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Crater Charges Explode!

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On May 19-20 hundreds of people gathered on the University of Michigan Diag to create a strong, simple and clear statement against, specifically, the University's involvement with the war in Indochina. May 19 was Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X's birthdays. For weeks people had been trying to think of an anti-war action that would be strong enough and non-violent enough to involve a broad spectrum of people. The digging of symbolic bomb craters in highly visible places to be left until the end of the war seemed to be such an action.

Negotiations with the University went on for days beforehand trying to find suitable spots for the digging. Genie Plamondon and Jon Goldman did most of the negotiating, all the time trying to help bureaucratically high University officials understand that it would be in the interests of the University to agree to such a simple strong demonstration as digging a few holes in the Diag. In view of the University's actual involvement in the war, this digging of a few symbolic bomb craters wasn't shit. But true to form the University officials all freaked when the news got out of the people's plans, no doubt under pressure from alumni, regents, corporations, etc, to stop such a strong statement implicating the University in the war. Their objections were clearly political and finally found a guise in the form of fearing liability in case the digging would run into any part of the network of water pipes and electrical wires strung beneath the Diag. At one point President Fleming said very distinctly that they couldn't let us dig bomb craters on the Diag because ". . . we would be admitting our guilt." (!)

After long talks, President Fleming finally understood that many people were really very angry about the recent escalation of the war and that there were many other actions that people had been planning that were much worse. He began to try and negotiate a spot on the mail between Hill Auditorium and the Michigan League.

Despite the facts shown clearly on their maps that there was a high voltage electrical wire running through the site they chose and that there were plenty of sites on the Diag that would easily avoid such a danger, the negotiations reached a stalemate. They insisted on approving the dangerous site between Hill Aud. and the Michigan League, and people insisted on digging on the Diag and not consent to be shoved off to the side to the clearly dangerous site.

The two days that made up the event from noon the 19th to the evening of the 20th were beautiful. All ages and kinds of people came out to check it out and particĂ­pate. Four craters were dug, including on the site they approved- there was a disagreement among people about whether or not to dig on the Diag, but the people who didn't agree with it just dug on the approved site where they ran into electrical wires encased in pipe and had to subsequently abandon the site. There were bands, speakers, and films, and the day happened pretty much without incident. Monday morning the 22nd the U. bulldozed the craters full. On Thursday, June 1 four people were informed either through messages or directly on the phone by Detective Wright that complaints had been signed by the University against them for malicious destruction of property under $100 (maximum penalty for this misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and/or $100 fine). Four people picked out of the hundreds that participated, with the threat of arresting at least a fifth person without revealing who because of the legal status of being a "minor."

The four people are Genie Plamondon, Jon Goldman, Jay Hack, and Dick England. The day after the event University officials had assured the media that it was not students who were involved, but "off-campus bums." It's interesting that among the 4 people three are students (Jay Hack is a former administrative vice-president to the Student Government Council), and Genie Plamondon being the only "off-campus bum."

The four negotiated to turn themselves in the following Monday. In the meantime, people started calling the police demanding that four people should not be singled out. There were only a few days before the arraignment, but a testimonial was drawn up for people to sign saying that we all take equal responsibility for the organizing and digging of the craters.

Monday at 11:00 a.m. people met on the Diag with a few symbolic shovels, got as many more signatures on the testimonial as possible and walked together to City Hall to turn in the four people. At the station, the testimonials were presented to the police along with the four people. They absolutely refused to arrest anyone but the four people saying they only had complaints for the four people.

The courtroom was packed with only one near incident involving the bailiff trying to prevent John Sinclair from entering the courtroom and shoving him out the door. The proceedings were stopped and he was allowed in; Judge Elden asked once that the courtroom remain orderly and people had agreed on that already (apparently the bailiff hadn't). Each of the defendants was brought before the bench one by one, plead not guilty to the charge of malicious destruction of property, and was placed on $50 personal (no cash) bond. Trial date was set for July 20th.

This is a pretty obvious attempt on the part of the University to draw attention away from the real bomb craters, away from the University's involvement in the war. Research contracts continue to be signed and the war continĂșes to escalate. If the charges are only brought against four (or five) people they will have successfully used all the time and energy and money involved, not to mention the possibility of those people being separated from their community and in the Washtenaw Co. Jail with Sheriff and Mrs. Harvey. If people stop at this and there are no bomb craters then they will have successfully stopped a people's movement by picking off a few key people and intimidating a lot more key people than that. It was hundreds of people that dug the craters and charges should either be dropped against the four, or charges should be brought against everyone who participated. We believe that by forcing them to make that choice we can possibly get the charges dropped altogether. But we also feel very strongly that the bomb craters should be dug again and left until the end of the war. That was the original plan and we still don't think there's anything malicious or criminal in wanting those craters to be there as a daily reminder to the University of what's happening in Indochina right now. For this reason, the Tribal Council at least is going to sponsor Dig It On the Diag II June 16 & 17 at which time we'll present the whole event over again, only better this time since we'll have had the experience.

This leaves us wide open to more busts. But we can't help but feel that the University is dealing with the situation in a ridiculous way and have blown the whole thing up to ridiculous proportions. We are still asking only to make the original clear, simple and strong statement against the University's involvement by digging the craters. If they insist on dealing with it through busts then we'll go through that too, not with four politically persecuted people, but with all of us going through it together until the ridiculousness finally becomes clear to everyone. We are operating from strength at the outset, it's a matter of all of us working together to bring the thing back to a simple, reality level, Bring It All Back Home.

In the words of the Interfaith Council For Peace, "The University of Michigan, in its current prosecution of some of the persons who dug craters on its main campus in a peaceful, non-violent demonstration, not only looks hypocritical but also has obscured a vital educational resource. By charging the diggers with malicious destruction, the University has willfully contributed to the gross misconception that those who want an end to this immoral and Illegal war are violent vandals. No one was killed or maimed, no buildings were destroyed, and the land was easily filled in by University ground crewmen. The craters created by all of us, including the U of M in southeast Asia, are the most tragic vandalizing in this world. May we assume, since the University feels it is important to uphold the law in this extremely minor and unharmful incident, that it would also recognize the propriety of prosecution, under the Nuremberg principles, of the U of M itself for its part, in its war-related research, in the vandalizing of Southeast Asia?" Probably not. Bring it all back Home! DIG IT ON THE DIAG II JUNE 16 & 17! ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!