by Jeff Paterson, Courage to Resist ( jeff [at] paterson.net )
Wednesday Oct 15th, 2008
SAN FRANCSICO (October 14, 2008) - Vietnam War resisters were joined
by Gulf War and Iraq War resisters to commemorate the anniversary of
the "Presidio 27 Mutiny," a 1968 protest and sit-in conducted by
imprisoned Vietnam War resisters.
During the Vietnam War era, the Presidio Stockade was a military
prison notorious for its poor conditions and overcrowding with many
troops imprisoned for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. When
Richard Bunch, a mentally disturbed prisoner, was shot and killed on
October 11th, 1968, Presidio inmates began organizing. Three days
later, 27 Stockade prisoners broke formation and walked over to a
corner of the lawn, where they read a list of grievances about their
prison conditions and the larger war effort and sang "We Shall
Overcome." The prisoners were charged and tried for "mutiny," and
several got 14 to 16 years of confinement. Meanwhile, disillusionment
about the Vietnam War continued to grow inside and outside of the military.
The mutiny's anniversary today comes at a time when military
resistance against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is climbing. U.S.
Army soldiers are resisting service at the highest rate since 1980,
with an 80 percent increase in desertions, defined as absence for
more than 30 days, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to
the Associated Press.
"This was for real. We laid it down, and the response by the
commanding general changed our lives," recalls Keith Mather, Presidio
"mutineer" who escaped to Canada before his trial came up and lived
there for 11 years, only to be arrested upon his return to the United
States. Mather is currently a member of the San Francisco Bay Area
Chapter of Veterans for Peace.
Other "mutineers" who attended the commemoration today include: John
Colip of Mesa, Arizona; Randy Roland of Seattle, Washington; and Mike
"The Mole" Marino of Vacaville, California. They were joined by Roger
Broomfield, a stockade guard who later became a defense witness, and
former San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan who helped
kickoff his career by defending "The Presidio 27."
"This was one of the first major acts of GI resistance against the
Vietnam War. Forty years later we again have growing resistance
within the military in opposition to a long, brutal occupation
war-complete with prisoners of conscience and resisters seeking
refuge in Canada," explained Gulf War GI resister Jeff Paterson,
Project Director of Courage to Resist, an organization established to
support Iraq War era military objectors.
Among the dozens of folks who gathered to listen to the "mutineers"
was a class of high school students from the Presidio Bay School.
Iraq War resister Stephen Funk explained to the students that this
was not simply a question of history, but that GI resisters are
locked up today for refusing this generation's unjust wars.