The Draft as a Means of Repression (1969)
As people across the country organize for social and economic change, officials - on the local, state and federal level - are moving to stop them.
Sometimes they charge these people directly with their organizing work-as in the "conspiracy" cases of the Boston Five (Dr. Benjamin Spock) and the Chicago Eight (activities at the Democratic Convention). The primary purpose of such charges is to put the most vocal people on the defensive and out of action. And to intimidate others from similar action. At the same time, it makes it very clear why they are being attacked.
But sometimes the charges have no apparent connection with the organizing work-and even appear to have a certain legitimacy. The purpose and effect, however, are the same. The organizers are taken out of the struggle. These cases are harder to fight, because the issues are less clear, but they are nonetheless political suppression.
The draft is one of these "subtle" weapons. Although it can be argued that all young men in the U.S. are in the same position with regard to the draft, it is a fact that, increasingly, the work of young, effective organizers is being curtailed because of it.
In June, 1966, General Lewis Hershey told the House Armed Services Committee: "At the present time, we need some incentive to keep a skilled man working in the national interest after he gets to be 26." He said that "the deferment is that carrot that we have used to try to get individuals into occupations and professions that are said by those in charge of government to be the necessary ones." Evidently, organizing to improve people's conditions is considered neither "necessary" nor "in the national interest."
The experiences of two Southern movement workers-Walter Collins and Joe Mulloy-provide a case study of how the weapon of the draft is used. Walter Collins is a 24-year-old native of Louisiana. He was reared in the black ghetto area of New Orleans called Carrolton, where his family has lived for generations. His great grandfather donated the land on which the first public school for blacks in Plaquemines Parish was erected. His grandfather Was a follower of Marcus Garvey and a leader in early voter-registration programs.
By the time he entered high school, Collins was well aware of what it means to be black in the United States. The segregated schools of New Orleans provided no training for black people. In his words, "blacks were programmed to mimic white society." He first understood how blacks are denied voting rights when a cousin who had attended college in the North could not pass the voter-registration exam.
Collins followed a strong tradition of activism in his family by joining the early sit-ins to desegregate theaters and lunch counters in New Orleans, in 1963. Then he worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) registering voters in Louisiana and Mississippi, and with the '64 Mississippi Summer Project.
Joe Mulloy is a 25-year-old native of Kentucky. He was raised in the W, End of Louisville, in a working-class family. His father was a plumber and a minor union official.
In 1964, while at the University of Kentucky, he became interested in a student group that was beginning to work with the poor in nearby Appalachia. That winter, he spent his weekends working with the mountain people, fixing up dilapidated school houses and tutoring youngsters. This was at the beginning of the War on Poverty and the student group, called Appalachian Volunteers (AV), applied for and received a federal grant to broaden their work. Mulloy soon joined the staff full time.
His job was to supervise the student volunteers and VISTA workers, most of whom were from out of state. The emphasis of the program was on providing a good experience for the students, by bringing them into contact with the poor and unemployed of the mountains.
After a year of this. Mulloy and several other staff members realized the shortcomings of the AV and poverty-war programs. They felt that the emphasis of their organizing should be, not the student volunteers, but the problems of the people in the area. One of the most glaring of these problems is strip mining.
The Politics of Coal
Strip mining involves scraping the top off a mountain to lay bare the upper seams of rich coal. Auger mining-which is also widespread in Appalachia-uses bulldozers to cut a gash around the side of a mountain, exposing the seam vertically. Huge drills then bore into the side of the mountain, to pull out the ore. Both of these methods push earth, boulders and trees down the mountainsides, burying houses and gardens, polluting streams, and devastating the area.
Under Kentucky law, the mine owner is not forced to pay compensation for the damage he causes. Efforts to force compensation and regulate mining practices have been fruitless, although the coal operators consider Kentucky's surface mining regulations the strongest in the nation.
The fact is that coal is one of the biggest industries in the state. The operators therefore have considerable influence, if not control, over the enforcement of mining laws-even though they pay virtually no taxes.
