March 1. Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day, a.k.a. Bikini Day. This day marks the anniversary of the detonation of the United State’s thermo-nuclear hydrogen bomb the ‘Bravo’ at Bikini Atoll in Micronesia in 1954. In 1946, a military officer representing the U.S. government asked the people of Bikini if they would be willing to leave their atoll “temporarily” so that the United States could begin testing atomic bombs for “the good of mankind and to end all world wars.” The people have been prevented from returning to their home ever since because of the level of radioactive contamination that remains. The 1954 explosion gouged out a crater more than 200 feet deep and a mile wide, melting huge quantities of coral which were sucked up into the atmosphere together with vast volumes of seawater. Radiation levels in the inhabited atolls of Rongerik, Ujelang, and Likiep rose dramatically as well. The U.S. Navy did not send ships to evacuate the people of Rongelap and Utirik until nearly three days after the explosion. The people in the Marshall Islands and nearby places in the Pacific were essentially used as human guinea pigs in an inhumane attempt by the United States to pursue nuclear weapons supremacy. Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day is a day to remember that the colonialist mindset which allowed, and in many ways encouraged, the atrocity aforementioned still exists today, as the Pacific remains neither nuclear free nor independent. This is a good day for opposing nuclear weapons.
March 2. On this day in 1955, months before Rosa Parks, teenager Claudette Colvin was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person. Colvin is a pioneer of the American Civil Rights Movement. On March 2nd, 1955, Colvin was riding home from school on a city bus when a bus driver told her to give up her seat to a white passenger. Colvin refused to do so, saying, “It’s my constitutional right to sit here as much as that lady. I paid my fare, it’s my constitutional right.” She felt compelled to stand her ground. “I felt like Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing down on the other—saying, ‘Sit down girl!’ I was glued to my seat,” she told Newsweek. Colvin was arrested on several charges, including violating the city’s segregation laws. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People briefly considered using Colvin’s case to challenge the segregation laws, but they decided against it because of her age. Much of the writing on civil rights history in Montgomery has focused on the arrest of Rosa Parks, another woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus, nine months after Colvin. While Parks has been heralded as a civil rights heroine, the story of Claudette Colvin has received little notice. While her role in the fight to end segregation in Montgomery may not be widely recognized, Colvin helped advance civil rights efforts in the city.
March 3. On this day in 1863, the first U.S. draft law was passed. It contained a clause providing draft exemption in exchange for $300. During the Civil War, the U.S. Congress passed a conscription act that produced the first wartime draft of U.S. citizens in American history. The act called for the registration of all males between the ages of 20 and 45, including ‘aliens’ who had the intention of becoming citizens, by April 1st. Exemptions from the draft could be bought for $300 or by finding a substitute draftee. This clause led to bloody draft riots in New York City, where protesters were outraged that exemptions were effectively granted only to the wealthiest U.S. citizens, as no poor man could possibly afford to purchase this exemption. Although the Civil War saw the first compulsory enlistment of U.S. citizens for wartime service, a 1792 act by Congress required that all able-bodied male citizens purchase a gun and join their local state militia. There was no penalty for noncompliance with this act. Congress also passed a conscription act during the War of 1812, but the war ended before this was enacted. During the Civil War, the government of the Confederate States of America also enacted a compulsory military draft. The U.S. enacted a military draft again during World War I, in 1940 to make the U.S. ready for its involvement in World War II, and during the Korean War. The last U.S. military draft occurred during the Vietnam War.
March 4. On this day in 1969, the Union of Concerned Scientists (or UCS) was founded. The UCS is a nonprofit science advocacy group that was founded by scientists and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That year, the Vietnam War was at its height and Cleveland’s heavily polluted Cuyahoga River had caught fire. Appalled at how the U.S. government was misusing science both for war and for environmental destruction, the UCS founders drafted a statement calling for scientific research to be directed away from military technologies and toward solving pressing environmental and social problems. The organization’s founding document says it was formed to “initiate a critical and continuing examination of governmental policy in areas where science and technology are of actual or potential significance” and to “devise means for turning research applications away from the present emphasis on military technology toward the solution of pressing environmental and social problems.” The organization employs scientists, economists, and engineers engaged in environmental and security issues, as well as executive and support staff. Additionally, the UCS focuses on clean energy and safe and environmentally friendly agricultural practices. The organization is also strongly committed to the reduction of nuclear arms. The UCS helped push the U.S. Senate to approve the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles. These reductions cut down both countries’ oversized nuclear arsenals. Many more organizations have joined this work, and there is much more of it to be done.
