Peace Almanac June



June 1. On this day in 1914, 80 militiamen refused to board a train as reinforcements for a U.S. invasion of Mexico.

June 2. On this day in 1939 a German ship full of desperate Jewish refugees sailed close enough to see the lights of Miami, Florida, but was turned away, as President Franklin Roosevelt had blocked all efforts in Congress to admit Jewish refugees. This is a good day on which to remember that justifications for wars are sometimes concocted only after the wars are over. On May 13, 1939, nine hundred Jewish refugees boarded the S.S. St. Louis of the Hamburg-America Line headed for Cuba to escape concentration camps in Germany. They had little money by the time they were forced to leave, yet outrageous fees imposed for the trip made plans for starting over in a new country even more intimidating. Once they arrived in Cuba, they believed they would eventually be welcomed into the United States. Still, tension aboard the ship led to a few suicides before entering Cuba’s harbor where they were not allowed to disembark. The captain set up a suicide patrol to keep watch on passengers during the nights they spent in the harbor, struggling to understand the reason. Then, they were ordered to leave. The captain sailed along the coast of Florida hoping to see welcome signs, but U.S. planes and Coast Guard ships arrived only to steer them away. By June 7, there was little food left when the captain announced they would have to head back to Europe. As their story spread, Holland, France, Great Britain, and Belgium offered to accept some refugees. By June 13-16, the St. Louis met up with ships heading for these countries, arriving just as WWII began.

June 3. On this day in 1967, Conscientious objection was legally recognized in Belgium.

June 4. On this day in 1982, declaration of international Day for Children as Victims of War.

Also on this day in 1939, during what became known as the “Voyage of the Damned,” the SS St. Louis, carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees from Germany, was turned away from the Florida coast. The ship, which was also denied permission to dock in Cuba, eventually returned to Europe; many of the refugees later died in Nazi concentration camps.

June 5. On this day in 1962, the Port Huron Statement was completed. This was a manifesto produced by Students for a Democratic Society, and chiefly authored by Tom Hayden, a student at the University of Michigan. Students attending U.S. universities in the 1960s felt compelled to do something about the lack of freedom and individual rights they were witnessing in a country “of, by, and for the people.” The statement noted that “First, the permeating and victimizing fact of human degradation, symbolized by the Southern struggle against racial bigotry, compelled most of us from silence to activism. Second, the enclosing fact of the Cold War, symbolized by the presence of the Bomb, brought awareness that we ourselves, and our friends, and millions of abstract ‘others’ we knew more directly because of our common peril, might die at any time… With nuclear energy whole cities can easily be powered, yet the dominant nation-states seem more likely to unleash destruction greater than that incurred in all wars of human history.” They also feared the nation’s ambivalence toward: “The worldwide outbreak of revolution against colonialism and imperialism, the entrenchment of totalitarian states, the menace of war, overpopulation, international disorder, super-technology–these trends were testing the tenacity of our own commitment to democracy and freedom… we ourselves are imbued with urgency, yet the message of our society is that there is no viable alternative to the present.” Lastly, the manifesto expressed an urgent plea for “changing the conditions of  humanity… an effort rooted in the ancient, still unfulfilled conception of man attaining determining influence over his circumstances of life.”

June 6. On this day in 1968 Robert F. Kennedy was murdered. This is a good day to study what happened.

June 7. On this day in 1893, in his first act of civil disobedience, Mohandas Gandhi refused to comply with racial segregation rules on a South African train and was forcibly ejected at Pietermaritzburg. This led to a life spent fighting for civil rights through nonviolent means, bringing freedom to many Indians in Africa, and to India’s independence from Great Britain. Gandhi, an intelligent and inspirational man, was known for a spirituality which encompassed all religions. Gandhi believed in “Ahimsa,” or the positive force of love, integrating it into his political philosophy of “holding fast to truth or firmness in a righteous cause.” This belief, or “Satyagraha,” allowed Gandhi to turn political issues into the moral and righteous ones they really are. While surviving three attempts on his life, attacks, illnesses, and long imprisonments, Gandhi never attempted to retaliate against his opponents. Instead, he promoted peaceful change, inspiring all to do the same. When Britain imposed the unfair Salt Tax on the impoverished, he gave life to the Indian Independence movement by leading a march across India to the sea. Many died or were imprisoned before the British agreed to release all political prisoners. As Britain lost control of the country, India regained its independence. Known as the Father of his Nation, Gandhi’s name was then changed to Mahatma, meaning “soulful one.” Despite his nonviolent approach, it has been noted that every government that opposed Gandhi finally had to yield. His gift to the world was his dispelling of the belief that war is ever needed. Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, is celebrated worldwide as the International Day of Nonviolence.