Coal is a multi-billion dollar business which flourishes in the midst of some of America's cruelest poverty and unemployment. To regulate the industry and force it to share its profits with the mountain people through fair taxes would be a giant step toward ending that poverty.
The Strip-Mine Struggle
It was into this struggle that Mulloy and a few others on the AV staff ventured. They began to help a local group which opposed strip mining and advocated coal taxation. Soon strong chapters had been formed in half a dozen Eastern Kentucky counties.
In Pike County, where Mulloy and his wife, Karen, lived, one man forced a confrontation with the law by standing in front of a bulldozer that was about to auger the land above his home. His neighbors were there to back him up, and so were the Mulloys. After a month of confrontations, the Governor suspended the operator's permit and ordered a halt to the mining. This was a tremendous victory for the people-and it pointed the way to many more.
The coal operators knew this, and they moved quickly to crush the movement. In the early hours of August 11, 1967 (eleven days after the victory) a sheriffs posse raided the Mulloys' home and the home of two organizers for the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF). SCEF is a southwide interracial group working to end poverty, racial injustice, the war and the draft. Books, letters and personal documents were seized and Mulloy and the SCEF workers were charged with sedition-advocating the violent overthrow of the government. The man who led the raiding party was State's Attorney Thomas Ratliff-founder of the Coal Operators' Association and a millionaire operator himself.
The sedition charges were clearly meant to stop the organizing and to promote the interests of the operators-including Ratliff, who was running for Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky at the time. A special panel of federal judges found the sedition law unconstitutional one month later. They freed the three organizers and two SCEF executives who had also been arrested.
The sedition charge, with its potential 21 year sentence, was no longer a usable weapon against the organizers. It was at this point that the draft law was used, to stop Mulloy's work in Eastern Kentucky.
During the strip-mining confrontation in July, Mulloy had been ordered to report for induction, even though he was appealing his reclassification a few months earlier from 2-A (occupational deferment) to I-A (eligible for induction). He got that order cancelled. Then, two weeks after the sedition arrest, his appeal was unanimously denied by the state board. That left him I-A.
On the day after the sedition law was thrown out, the board issued another order for Mulloy to report for induction. They ignored the fact that he was still under bond for 60 days, pending a possible appeal by the state, and that he still faced a charge in Pike County.
Mulloy was on vacation and did not find the draft order until he returned in early October, 1967. While on vacation, unaware of the new induction order, Mulloy-encouraged by his wife-had decided to file for CO status when he returned to Kentucky. He had been influenced by the writings of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and pacifist. And through his work in the mountains, he met a number of Quakers-from whom he learned of conscientious objection for the first time. (The Louisville Peace Council has repeatedly tried to get the Louisville and Jefferson County boards of education to allow it equal time with army recruiters to explain conscientious objection to high-school students; the board has repeatedly refused to do so.) Although not a pacifist, Mulloy was convinced that war was wrong, and that he could not participate in it. And, like so many young men in the 1960's, he was faced with the reality of Vietnam.
A "Courtesy" Hearing
Returning home, he found the induction order-which was later cancelled because he was still out on bail. Mulloy filed the request for CO status and the board gave him what it called a "courtesy" hearing. The board members questioned his patriotism and quizzed him about his work in the mountains. In January, 1968, he was told that the board would not reopen his case to consider his CO application. This denied him any appeal. The board did not doubt his sincerity-they merely said he did not present enough evidence to warrant a reopening. On the same day, they issued a new induction order.
Mulloy refused to step forward into the army and was convicted in Federal Court in Louisville. At his trial, the clerk boasted that CO status had not been granted even once, in her 17 years with the draft board. The board is the same one that refused to defer Cassius Clay (Muhammad All) as a Muslim minister.
Mulloy's Selective Service file contained a stack of newspaper clippings about his work in the mountains and the sedition arrest. The clerk claimed that this was standard procedure, to keep up with the activities of the registrants. Mulloy was given the maximum five-year sentence and fined $10,000, which the judge ordered him to pay immediately, as a condition to bail. He spent six weeks in jail, until the bail ruling was overturned. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has upheld his conviction, and he is appealing it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Joe and Karen Mulloy now both work with SCEF, organizing in the mountains and throughout the South. It appears certain, however, that he will soon be in prison.