March 5. On this day in 1970, A nuclear non-proliferation treaty went into effect after 43 nations ratified it. The treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is an international treaty with the objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, and promoting cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Additionally, the treaty aims to further the ultimate goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. The Treaty officially entered into force in 1970. On May 11th, 1995, the treaty was extended indefinitely. More countries have adhered to the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, which is a testament to the treaty’s significance. A total of 191 states have joined the treaty. India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan, four United Nations member states, have never joined the NPT. The treaty recognizes the United States, Russia, the UK, France, and China as five nuclear-weapons states. Four other states are known to possess nuclear weapons: India, North Korea, and Pakistan, which have admitted it, and Israel, which refuses to speak about it. The nuclear parties to the treaty are required to pursue “negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” Their failure to do so has led non-nuclear nations to pursue a new treaty banning nuclear weapons. The high hurdle if such a new treaty is established will be persuading the nuclear states to ratify it.
March 6. On this day in 1967, Muhammad Ali was ordered by the Selective Service to be inducted into the U.S. Military. He refused, stating that his religious beliefs prohibited him from killing. After converting to Islam in 1964, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. changed his name to Muhammad Ali. He would go on to become a three-time world champion in boxing. During the U.S. war on Vietnam in 1967, Ali refused to enter the army. Because of his refusal, Muhammad Ali was convicted of evading the draft and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was also fined ten thousand dollars and was banned from boxing for three years. Ali managed to avoid the prison time, but he did not return to the boxing ring until October of 1970. Throughout the time Ali was banned from boxing, he continued to express his opposition to the war in Vietnam while simultaneously preparing for his return to the sport in 1970. He faced intense criticism from the public for opposing the war so openly, yet he remained true to his beliefs that it was wrong to attack the people of Vietnam when the African Americans in his own country were treated so poorly on a daily basis. Though Ali was known for his power and talent related to fighting in the boxing ring, he was not an unthinking supporter of violence. He took a stance for peace in a time when it was dangerous and frowned upon to do so.
March 7. On this day in 1988, it was reported that the Atlanta Division of the United States District Court ruled that a peace group must have the same access to students at high school career days as military recruiters. The ruling, issued on March 4, 1988, was in response to a case brought by the Atlanta Peace Alliance (APA) alleging that the Atlanta Board of Education violated First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by denying APA members permission to present information on educational and career opportunities related to peace to students in Atlanta public schools. The APA wanted the same opportunity as military recruiters to place its literature on school bulletin boards, in school guidance offices, and to participate in Career Days and Youth Motivation Days. On August 13, 1986, the Court ruled in favor of APA and ordered the Board to provide the APA with the same opportunities provided to military recruiters. However, the Board filed an appeal, which was granted on April 17, 1987. The case was tried in October 1987. The court concluded that APA was entitled to equal treatment and ordered the Board of Education to provide equal opportunity to present students in Atlanta public high schools with information on careers in peace-making and on military service by placing literature on school bulletin boards and in school guidance offices. In also ruled that APA was entitled to participate in Career Days and that policies and regulations that ban criticism of other job opportunities and that exclude speakers whose primary focus is to discourage participation in a particular field are void because they violate First Amendment rights.
March 8. On this day in 1965, in the United States v. Seeger, the United States Supreme Court expanded the basis for exemption from military service as a conscientious objector. The case had been brought by three people who claimed they had been denied conscientious objector status because they did not belong to a recognized religious sect. The denials were based on rules found in the Universal Military Training and Service Act. These rules state that individuals may be exempted from military service if “their religious beliefs or training makes them opposed to going to war or participating in military service.” Religious belief was interpreted to mean belief in a “Supreme Being.” The interpretation of religious beliefs therefore depended on the definition of “Supreme Being.” Rather than change the rules, the Court chose to broaden the definition of “Supreme Being.” The court held that “Supreme Being” should be interpreted to mean “the concept of a power or being, or a faith, to which all else is subordinate or upon which all else is ultimately dependent.” The Court therefore ruled that “conscientious objector status could not be reserved only for those who claimed conformity with the moral directives of a supreme person, but also for those whose opinions on war are derived from a meaningful and sincere belief that occupies in the life of its holder a place congruent to that filled by the God of those” who had routinely been exempted. The broadened definition of the term was also used to distinguish religious beliefs from political, social or philosophical beliefs, which are still not permitted for use under conscientious objection rulings.
