November. We can all hold McGovern responsible for his pledge to end it finally (with no puppet government) and vote for him. And we can make people here in Ann Arbor face their involvement and show their true natures.

There will be meetings called to make plans for the future, call the SUN for more information about when specific meetings are. There is still a chance of people being prosecuted, especially if we decide to do the whole thing over again.* Already Rick Kunnes has been arrested and charged with littering for pouring simulated blood all over the place at the Regents meeting in the Administration building the morning of the 19th. In the meantime the war goes on. If we all work together we can help force an end to it faster. PEOPLE, LET'S STOP THE WAR!

-Genie Plamondon, RPP

*Suggestions were made that if they arrest anyone we should all go and stay in jail until they let us out on no or personal bond.