Committee for Non-Violent Action
The Committee for Non-Violent Action had its beginnings in May 1957, with a newly formed committee called Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons which soon changed it's name to the Committee for Non-Violent Action (CNVA).
Nuclear testing, 1957-1963
The first action of the committee was a protest on August 12, 1957 (the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima) where they were arrested attempting to enter the atomic testing grounds of Camp Mercury, Nevada.
In May and June of 1958, members of the committee got on the Golden Rule and attempted to sail from Hawaii to the Eniwetok atoll nuclear testing grounds in the Marshall Islands, but were stopped by authorities before their attempts could be successful.
Anthropologist Earle Reynolds and his family happened to be in Hawaii at the time this was happening. Reynolds had formerly been an anthropologist for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, studying the effects of the bombing of Hiroshima. Reynolds and his family learned about the trial of the Golden Rule sailors, and began becoming involved in the campaign. Reynolds decided to continue the effort of the Golden Rule crew, and set sail towards testing ground waters with his yacht, the Phoenix of Hiroshima. On July 1, 1958 Reynolds and his family successfully sailed 65 nautical miles into the testing area around the Bikini Atoll, at which point the US Coast Guard boarded their boat.
In 1959, CNVA launched a campaign called "Omaha Action". It was a protest against ICBM sites that were being built in Nebraska. National CNVA activists came to Omaha in June and met with local activists. The activists attempted to engage the local community in meetings and dialogue about the issue, with some difficulty, especially due to the antipathy of much of the local press and churches. The protestors went to the construction site of the Atlas ICBM Strategic Missile Squadron, at the Offutt SAC Air Force Base, near Mead, Nebraska. On July 1, three protestors, including A. J. Muste attempted to enter the base and were arrested. Protestors continued to be arrested afterward while trying to enter the base or while stopping traffic from entering the base. A vigil took place outside of the base for several weeks.
In the summer of 1960, CNVA launched the "Polaris Action" campaign, protesting submarines carrying Polaris ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. Protests happened up and down the east coast, but were focused in Groton, Connecticut. Groton had a US Navy submarine base, and was where the Electric Boat Company, which was building submarines, was located. CNVA reached out to the local community, and held a long vigil outside of the company. When a new submarine was launched, CNVA would sail up to it in canoes and rowboats, and sometimes succeeded in boarding the submarines. Afterwards, the CNVA activists would be arrested.
In December 1960, several men and women set off from San Francisco in the CNVA-sponsored San Francisco to Moscow Walk for Peace. The walk called for unilateral disarmament. In May 1961 the walk reached New York City. The march went across Europe and ended in Red Square, Moscow on October 3, 1961, at which point the walk made the front page of the New York Times. Marchers met with Khruschev's wife as well as students at the Moscow University and discussed the need for disarmament.
In May 1962, CNVA members attempted to sail the Everyman from Sausalito, California into the Pacific nuclear testing zone, were stopped by the US Coast Guard only miles from the California coast.
On December 19, 1964, CNVA participated in a protest against the Vietnam war in the vicinity of Washington Square Park, New York. On February 20, 1965, CNVA members were arrested for blocking the entrance of the US mission to the United Nations.
On June 16, 1965, CNVA led a "Speak-Out at the Pentagon". Leaflets were passed out and speeches were made against the war in Vietnam, not only at the Pentagon entrances, but within the building as well. A delegation of protestors spoke directly with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. On July 29, 1965 CNVA participated in a picket of approximately four hundred protestors at the US Army induction center on Whitehall Street in New York City. Some of the protestors burned their draft cards.
On the anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in August 1965, CNVA members participated in the "Assembly of Unrepresented People" in Washington, DC. This was an assembly of people from many movements, with the premise being that government policy in Vietnam did not include them. The National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam would grow out of this assembly. On August 9th, several hundred people marched to the Capitol. On the way they encountered counter-demonstrators, including the American Nazi Party. One counter-demonstrator splashed the people leading the march with red paint, a photograph of which appeared in an issue of Life Magazine that month. The police attempted to stop the march to the Capitol and arrested around three hundred people.
On November 6, 1965, CNVA held a demonstration in Union Square Park, New York City. Counter-demonstrators showed up, and police attempted to keep the demonstrators and counter-demonstrators separated. A draft card burning law had just been put into effect, and five men planned to break the law in an act of civil disobedience and burn their draft cards. When the men went to burn their cards, a counter-demonstrator put out the flame with a fire extinguisher. Police worried about the possibility of disorder, and escorted the demonstration leaders out of the park to protect them. The counter-demonstrators yelled "Burn yourselves, not your draft cards" (four days earlier, Norman Morrison immolated himself in protest of the Vietnam war and burned to death in front of the Pentagon). One participant in the event, Roger LaPorte, a Catholic Worker member, burned himself to death three days later in front of the United Nations in protest of the war.
On March 25, 1966, the CNVA protested in front of the the Boston Army Base induction center in conjunction with the International Days of Protest. They sat down in an attempt to block traffic coming in and out of the base. Counter-protestors surrounded them, one man offering them gasoline "so you can burn yourself", a reference to Americans who had emulated Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc by burning themselves to death. The police arrested eleven protestors. The next day, hundreds of people, including some CNVA activists, marched from Cambridge to the Arlington Street Church in Boston to protest the war in Vietnam. Counter-protestors gathered outside the church and pelted it with cans, fruit and other things. The CNVA activists arrested on the 25th were scheduled to appear in court on March 31. That morning, they appeared on the courthouse steps, and four of the men burned their draft cards. Counter-demonstrators gathered around, many who were high school students, began beating them. The four were charged with burning draft cards in addition to their earlier charges.
CNVA sponsored a trip of six activists who arrived in Saigon on April 15, 1966. For the first few days the group kept a low profile and met with a variety of people. On April 20, the group attempted to have a press conference at Saigon's city hall, but it was broken up by disruptors. Afterwards, one of the disruptors told one of the activists, A. J. Muste, that they were security agents and had been told to break up the press conference. The next day the activists attempted to walk to the US embassy where they were planning to picket, but the government arrested them before they got there, and deported them. At the airport, a reporter covering their expulsion was beaten, and a camera operator had his film seized.