March 9. On this day in 1945, the United States firebombed Tokyo. The napalm bombs killed an estimated 100,000 Japanese civilians, injured a million, destroyed homes, and caused even the rivers to boil in Tokyo. This is considered the deadliest attack in the history of war. The bombing of Tokyo was followed by atomic attacks destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and considered retaliation for the Japanese attack on the military base at Pearl Harbor. Historians found afterward that the U.S. not only knew about the possibility of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but provoked it. After the U.S. claimed Hawaii in 1893, the building of a U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor began. The U.S. built up some of its wealth by supplying weaponry to numerous nations following WWI, and by building bases in even more of them. By 1941, the U.S. was training a Chinese Air Force while supplying them with weapons, fighting and bombing planes. Cutting off weapon supplies to Japan while building China’s military was part of a strategy that angered Japan. The threat of U.S. intervention in the Pacific intensified until the U.S. ambassador to Japan heard of a possible attack on Pearl Harbor, and informed his government of the possibility eleven months before the Japanese attack. Militarism gained popularity in the U.S. as it grew and provided jobs for Americans by finding and funding wars. Over 405,000 U.S. troops died, and over 607,000 were wounded during WWII, a fraction of the 60 million or more total deaths. Despite these statistics, the Department of War grew, and was renamed the Department of Defense in 1948.
March 10. On this day in 1987 the United Nations recognized conscientious objection as a human right. Conscientious objection is defined as a refusal on moral or religious grounds to bear arms in military conflict or to serve in armed forces. This recognition established this right as part of every person’s freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The U.N. Commission on Human rights also recommended to nations with policies of compulsory military involvement that they “consider introducing various forms of alternative service for conscientious objectors which are compatible with the reasons for conscientious objection, bearing in mind the experience of some States in this respect, and that they refrain from subjecting such persons to imprisonment.” The recognition of conscientious objection, in theory, allows those who see war as wrong and immoral to refuse to participate in it. Realizing this right remains a work in progress. In the United States a member of the military who becomes a conscientious objector must persuade the military to agree. And objection to a particular war is never permitted; one can only object to all wars. But awareness and appreciation of the importance of the right is growing, with monuments around the world built to honor conscientious objectors and a holiday established on May 15th. U.S. President John F. Kennedy stressed the importance of this when he wrote these words to a friend: “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”
March 11. On this day in 2004, 191 people were killed by Al-Qaeda bombs in Madrid, Spain. On the morning of March 11th, 2004, Spain experienced the deadliest terrorist or non-war attack in its recent history. 191 people were killed and more than 1,800 were injured when approximately ten bombs exploded on four commuter trains and in three train stations near Madrid. The explosions were caused by hand-made, improvised explosive devices. Initially, the bombs were thought to be the work of the ETA, a Basque separatist group that is classified as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. The group adamantly denied responsibility for the train bombings. Several days following the explosions, the terrorist group Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks via a videotaped message. Many in Spain as well as numerous countries around the world saw the attacks as retaliation for Spain’s participation in the war in Iraq. The attacks also took place just two days before a major Spanish election in which anti-war Socialists, lead by Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez, came to power. Rodriguez ensured that all Spanish troops would be removed from Iraq, with the last of them leaving in May of 2004. In order to remember the victims of this horrific attack, a memorial forest was planted at the El Retiro Park in Madrid, nearby one of the railway stations were the initial explosion occurred. This is a good day on which to try to break a cycle of violence.
March 12. On this day in 1930 Gandhi began the Salt March. Britain’s Salt Act prevented Indians from collecting or selling salt, a mineral that was a staple of their daily diets. Citizens of India had to buy salt directly from the British who not only monopolized the salt industry but also charged a heavy tax. Independence leader Mohandas Gandhi saw defying the salt monopoly as a way for Indians to break British law in a non-violent way. On March 12th, Gandhi departed from Sabarmati with 78 followers and marched to the town of Dandi on the Arabian Sea, where the group would make their own salt from sea water. The march was approximately 241 miles long, and along the way Gandhi gained thousands of followers. Civil disobedience broke out all over India, and more than 60,000 Indians were arrested, including Gandhi himself on May 21st. Mass civil disobedience continued. In January of 1931, Gandhi was released from prison. He met with Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, and agreed to call off the actions in exchange for a negotiating role in a London conference on the future of India. The meeting did not have the outcome that Gandhi had hoped for, but British leaders recognized the powerful influence this man had amongst the Indian people and that he could not be easily thwarted. In fact the nonviolent resistance movement to liberate India continued until the British conceded and India was freed of their occupation in 1947.