June 8. On this day in 1966, 270 walk out of graduation ceremonies at NYU to protest the presentation of an honorary degree to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

Also on this day in 1967, two-thirds of the graduating class of Brown University turn their backs on Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the graduation speaker.

June 9. On this day in 1623, the English negotiate treaty with Potomac River tribes; after a toast symbolizing eternal friendship, Chiskiack chief & 200 followers drop dead from poisoned wine.

June 10. On this day in 1963 President John. F. Kennedy spoke in favor of peace at American University. Just five short months before his assassination, Kennedy’s remarks on the beauty of universities and of their role led to some unforgettable words of wisdom including the following: “I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived–yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace…I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all of the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn… First: Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable–that mankind is doomed–that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade–therefore, they can be solved by man.”

June 11. On this day in 1880 Jeannette Rankin was born. The first woman elected to Congress was a graduate of the University of Montana who began her career in social work. As both a pacifist and a suffragist, Rankin helped women win the right to vote by introducing a bill granting them citizenship independent of their husbands. As Rankin took her seat in April 1917, U.S. participation in WWI was being debated. She voted NO, despite extreme opposition, leading to her loss of a second term. Rankin then went to work for the National Conference for the Prevention of War before running for Congress once again with the slogan “Prepare to the Limit for Defense; Keep our Men out of Europe!” She attributed her second win in 1940 to women who appreciated her vote against WWI. Rankin was back in Congress when President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to vote for a Declaration of War on Japan taking the United States into WWII. Rankin’s was the only dissenting vote. Amid much backlash, she continued her work, including organizing the Jeannette Rankin Brigade for a 1968 march on Washington to protest the Vietnam War. Rankin called on Congress to address people’s needs, decrying the choices given women who “let their sons go off to war because they’re afraid their husbands will lose their jobs in industry if they protest.” She lamented that U.S. citizens were only offered “a choice of evils, not ideas.” Rankin’s words seemed to go unheard as wars continued despite the simple alternative she worked a lifetime for. She said: “If we disarmed, we’d be the safest country in the world.”

June 12. On this day in 1982 one million people demonstrated against nuclear weapons in New York. This is a good day to oppose nuclear weapons. While the United Nations held a Special Session on Disarmament, the crowd in Central Park drew international attention to the number of Americans opposed to the nuclear arms race. Dr. Randall Caroline Forsberg was one of the leading organizers of the “Nuclear Freeze,” and the number of protesters joining her in New York led to what was deemed to be “the largest political demonstration in the history of America.” Forsberg received a “genius award” from the MacArthur Fellowship acknowledging her work for a better, peaceful world by calling attention to the crises inherent in the accelerating nuclear weapons program. At the time, President Ronald Regan was not appreciative, going so far as to suggest that members of the Nuclear Freeze movement must be “unpatriotic,” “communist supporters,” or possibly even “foreign agents.” By his second term, his administration had felt enough pressure to begin talks on reducing the size of nuclear arsenals. A meeting was arranged with the Soviet Union, and talks began between President Regan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to eliminate weapons from both Eastern and Western Europe with the joint acknowledgment that “A nuclear war cannot be won, and should never be fought.” This followed a meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, where a proposal by Gorbachev to abolish all nuclear weapons by the year 2000 was not accepted by the United States. But by 1987, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed to require both countries to begin reducing their arsenals.

June 13. On this day in 1971, the Pentagon Papers excerpted in the New York Times, gave details of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from the end of World War II to 1968. On June 13, 1971, after years of protests against the draft, the prolonged killings in Vietnam, and the cries for reason that went unanswered by the U.S. government, the New York Times received some “classified” information from a former military analyst. Frustrated by his own ongoing efforts to stop the war, Daniel Ellsberg contacted the New York Times, allowing them a glimpse into the real reasons the United States had become a military state: “A massive study of how the United States went to war in Indochina, conducted by the Pentagon three years ago, demonstrates that four administrations progressively developed a sense of commitment to a non‐Communist Vietnam, a readiness to fight the North to protect the South, and an ultimate frustration with this effort — to a much greater extent than their public statements acknowledged at the time.” The U.S. Attorney General accused the Times of violating the law by disclosing government secrets, silencing them two days later. The Washington Post began to publish the story, and was also brought before the Federal Court. The country waited in disbelief until the benchmark decision for freedom of the press was finally made. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of publication with one of the justices, Hugo L. Black, releasing the following statement: “In revealing the workings of the government that led to the Vietnam War, the newspapers nobly did that which the Founding Fathers hoped and trusted they would do.”

