On June 13, 1961, amidst hundreds of supporters and bystanders, five international antiwar activists attempted to swim from a boat onto the French shore in defiance of the government’s banning of their presence and censorship of their message: the nuclear arms race is ethically abhorrent, practically suicidal, and the only way out of “mutually assured destruction” was unilateral disarmament. They would have to educate the public to advance their ultimate goal. But first, they would have to meet the people where they were — and to do that, they walked across the span of the United States, and were now making their way through Europe. But not before another attempt to enter France.
This was the San Francisco to Moscow Walk for Peace, one of the most ambitious peace walks ever conducted. A project of the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA) and in collaboration with multiple other peace groups across the United States, western Europe, and even the Soviet Union, the participants of the walk were very determined, perhaps even stubborn, but also practical. The first attempt to enter France by swimming involved five swimmers and some supporters on shore and on the boat. With some planning and cooperation with local French activists, the second attempt was planned with 19 swimmers and upwards of 1000 witnesses. With creative thinking, flexible tactics, and a clear focus on the true goal, the CNVA was often able to take advantage of their own “failures” in order to build momentum and improve their next actions.
Read on for the exhilarating firsthand account of the second Le Havre swimming action by the CNVA in 1961. Next week, we will share the conclusion of the second Le Havre demonstration, as well as the group’s arrival in Belgium.
(Click the image below to download the PDF version of the original clipping)
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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Gilbertson, Millie. “We Try to Enter France Again.” The Peacemaker. (Vol 14, #10)
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