March 13. On this day in 1968, clouds of nerve gas drifted outside the United State’s Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, poisoning 6,400 sheep in nearby Skull Valley. The Dugway Proving Grounds was established during the 1940s in order to provide the military with a remote location to conduct weapons testing. Several days prior to the incident, the Army had flown a plane full of nerve gas over the Utah Desert. The plane’s mission was to spray the gas over a remote section of the Utah Desert, a test that was a minor part of the ongoing chemical and biological weapons research at Dugway. The nerve gas being tested was known as VX, a substance three times as toxic as Sarin. In fact, a single drop of VX could kill a human being in approximately 10 minutes. On the day of the test, the nozzle that was used to spray the nerve gas was broken, so as the plane departed the nozzle continued to release the VX. Strong winds carried the gas to Skull Valley where thousands of sheep were grazing. Government officials disagree on the exact number of sheep that died, but it is between 3,500 and 6,400. After the incident, the army assured the public that the death of so many sheep could not possibly have been caused by just a few drops of VX sprayed so far away. This incident outraged many Americans who were extremely frustrated with the Army and its reckless use of weapons of mass destruction.
March 14. On this day in 1879 Albert Einstein was born. Einstein, one of the most creative minds in human history, was born in Württemberg, Germany. He completed much of his education in Switzerland, where he was trained as a teacher in physics and mathematics. When he received his diploma in 1901, he was unable to find a teaching position and accepted a position as a technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. He produced much of his famous work during his free time. After World War II, Einstein played a major role in the World Government Movement. He was offered presidency of the State of Israel, but turned that offer down. His most important works are Special Theory of Relativity, Relativity, General Theory of Relativity, Why War?, and My Philosophy. Though Einstein’s scientific contributions helped other scientists create the atomic bomb, he himself had no part in the creation of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, and he later deplored the use of all atomic weapons. However, despite his lifelong pacifist beliefs, he did write to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of a group of scientists who were concerned with America’s lack of action in the area of atomic weapons research, fearing Germany’s acquisition of such a weapon. After World War II, Einstein called for the establishment of a world government that would control nuclear technology and prevent future armed conflict. He also advocated for universal refusal to participate in war. He died in Princeton, New Jersey in 1955.
March 15. On this day in 1970, 78 protesters were arrested during an attempt by Native American activists to occupy Fort Lawton, demanding that the city of Seattle give the unused property back to Native Americans. The movement was started by the group United Indians of All Tribes, organized primarily by Bernie Whitebear. The activists who invaded Fort Lawton, a 1,100-acre army post in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, did so in response to the declining state of Native American reservations and to the opposition and challenges that were faced by Seattle’s growing “urban Indian” population. In the 1950s, the U.S. government had set up relocation programs moving thousands of Indians into various cities, promising them better employment and educational opportunities. By the late sixties, the city of Seattle was somewhat aware of the “problem” of urban Indians, yet Native Americans were still severely misrepresented in Seattle’s politics and frustrated by the city’s unwillingness to negotiate. Whitebear, inspired by movements such as Black Power, decided to organize an assault on Fort Lawton. Here activists confronted the 392nd Military Police Company which was armed with riot gear. The Indians present were “armed” with sandwiches, sleeping bags, and cooking utensils. The Native Americans invaded the base from all sides, but the major confrontation took place near the edge of the base where a 40-soldier platoon arrived at the scene and began dragging people away to jail. In 1973 the military gave the majority of the land, not to Native Americans, but to the city to become Discovery Park.
March 16. On this day in 1921, War Resisters International was founded. This organization is an antimilitarist and pacifist group that has far-reaching global influence with over 80 affiliated groups in 40 countries. Several founders of this organization were involved in resistance to the first World War, such as WRI’s first secretary, Herbert Brown, who served a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence in Britain for being a conscientious objector. The organization was known as the War Resisters League, or WRL, in the United States where it was officially founded in 1923. WRI, whose headquarters are in London, believes that war is truly a crime against humanity and that all wars, no matter the intent behind them, only serve the political and economic interests of the government. Additionally, all wars lead to mass destruction of the environment, suffering and death of human beings, and ultimately new power structures of further domination and control. The group strives to end war, initiating nonviolent campaigns that involve local groups and individuals in the process of ending war. WRI runs three major programs to achieve its goals: the Nonviolence program, which promotes techniques such as active resistance and non-cooperation, the Right to Refuse to Kill Program, which supports conscientious objectors and monitors military service and recruitment, and finally, the Countering the Militarization of Youth Program, which tries to identify and challenge the ways that the youth of the world are encouraged to accept military values and morals as being glorious, decent, normal, or inevitable.