June 14. On this day in 1943 the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the compulsory flag salute for school children. The original “Pledge to the Flag,” written in the 1800s for a celebration of the discovery of America, read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” During WWII, politics found benefits in turning this pledge into law. The words “of the United States,” and “of America” were then added; and by 1945, the title was changed, and regulations regarding proper salutation of the flag were added. Salutation rules were changed when they were compared to those of Nazi Germany from the first: “Stand, raising the right hand with exposed palm to the forehead;” to: “Stand, placing the right hand over the heart.” The words “under God” were added after “one Nation,” and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954. Initially, 35 states mandated that public school students from K-12 stand to salute the flag each day with hands over their hearts while reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance.” As the number of pledge states grew to 45, many questioned the hypocrisy of a law requiring children to pledge allegiance to a flag representing “Liberty and Justice for all.” Others noted a conflict between the pledge and their religious beliefs, citing the violation of First Amendment rights. Although it was acknowledged by the courts in 1943 that students cannot be required to pledge allegiance to the flag, those who do not stand, salute, and pledge daily continue to be criticized, ostracized, suspended, and labelled “Unpatriotic.”


June 15. On this day in 1917, and May 16, 1918, the Espionage and Sedition Acts were passed. The Espionage Act was imposed as the US became involved in World War I to prohibit citizens from doing anything that could undermine the military in its fight against Germany and its allies. The Act was amended less than a year later in what became known as the Sedition Act of 1918. The Sedition Act was more inclusive, making anything done, said, or written against the US involvement in WWI illegal. This left many US citizens fearing arrest for expressing their opinions opposing the military draft or involvement in the war, as well as questioning this violation of the right to free speech. Any criticism of the Constitution, the draft, the flag, the government, the military, or even the military uniform was made illegal. It also became illegal for anyone to obstruct the sale of US bonds, display a German flag in their homes, or speak in support of any cause supported by countries now considered enemies of the US. Any violations of these new laws led to arrests with fines of up to ten thousand dollars, and sentencing which could lead to imprisonment for up to twenty years. At least seventy-five newspapers were not allowed to print anything against the war if they expected to continue, and 2,000 people were arrested. There were 1,000 people, many of them immigrants, convicted and imprisoned during this time. Although the Sedition Act was repealed in 1921, many of the laws under the Espionage Act remained in effect in the US as one war led to another.

June 16. On this day in 1976, the Soweto massacre occurred. 700 children were killed for refusing to learn Afrikaans. Even before the Nationalist Party took over in 1948, South Africa struggled with segregation. While education for whites was free, black children were neglected by the Bantu School System. Ninety percent of black South African schools were run by Catholic missionaries with minimal state assistance. In 1953, the Bantu Education Act cut all financing of education from state spending for Africans, followed by a University Education Act prohibiting black students from attending white universities. The move that led to the Soweto uprising was the Bantu decree that a language be used for instruction and examination that even teachers were not fluent in, the Afrikaans. As exam time approached, students from two high schools inspired by the South African Students Movement organized the Action Committee of the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC) to plan a peaceful protest against these increasingly difficult demands. The march began in Soweto passing other high schools where they were joined by students from these schools, and continued to meet up until thousands marched together to “Uncle Tom’s” Municipal Hall at Orlando. By the time they arrived, they had been disrupted by police and attacked with tear gas and bullets. By the time the mass shootings began, the marchers had been joined by over 300 white students and countless black workers in the fight against Apartheid and Bantu education. Police brutality was met with calm persistence by surviving students and supporters who continued for months the determined struggle for equality inspired by this memorable African “Youth Day.”

June 17. This is International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

June 18. On this day in 1979, the SALT II agreement to limit long-range missiles and bombers was signed by Presidents Carter and Brezhnev. This agreement between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Republics was made as both became: “Conscious that nuclear war would have devastating consequences for all mankind…,” and “Reaffirming their desire to take measures for the further limitation and for the further reduction of strategic arms, having in mind the goal of achieving general and complete disarmament….” President Carter sent the agreement to Congress where debate went on until the Russian invasion of Afghanistan left it unratified. In 1980, President Carter announced that, regardless, the United States would comply with major stipulations of the agreement if Russia would reciprocate, and Brezhnev agreed. The foundation for the SALT treaties began when President Ford met with Brezhnev to lay the foundation which set a limit on multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle systems, banned construction of new land-based inter-continental ballistic missile launchers, limited deployment of new strategic offensive arms, strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, and kept the agreement valid through 1985. President Nixon agreed, as did President Reagan, who then declared violations by the Russians in 1984 and 1985. In 1986, Reagan announced that “…the US must base decisions regarding its strategic force structure on the nature and magnitude of the threat posed by Soviet strategic forces and not on standards contained in the SALT structure….” He did add that the US would “…continue to exercise the utmost restraint, while protecting strategic deterrence, in order to help foster the necessary atmosphere for significant reductions in the strategic arsenals of both sides.”

June 19. This is Juneteenth, marking the day in 1865 when previously enslaved people in Texas learned that they were free.

