In the summer of 1960, the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA), the most active antiwar group in the country at the time, came to New London, Connecticut to stage demonstrations and host workshops arguing against the nuclear arms race. They called it Polaris Action after the Polaris nuclear weapon submarines being built at the nearby General Dynamics facility, Electric Boat. Eight months after the summer activities had finished, a contingent of CNVA members was nearing the East Coast again, having walked all the way from San Francisco as demonstrators against the arms race and intending to walk across Europe to Moscow as well.
In that same time, several other CNVA members had remained in southeastern Connecticut and established the New England chapter of the CNVA. In those months, they had set up an office with regular public hours, made considerable contacts with national media and at least one filmmaker, and had conducted countless speaking engagements and public demonstrations. Many members had been arrested for civil disobedience, some on multiple occasions, and several were still locked up. But they had made allies in the local community and further away, allies who could both help fill the gaps left by lost personnel and lend a degree of legitimacy with the local populace. Dr. Gordon Christiansen, chair of the Chemistry Department at Connecticut College, was one local resident who quickly joined the CNVA — within a short time, he was made Chairman of the Personnel Committee of the New England chapter. And so, as their fellow CNVA members walked ever closer, the New England chapter began to plan another round of summer programs against the arms race.
The first part of the program is in many ways a continuation of the New England CNVA’s work from the previous several months. The last few days of May were dedicated to the rendezvous and send-off of the San Francisco to Moscow Walk Team in New York — a campaign that had been first dreamed up at the Hygienic Restaurant in New London just eight months earlier, and which was to be continued stateside by the New England team for a week and a half solidarity walk east across Long Island (ending with the ferry back to New London). A one-day workshop was scheduled for the week after they returned. Between the solidarity walk and the workshop, several court hearings and demonstrations were scattered throughout, giving the impression of a busy schedule for a very dedicated team.
Published in late May 1961, it appears in the newsletter that the last part of June, all of July, and the first part of August had not yet been scheduled. For the end of the summer, the New England CNVA again partnered with the Peacemakers for an intensive 3-week training on nonviolent action and philosophy with a scope and breadth that may be surprising to some. We will explore the 1961 Peacemakers Training Program in the future. But the lack of more detailed plans for the middle of the summer was likely due to a desire to stay flexible to continuously developing situations, such as issues with the law as well as any opportunities for action that may arise. And besides, even between the protests, field trips, and workshops, for those who wanted to dedicate their summer to activism, or even for those who were just curious, there was always plenty to be done or learned or practiced.
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“Peace Education.” Polaris Action Bulletin. 25 May 1961 (Bulletin #23), page 5.
“Summer Program.” Polaris Action Bulletin. 25 May 1961 (Bulletin #23), page 5-6.
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