March 17. On this day in 1968 at the largest Vietnam antiwar march in Britain to date, 25,000 people attempted to storm the American Embassy at Grosvenor Square in London. The event had begun in a relatively peaceful and organized fashion, with about 80,000 people gathered to protest the United States military action in Vietnam and Britain’s support for America’s involvement in the war. The United States embassy was surrounded by hundreds of police. Only actress and anti-war activist Vanessa Redgrave and her three supporters were allowed to enter the embassy to deliver a written protest. On the outside, the crowd was held back from entering the embassy as well, yet they refused to stand down, throwing stones, firecrackers, and smoke bombs at the police officers. Some eyewitnesses claimed that the protesters resorted to violence after “skinheads” started chanting pro-war slogans at them. About four hours later, approximately 300 people had been arrested and 75 people were hospitalized, including about 25 police officers. Lead singer and co-founder of the legendary rock group The Rolling Stones Mick Jagger was one of the protesters in Grosvenor Square on this day, and some believed the events inspired him to write the songs Street Fighting Man and Sympathy for the Devil. There were several Vietnam war protests in the years that followed, but none in London were as large as the one that took place on March 17th . Larger protests followed in the United States, and the last U.S. troops finally left Vietnam in 1973.
March 18. On this day in 1644, the third Anglo-Powhatan war began. The Anglo- Powhatan Wars were a series of three wars that were fought between the Indians of the Powhatan Confederacy and the English settlers of Virginia. For about twelve years following the ending of the second war, there was a period of peace between the Native Americans and the colonists. However, on March 18th 1644, the Powhatan warriors made one final effort to rid their territory of the English settlers once and for all. The Native Americans were led by Chief Opechancanough, their leader and the younger brother to Chief Powhatan who organized the Powhatan Confederacy. Around 500 colonists were killed in the initial attack, but this number was relatively small in comparison to an attack in 1622 that had taken out approximately a third of the population of colonists. Months after this attack, the English captured Opechancanough, who was between 90 and 100 years old at the time, and brought him to Jamestown. Here, he was shot in the back by a soldier who decided to take matters into his own hands. Treaties were later made between the English and Opechancanough’s successor Necotowance. These treaties severely restricted the Powhatan people’s territory, confining them to very small reservations in areas north of the York River. The treaties were intended to and did establish a pattern of removing Native Americans from invading European colonists in order to take over their land and settle it before expanding and moving them again.
March 19. On this day in 2003, the United States, along with coalition forces attacked Iraq. U.S. President George W. Bush said in a televised address that the war was to “disarm Iraq, free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.” Bush and his Republican and Democratic allies often justified the war in Iraq by claiming falsely that Iraq possessed nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and that Iraq was allied with al Qaeda — a claim that convinced a majority of the U.S. public that Iraq was connected to the crimes of September 11, 2001. By the most scientifically respected measures available, the war killed 1.4 million Iraqis, saw 4.2 million injured, and 4.5 million people become refugees. The 1.4 million dead was 5% of the population. The invasion included 29,200 air strikes, followed by 3,900 over the next eight years. The U.S. military targeted civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances. It used cluster bombs, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new kind of napalm in urban areas. Birth defects, cancer rates, and infant mortality soared. Water supplies, sewage treatment plants, hospitals, bridges, and electricity supplies were devastated, and not repaired. For years, the occupying forces encouraged ethnic and sectarian division and violence, resulting in a segregated country and the repression of rights that Iraqis had enjoyed even under Saddam Hussein’s brutal police state. Terrorist groups, including one that took the name ISIS, arose and flourished. This is a good day on which to advocate for reparations to the people of Iraq.
March 20. On this day in 1983, 150,000 individuals, approximately 1% of Australia’s population, participated in anti-nuclear rallies. The Nuclear disarmament movement began in the 1980s in Australia, and it developed unevenly across the country. The organization People for Nuclear Disarmament was founded in 1981, and its formation broadened the movement’s leadership, especially in Victoria, where the group was founded. The group was largely made up of independent socialists and radical academics who began the movement through a peace studies organization. People for Nuclear Disarmament called for the closure of U.S. bases in Australia, and it adopted a policy of opposition to Australia’s military alliance with the United States. Other statewide organizations later emerged with similar structures to PND. Australia has a long history of anti-militarism. During the Vietnam War in 1970, approximately 70,000 people marched in Melbourne and 20,000 in Sydney in opposition to the war. In the 80s, Australians strived to end any contribution of the nation to U.S. nuclear-war fighting capabilities. The March 20th rally of 1983, which took place on the Sunday before Easter, was known as the first “Palm Sunday” rally, and it raised general peace and nuclear disarmament concerns that Australian citizens had. These Palm Sunday rallies continued in Australia throughout the 1980s. Because of the widespread opposition to nuclear expansion that was visible in these demonstrations, the broadening of Australia’s nuclear program was halted
March 21. On this day in 1966, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was designated by the United Nations. This day is observed throughout the world with a series of events and activities that aim to draw people’s attention to the highly negative and damaging consequences of racial discrimination. Additionally, the day serves as a reminder to all people of their obligation to try to combat racial discrimination in all aspects of life as citizens of a complex and dynamic global community that depends on tolerance and the acceptance of other races for our continued survival. This day is also intended to help younger people throughout the world voice their opinions and promote peaceful ways to combat racism and encourage tolerance within their communities, as the UN acknowledges that instilling these values of tolerance and acceptance within today’s youth may be one of the most valuable and effective ways to combat future racial intolerance and discrimination. This day was established six years after what is known as the Sharpeville Massacre. During this tragic event, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful protest against the apartheid laws in South Africa. The UN asked the international community to strengthen its resolve to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination when it proclaimed this day in observance of the massacre in 1966. The UN continues to work to combat all forms of racial intolerance and political violence related to racial tensions.