June 20. This is World Refugee Day. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, was appointed in January 2017 after a lifetime spent working to stop the endless suffering that wars impose on innocents. Born in Lisbon in 1949, he earned a degree in engineering and became fluent in Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish. His election to the Portuguese Parliament in 1976 introduced him to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe where he chaired the Committee on Demography, Migration, and Refugees. Twenty years of working as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees allowed Guterres to witness more than most the suffering, starvation, torture, disease, and deaths of civilian men, women, and children in refugee camps and war zones. While serving as Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995-2002, he remained involved in international efforts as president of the European Council. His backing led to the adoption of the Lisbon Agenda for jobs and growth, and to the designation by the UN in December of 2000 of World Refugee Day. June 20 was chosen in remembrance of a 1951 Refugee Status Convention held fifty years earlier, and to acknowledge the continuing rise in the number of refugees worldwide to 60 million. Guterres’ words were chosen to introduce the World Refugee Day website: “This is not about sharing a burden. It is about sharing a global responsibility, based not only on the broad idea of our common humanity but also on the very specific obligations of international law. The root problems are war and hatred, not people who flee; refugees are among the first victims of terrorism.”

June 21. On this day in 1749, Father Le Loutre’s War began.

June 22. On this day in 1987, 8,000 peace protesters form 10-mile human chain around U.S. air base, Okinawa, Japan.

June 23. This is United Nations Public Service Day.

June 24. On this day in 1948, president Truman signs the Selective Service Act, creating a registration for all men from ages 18-25.

June 25. On this day in 1918 Eugene V. Debs was arrested for speaking against war. Also on this day in 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed and in 1950 the Korean War begun. Also on this day the battle of Little Bighorn began.

June 26. This is United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

June 27. On this day in 1869 Emma Goldman was born. Growing up in Lithuania, Goldman survived the Russian Revolution and antisemitism driving many to migrate. By age fifteen, a marriage pre-arranged by her father led Goldman, along with a sister, to flee to America. In New York, ten and a half hour days spent working at a coat factory led her to join a newly established labor union calling for fewer hours. As she began speaking out for women’s and workers’ rights, Goldman became known as a feminist anarchist who incited radical behavior. She routinely endured arrests. When President William McKinley was assassinated, Goldman was criticized nationally as one of her lectures had been attended by the assassin. By 1906, she started a magazine, “Mother Earth,” to educate readers on the ideologies of feminism and anarchism. As the US entered WWI, legislation such as the Sedition Act ended free speech, labelling pacifists as unpatriotic. Goldman continued to encourage anti-war efforts through her magazine, and organized a “No-Conscription League,” along with fellow activists Leonard Abbott, Alexander Berkman, and Eleanor Fitzgerald, to oppose “all wars by capitalist governments.” She and Berkman were arrested for conspiring to lower draft registrations, fined $10,000, and sentenced to two years in prison. Goldman was deported to Russia upon her release. While there, she wrote My Disillusionment in Russia, followed by her autobiography, Living My Life. Her last years were spent traveling and lecturing to fans all over Europe. She was allowed a ninety day tour back in the US before her request to be buried in Chicago was granted following her death in 1940.

June 28. On this day in 1914 World War I began and in 2009 a U.S.-backed coup overthrew the government of Honduras. This is a good day to work for the combination of the peace movement with the immigrants (refugees) rights movement.

June 29. On this day in 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court rules that the death penalty — as then employed by the states — is unconstitutional.

June 30. On this day in 1966, first GIs, Fort Hood Three, refused to be sent to Vietnam. Private David Samas, Private Dennis Mora, and Private First Class James A. Johnson met at Fort Gordon, Georgia before each were reassigned to the 142nd Battalion of the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas. Their anticipated deployment orders were issued despite their opposition to the escalating war in Vietnam. Protests taking place across the US led them to use the 30-day leave granted before their deployment date to find a lawyer, and connect with anti-war activists. They managed to meet up with Dave Dellinger, Fred Halstead, and A.J. Muste, well known pacifists with ties to the influential Parade Committee, and set up a press conference in New York City. The Three arrived, backed by hundreds of supporters from civil rights groups at the Press Conference, where they invited other GIs to join them in their refusal to be deployed. Their refusal was simply a call for reason: “The war in Vietnam must be stopped…We want no part of a war of extermination. We oppose the criminal waste of American lives and resources. We refuse to go to Vietnam!” Police were then sent to deliver The Three to Fort Dix, NJ, where they were ordered to leave immediately for Saigon by Commanding General Hightower. Again, they refused, declaring the Vietnam War illegal. The Three were imprisoned, court-martialed in September, and sentenced to three more years with the Supreme Court refusing all appeals. During those three years, hundreds of active duty service members and veterans felt inspired to join the anti-war movement.

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