Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 11 - 17: an interesting week

I was looking at one of those sites that has significant historical events for each day of the year and I noticed that there were several falling in the week of June 11 - 17. So I thought I’d note some of them.

June 11, 1962 was the day the Port Huron Statement was issued. Authored largely by Tom Hayden, it was the founding document of the Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS.

June 12, 1963 was the day Medgar Evers was murdered.

June 12, 1964 was the day when a racist court in apartheid South Africa sentenced Nelson Mandela to life in prison.

June 12, 1967 was the occasion for the release of the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia. After being married in Washington, DC, Richard Loving and Mildred (Jeter) Loving returned home to Virginia. They were arrested for the crime of being married: Richard was white and Mildred was black and interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia. Richard was sentenced to a year in prison, suspended on the condition that they leave the state and not return for twenty-five years. In Loving, SCOTUS threw out the law, finally putting an end to state bans on interracial marriage. It still feels strange to know that in my adult lifetime, there were still laws against interracial marriage and that indeed public opinion was more against such marriages than are against same-sex marriages today. Still, while it does seem strange, for that very same reason it gives me hope that in no more than another generation the idea of a ban on same-sex marriage will seem as odd as a ban on interracial marriage does now.

June 12, 1982 saw the biggest peace demonstration in US history and the biggest peace demonstration anywhere prior to the worldwide demonstrations against the first Gulf War on February 15, 2003. Somewhere between 800,000 and one million people gathered in Central Park in New York City to mark SSSD II, the UN’s Second Special Session on Disarmament, and to protest nuclear weapons and call for a nuclear freeze. Two days later, there were simultaneous sit-ins at the UN missions of the five admitted nuclear powers, resulting in over 1600 arrests for nonviolent civil disobedience.

June 13, 1971 was the day the New York Times published the first installment of the Pentagon Papers, a “secret history” of the Vietnam War to 1968 authored by the RAND Corporation on behalf of the Pentagon. At the request of the Nixon administration, a federal court blocked further publication in the first case of prior restraint in US history. However, the Washington Post took up the cudgel and by the end of the month the Supreme Court had lifted the ban in what is still considered a significant decision for freedom of the press.

June 16, 1961 was when President John Kennedy agreed to increase the presence of American military advisors in Vietnam to 805 and to provide direct training and combat supervision to South Vietnamese troops. To the degree any particular date can be so regarded, this is the day the Vietnam War started.

Finally, June 17, 1972 was the day of the Watergate break-in. The break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington, DC, was part of the wide effort of Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign to manipulate he political process to ensure him a second term. The burglars were caught and thanks to the refusal of Judge John Sirica to believe the nonsense that this was just five rogue guys with no higher connections, it ultimately lead to criminal and Congressional investigations climaxing in Nixon, in the face of certain impeachment and likely conviction, resigning on August 9, 1974.


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