March 22. On this day in 1980, 30,000 people marched in Washington, D.C., against mandatory draft registration. During the protest, issues of Resistance News, created by the National Resistance Committee, were distributed to demonstrators and participants. The NRC was formed in 1980 to oppose registration to the draft, and the organization was active into the early 1990s. The leaflets of Resistance News dispersed to crowds elaborated on the stance of NRC which was that the organization was open to all forms of draft resistance, whether the reasoning for resisting was based on pacifism, religion, ideology, or any other reasons an individual might have for not believing that they should have to enter the draft. Draft registration in the United States was reinstated under President Carter in 1980 as part of “preparation” for the U.S. to potentially intervene in Afghanistan. During protests across the country on this day and throughout 1980, signs such as “Refuse to Register” or “I will not register” were seen throughout the crowds of thousands who believed it was their right as human beings to refuse draft registration. This is a good day on which to help some draft registration forms into a recycling bin and to recognize that the right to refuse to participate in violent and destructive conflict is a basic right of all human beings, as no one should be forced to be involved in such a cataclysmic event as war.
March 23. On this day in 1980 Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador delivered his famous peace sermon. He called on Salvadoran soldiers and the government of El Salvador to obey God’s higher order, and to stop violating basic human rights and committing acts of repression and murder. The following day, Romero joined a monthly gathering of priests to reflect on the priesthood. That evening, he celebrated Mass at a small chapel at the Divine Providence Hospital. As he finished his sermon, a red vehicle stopped on the street in front of the chapel. A gunman got out, walked to the door of the chapel, and fired. Romero was struck in the heart. The vehicle sped off. On March 30, more than 250,000 mourners from all over the world attended his funeral. During the ceremony smoke bombs exploded on the streets near the cathedral and rifle shots came from surrounding buildings. Between 30 and 50 people were killed by gunfire and in the stampede that followed. Witnesses claimed that government security forces threw the bombs into the crowd, and army sharpshooters, dressed as civilians, fired from the balcony or roof of the National Palace. As the gunfire continued, Romero’s body was buried in a crypt beneath the sanctuary. The United States, during both the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan presidencies, contributed to the conflict by providing weapons and training to the military of the government of El Salvador. In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 24th the “International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.”
March 24. On this day in 1999, the United States and NATO began 78 days of bombing Yugoslavia. The United States believed that, unlike the later case of Crimea, Kosovo had the right to secede. But the United States did not want it done, like Crimea, without any people getting killed. In the June 14, 1999 issue of The Nation, George Kenney, a former State Department Yugoslavia desk officer, reported: “An unimpeachable press source who regularly travels with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told this [writer] that, swearing reporters to deep-background confidentiality at the Rambouillet talks, a senior State Department official had bragged that the United States ‘deliberately set the bar higher than the Serbs could accept'” in order to avoid peace. The United Nations did not authorize the United States and its NATO allies to bomb Serbia in 1999. Neither did the United States Congress. The U.S. engaged in a massive bombing campaign that killed large numbers of people, injured many more, destroyed civilian infrastructure, hospitals, and media outlets, and created a refugee crisis. This destruction was accomplished through lies, fabrications, and exaggerations about atrocities, and then justified anachronistically as a response to violence that it helped generate. In the year prior to the bombing some 2,000 people were killed, a majority by Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas who, with support from the CIA, were seeking to incite a Serbian response that would appeal to Western humanitarian warriors. A propaganda campaign tied exaggerated and fictional atrocities to the Nazi holocaust. There were indeed atrocities, but most of them occurred after the bombing, not before it. Most of Western reporting inverted that chronology.
