In June 1961, five antiwar activists leapt from a ship into a French harbor, attempting to defy the French government which had denied them entry. This was the first major obstacle for the San Francisco to Moscow Walk for Peace in the European leg of their journey. The group had just finished its trek down Great Britain with little issue, but there are the harbor in Le Havre, before 400 French supporters of the Walk, the French government refused the Walkers entry. Notably, Soviet Union officials had already agreed to permit the Walkers entry through Germany, including through Berlin — a fact that French authorities would have known due to the CNVA policy of openly sharing their plans. But the French government stood firm in their decision.
However, so, too, did the Walkers. Could they find an alternate route into the European mainland? Certainly. But the point of the Walk was not just to walk, but to spread their message of universal disarmament as widely as possible. If the French government wanted to silence these activists, the activists would engineer a situation that would automatically generate even more attention. Using the same strategy that many of the participants had honed in the United States, the activists would engage the authorities in a sort of carnival of nonviolent rebellion — activities impossible to ignore. Four of the five daring activists were arrested and sent back to the UK, but one managed to escape and even record his story, which we share below.
The four who were arrested were members of the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA). While they dealt with the French entry problem, their sister team still in the United States had continued the walk across Long Island, rode the ferry up to cross the Sound, and made it to New London, Connecticut, where the New England CNVA had its offices. The fourteen stateside Walkers would join the New England CNVA for workshops, protest actions, and more as part of the CNVA’s Polaris Action summer program.
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The CT Committee for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons organizes pro-disarmament demonstrations throughout the year. To participate in these demonstrations against nuclear arms and in support of the UN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, please get in touch with us on Facebook at facebook.com/voluntownpeacetrust or email us at email@example.com.
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“French Turn Back Moscow-Bound Group.” The Peacemaker. (Vol. 14, #9)
“Peace Walker Swims Ashore at Le Havre, France.” The Peacemaker. (Vol. 14, #9)
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