While attending Louisiana State University in 1965 and '66 he worked on various voter-registration campaigns. In the summer of 1966 he was particularly active in work against the Vietnam War. He felt that "it was a contradiction for black people to have to fight for other people's freedom thousands of miles away, when they were not free themselves." Collins compiled a list of all the black servicemen from New Orleans's Ninth Ward who had been killed in Vietnam. It was much higher than the white death toll. He put out literature about it, using photographs taken from the newspapers. This created a storm of protest in the community-and the local papers quit printing photographs of the war dead, so people could not see how many were black.
That same summer, he worked with his mother, Virginia Collins, trying to make the war on poverty more relevant to black people. His mother was finally fired from her poverty-war job for encouraging blacks to register to vote. She then went to work with SCEF as an organizer in Louisiana. In the fall of 1966, she was called to testify before the Louisiana UnAmerican Activities Committee. LUAC was investigating "subversives" in the poverty war. Virginia Collins is now a regional vice-president of the Republic of New Africa, a black separatist group that wants five states in the Deep South for a black nation.
Black-White Coalition in Mississippi
Collins has recently been involved with SCEF's Deep South project, Grass Roots Organizing Work (GROW). They are helping to build a political coalition between black and white workers striking against the Masonite Corporation plant in Laurel, Miss. Collins organized support for an independent slate of candidates, running as the Workers' Independent Party, in recent city elections. They lost-partly because the interracial coalition has not yet been realized. But Collins believes that this coalition is a necessity if poor and working people, both black and white, are to control their government.
Draft Problems Begin
His problems with the draft began in the fall of 1966, after a summer of intense activity in New Orleans, during which Collins had carried on the campaign against the war. He was then a full-time graduate student at the University of Michigan. His student deferment lapsed in November and, in January. 1967. he was notified that he was I-A. This was a full six months before the ruling which disallowed graduate deferments went into effect. Collins immediately wrote his draft board, offering proof of his student status and asking to appeal the classification. That letter has mysteriously disappeared from the clerk's files; the board maintains no such letter exists.
In June of 1967 he was ordered to report for a physical. A few weeks later he was sent a current information questionnaire. Collins filled in the questionnaire and sent it back to the board, asking to meet with them. He had heard nothing about his earlier appeal, and wanted to discuss applying for CO status.
When he arrived in New Orleans, he was told he would have to write another letter to the board about meeting with them, and wait until their regular meeting. He was also told that, since he was a full-time student, he would probably be given a student deferment-so he didn't bother to ask about the CO application.
When Collins got back to Michigan he found an induction order that had been issued before he visited the board. The date of induction had, by then, passed. He immediately caught a plane back to New Orleans and explained to the clerk that the order had not been forwarded. He also complained about the misinformation he had been given in his previous visit, and asked about the procedures for applying for conscientious objector status. The clerk said it was too late to apply for CO status since he was under orders to report for induction. She refused to give him the forms.
Collins was told he would be ordered to report for induction the following month.
At the Induction Center. . . .
He reported twice at the induction center, but the officer in charge told Collins to leave because he was wearing anti-war buttons and passing out literature. The draft board clerk finally gave him a CO application form, under instructions from her superiors. But she told Collins that it would do him no good to fill it out-and handed him his third induction notice.
On the fourth induction date, Collins was examined by a medical officer who insulted him with racial slurs. He was then told to sit in a room and wait. After more than three hours of waiting, he got up and left. No one tried to stop him.
Tired of playing around with the draft board, he decided to leave New Orleans, since he did not intend to submit to the draft. He went to New York to work in the peace movement and was arrested a month later. But not before the draft board had issued two more induction orders, which he never received.