March 25. This is International Day of Remembrance of Slavery Victims and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. On this day, we take time to remember the 15 million men, women, and children who were victims of the transatlantic slave trade for over 400 years. This brutal crime will always be considered one of, if not the, darkest episodes in human history. The transatlantic slave trade was the largest forced migration in history, as millions of African Americans were forcibly removed from their homes in Africa and relocated to other areas of the world, arriving on cramped slave ships at ports in South America and the Caribbean Islands. From 1501-1830, four Africans crossed the Atlantic for every one European. This migration is still evident today, with very large populations of people of African descent living throughout the Americas. We honor and remember today those who suffered and those who died as a result of the horrific and barbaric slavery system. Slavery was officially abolished in the United States in February of 1865, but defacto slavery and legal racial segregation continued throughout most of the following century, while defacto segregation and racism remain to this day. Various events are held globally on this day including memorial services and vigils for those who died. This day is also a good occasion to educate the public, especially young people, about the effects of racism, slavery, and the transatlantic slave trade. Educational events are held throughout schools, colleges, and universities. In 2015, a memorial was erected at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
March 26. On this day in 1979, the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Agreement was signed. During a ceremony that was held at the White House, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty which was the first peace treaty ever between Israel and an Arab country. During the ceremony, both leaders and U.S. President Jimmy Carter prayed that this treaty would bring real peace to the Middle East and end the violence and fighting that had been ongoing since the late 1940s. Israel and Egypt had been involved in conflict since the Arab-Israeli War, which began directly after Israel was founded. The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was the result of months of difficult negotiations. Under this treaty, both nations agreed to end the violence and conflict and to establish diplomatic relations. Egypt agreed to recognize Israel as a country and Israel agreed to leave the Sinai Peninsula that it had taken from Egypt during a six-day war in 1967. For their achievement in signing this treaty, Sadat and Begin were jointly awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. Many in the Arab world reacted angrily to the peace treaty as they saw it as a betrayal, and Eygpt was suspended from the Arab League. In October of 1981, Muslim extremists assassinated Sadat. Peace efforts between the nations continued without Sadat, but despite the treaty, tensions still run high between these two Middle-Eastern countries.
March 27. On this day in 1958, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev became Premier of the Soviet Union. The day before his election, Khrushchev proposed a new foreign policy. His suggestion that nuclear powers consider disarmament and stop producing nuclear weapons was well received. Following the speech, Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko agreed the “banning of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons tests” was part of the Soviet agenda. Marshal Voroshilov, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, reiterated that the new government was “holding the initiative,” and that the people of the world knew Mr. Khrushchev as a “firm, untiring champion of peace.” While proposing peaceful relations with capitalist countries, Khrushchev remained a firm believer in communism. And, of course, the Cold War continued under his administration as Hungarian protests were violently repressed, the Berlin Wall was built, and a U.S. spy plane flying over Russia was attacked and its pilot captured. The U.S. then discovered nuclear missiles at a Russian base in Cuba. Khrushchev finally agreed to remove the missiles when U.S. President John F. Kennedy promised that the U.S. would not attack Cuba, and, privately, that it would remove all nuclear weapons from a U.S. base in Turkey. Khrushchev surprised the world many times by launching the first satellite, and the first astronaut into space. His failure to convince fellow communist leader, Mao Zedong of China, to consider disarmament led to his eventual lack of support in the Soviet Union. In 1964, Khrushchev was forced to resign, but not before negotiating a partial nuclear test ban with both the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
March 28. On this day in 1979, a nuclear power plant accident occurred at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. A portion of the core melted in the plant’s second reactor. In the months following the accident, the U.S. public staged numerous anti-nuclear demonstrations across the country. The U.S. public was told numerous falsehoods, documented by anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman. First, the public was assured there were no radiation releases. That quickly proved to be false. The public was then told the releases were controlled and done purposely to alleviate pressure on the core. Both those assertions were false. The public was told the releases were “insignificant.” But stack monitors were saturated and unusable, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission later told Congress it did not know how much radiation was released at Three Mile Island, or where it went. Official estimates said a uniform dose to all persons in the region was equivalent to a single chest x-ray. But pregnant women are no longer x-rayed because it has long been known a single dose can do catastrophic damage to an embryo or fetus in utero. The public was told there was no need to evacuate anyone from the area. But Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh then evacuated pregnant women and small children. Unfortunately, many were sent to nearby Hershey, which was showered with fallout. The infant death rate tripled in Harrisburg. Door-to-door surveys in the region found substantial increases in cancer, leukemia, birth defects, respiratory problems, hair loss, rashes, lesions and more.