Collins was indicted on six counts of refusing induction and convicted on five of them. The foreman of his jury was a man who had said, "I'm a spy, a secret agent for the Army. Would that prejudice the case?" while the jury was being selected. Several women who were wives or mothers of policemen were also selected as jurors. He was sentenced to 25 years-the maximum of five years on each charge, to be served concurrently-and fined $2,000. The terms of his $5,000 bond restrict him to the eastern half of Louisiana-and keep him from continuing to build the coalition in Mississippi.
After he was sentenced, Collins said: "If I am guilty of a crime, it is the crime of thinking. The draft is a totalitarian instrument used to practice genocide against black people. Poor and working-class people are drafted to fight, not for American ideals, but for the interests of a few capitalists who run this country."
He is appealing his sentence and the travel restrictions.
And that is how the draft is being used to try to stop Joe Mulloy and Walter Collins-and many others-from organizing in Appalachia and the Deep South.
Collins can no longer travel to Mississippi, to take part in work which was proving to people across the South and the nation that black-white coalitions are possible. He will serve a maximum of five years in prison-but many people will read 25 years, and decide not to take the risk.
Mulloy's case shows that the draft was used to stop his work after another weapon-the sedition law-became useless. The draft board took up the attack immediately after the sedition law was knocked out; it kept a newspaper clipping file on his political activity. The judge went a step further than travel restrictions-he demanded that Mulloy pay his $10,000 fine before he could be freed on bond.
There are countless other examples. Students from Nashville are expelled from college for organizing, lose their student deferments and are drafted. Fred Brooks of SNCC is called before a Senate investigating subcommittee and drafted simultaneously. In South Carolina, Cleve Sellers of SNCC faces charges growing out of the Orangeburg Massacre-and is drafted.
These cases all show that the draft is just one of many ways that movements for social change can be slowed down-different in degree, but not in kind, from conspiracy charges (Dr. Spock, the Chicago 8), Congressional investigations (SDS, SNCC, SCEF, the Black Panthers), and criminal charges (Huey Newton, Rap Brown, Reies Tijerina).
In all of these cases, people have been arrested and jailed because of their efforts to end poverty, racism and war. The suppression of their political rights is a further symptom of the very things they were organizing to end. Unless this is stopped, the United States could easily become a police state-a direction that many feel has already been taken.
The only way to stop this from happening is to fight every step of the way, in every case and every instance. And to continue to organize. As one organizer goes to jail, ten must take his place.
IN NAZI GERMANY.. .
First they put the Communists and Jehovah's Witnesses in the concentration camps - but I was not a Communist or a Jehovah's Witness, so I did nothing. Then they came for the social democrats - but I was not a social democrat, and I did nothing. Then they arrested the trade-unionists - and I did nothing, because I was not one. Then they arrested the Jews - and again I did nothing because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, but I was not a Catholic and I did nothing. A t last they came and arrested me - but then it was too late already.
What YOU can do to stop it from happening here:
Send letters to the editors of the Times-Picayune and the States-Item (both in New Orleans, La.) and to the Louisville Times and the Courier-Journal (in Louisville, Ky.) describing the political nature of these two cases, and protesting such suppression;
Write to the trial judges in both cases, demanding an immediate suspension of sentence and a cease-and-desist order from further harassment. For Collins write to: Judge Edward Boyle, U.S. District Court, New Orleans, La, For Mulloy, write to: Judge James Gordon, U.S. District Court, Louisville, Ky.;
Be on the lookout for cases of political suppression in your community or city. Support the defendants wholeheartedly;
Signed petitions urging the President of the United States to grant amnesty to Mulloy and Collins and all others resisting the draft should be sent to the White House, Washington, D.C.;
Organizations have been formed to abolish the draft entirely. For more information, write the National Council to Repeal the Draft, 201 Massachusetts Ave., N.B., Washington, D.C. 20002;
The cost of fighting a political case is enormous. Besides the normal legal expenses, there is the cost of literature and publicity such as this. You can help greatly by distributing this pamphlet widely and contributing to its cost. Please send money to help fIght these cases to:
Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF) 3210 West Broadway, Louisville, Ky. 40211.
Source: Southern Conference Educational Fund