March 29. On this day in 1987 in Nicaragua, Vietnam Veterans for Peace marched from Jinotega and to Wicuili. The veterans involved in the march had been actively monitoring the United States’ attempts to destabilize the country of Nicaragua by providing aid to the terrorist Contras. The Veterans for Peace organization was founded in 1985 by ten U.S. veterans in response to the global nuclear arms race and the U.S. military interventions in various Central American countries. The organization grew to more than 8,000 members by the time the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. When Veterans for Peace was initially formed, it was composed mainly of U.S. Military Veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam war, and the Gulf War. It was also made up of peacetime veterans and non-veterans, but it has grown overseas in recent years and has many active members throughout the United Kingdom. The Veterans for Peace Organization works hard to promote alternatives to war and violence. The organization has opposed and continues to oppose many of the military policies of the U.S., NATO, and Israel, including military actions and threats to Russia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc. Today, members of this organization remain actively engaged in campaigns to help bring understanding of the horrific costs of war, and much of their current work focuses on the seemingly-never-ending war on terror. The organization creates projects to support returning veterans, oppose drone warfare, and counter military recruitment efforts in schools.
March 30. On this day in 2003, 100,000 people marched through Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, to demonstrate against the war in Iraq, which officially began on March 19, 2003. It was the biggest anti-war rally ever to take place in the world’s largest Muslim nation. The day also saw the first officially sanctioned anti-war demonstration in China. A group of 200 foreign students were allowed to march past the U.S. embassy in Beijing chanting anti-war slogans. In Germany 40,000 people formed a 35-mile long human chain between the cities of Munster and Osnabrueck. In Berlin 23,000 took part in a rally in Tiergarten Park. Marches and rallies also took place in Santiago, Mexico City, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Paris, Moscow, Budapest, Warsaw and Dublin, India and Pakistan. According to French academic Dominique Reynié, between January 3 and April 12, 2003, 36 million people around the world took part in 3,000 protests against the Iraq war. The biggest protests during this period were in Europe. Rome is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as holding the largest ever anti-war rally: three million people. Other huge rallies took place in London (organizers put the figure at 2 million); New York City (375,000); and 60 towns and cities across France (300,000). A March 2003 Gallup poll conducted during the first few days of the war showed that 5% of Americans had participated in anti-war demonstrations or in other ways expressed opposition to the war. New York Times writer Patrick Tyler claimed that these enormous rallies “showed that there were two superpowers on the planet, the United States and worldwide public opinion”.
March 31. On this day in 1972, a crowd rallied against nuclear arms in London’s Trafalgar Square. More than 500 people met in the square that day to express feelings of fear and frustration at the continuing nuclear and atomics testing being conducted by the British government. The original black banner used by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament back in 1958 was brought to the square before they began a 56-mile Easter march from London to Aldermaston, Berkshire. The four-day march, according to Dick Nettleton, secretary of the Campaign, was planned to inform people who had been led to believe the atomic weapons research unit was being shut down that it was instead being moved to Aldermaston. The move was due to the recent official transfer of the weapons research administration from the Atomic Energy Commission to the Ministry of Defence. Nettleton noted that 81% of the Commission’s work involved improvements to both nuclear weapons and the British bomb. He also added that scientists had informed him that they were concerned about their own working conditions as the push for research and development of these weapons progressed. The protestors began marching toward the town of Chiswick, hoping to draw support from neighbors along the way as they continued to the nuclear center. They expected disruptions by the police by the time they arrived in Aldermaston, but they also found three thousand supporters. Together, they placed twenty-seven black coffins at the gates, one for each year since the U.S. bombings of Japan. They also left a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament sign decorated with daffodils, a symbol of hope.
This Peace Almanac lets you know important steps, progress, and setbacks in the movement for peace that have taken place on each day of the year.
This Peace Almanac should remain good for every year until all war is abolished and sustainable peace established. Profits from sales of the print and PDF versions fund the work of World BEYOND War.
Text produced and edited by David Swanson.
Audio recorded by Tim Pluta.
Items written by Robert Anschuetz, David Swanson, Alan Knight, Marilyn Olenick, Eleanor Millard, Erin McElfresh, Alexander Shaia, John Wilkinson, William Geimer, Peter Goldsmith, Gar Smith, Thierry Blanc, and Tom Schott.
Ideas for topics submitted by David Swanson, Robert Anschuetz, Alan Knight, Marilyn Olenick, Eleanor Millard, Darlene Coffman, David McReynolds, Richard Kane, Phil Runkel, Jill Greer, Jim Gould, Bob Stuart, Alaina Huxtable, Thierry Blanc.
Music used by permission from “The End of War,” by Eric Colville.
Audio music and mixing by Sergio Diaz.
Graphics by Parisa Saremi.
World BEYOND War is a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace. We aim to create awareness of popular support for ending war and to further develop that support. We work to advance the idea of not just preventing any particular war but abolishing the entire institution. We strive to replace a culture of war with one of peace in which nonviolent means of conflict resolution take the place of bloodshed.