May 1980 v.p. The Journey East p. 6

May 1980 v.p.  – The Journey East p.6

Cordaro, VP, Vol. 4, No. 3, May-July 1980, The Journey East


By Frank Cordaro

It’s spring and I find myself heading east again.  This time the March for a Non-Nuclear World beckons, and in our 10-day trip we hope to attend the April 26 legal march and rally, participate in the April 28 shutting down of the Pentagon, and attend the ten year anniversary of the Kent State and Jackson State killings at KSU May 4 and 5.

Brent Vanderlinden and I venture out early Thursday morning on the 24th in Rev. Bob’s blue ‘Bug.’  Our first stop was in Normal, IL at the Catholic Worker, where Tina Sipula and Virginia Pirnat fixed us a great lunch and sent us on our way with full bellies and warm hearts.  Before leaving, we passed on the now famous “Traveling Mary.”  Not to be outdone, Tina bestowed on our house an electric statue of the Sacred Heart with different light bulbs for the different liturgical seasons.  Thank you, dear friends.  Our next stop was Pittsburgh–the Duncan and Porter House of Hospitality and Resistance.  Coming into Pittsburgh at about 1:00 am Friday, we met Vince Eirene for the first time.  Vince led us to their home where he and his wife Chris offer hospitality to displaced families and at the same time run their own small moving agency–the main supply of funds for the house.  We went straight to bed and in the morning were able to share while doing laundry.  We promised to visit them on our way back from D.C.

Then it was on the Washington, D.C., but not before having to replace the generator on the ‘Bug’ 70 miles from our destination.  Coming into town, we went to the vigil outside the White House around 10:30 pm.  It was there that we met our first Iowans who, like us, ventured east for the demo–two guys, Bob and Mark from Carroll.

We spent Friday night at a local church, meeting up with Dan Ebener, formerly from Dubuque and now a staff person for FOR, and with folks from Ames and Iowa City.  On Saturday we gathered at the White House for a religious service, and it began to rain in earnest.  At the service, a Puerto Rican bishop, Antulio Parrilla Bonilla, spoke of the struggle of the people of Vieques, who are trying to rid their peaceful island of the disruptive bombing exercises by the US military.  It is so encouraging to see third-world bishops putting their lives on the line for the truth of the Gospels, a witness that we can only pray their first-world brothers will soon join.  From the White House we moved on to the Capitol to meet up with the large group.  At the steps we met more friends from Iowa.  Our numbers we growing, and the rain kept coming down.  Dr. Helen Caldicott was on of the speakers on the Capitol steps.  Her pessimism was disturbing.  She gives the peace movement two years to turn the arms race around before it’s too late.  By then we will have installed the launch on a warning system that will enable our country to launch an all-out nuclear attack on Russia upon warning of a Soviet attack.  Helen says that once this technological nightmare is installed, she and her family are gong to move back to Australia and the southern hemisphere to wait out for the end.

From the Capital steps, we marched down Independence Avenue, 30,000 strong, to the Washington Monument for the bulk of the rally.  At the monument we met up with about 15 folks from Dubuque.  In all, about 50 Iowans represented.  The rain continued to come down throughout the afternoon, at around 3:30 pm Brent and I decided to throw in the towel and find a dry warm place to spend the night.  We spent Saturday night with Fr. Bob Beck at Catholic University.  Bob treated us to a hearty supper and warm beds.

Sunday was spent in training sessions and planning meetings for the Direct Action at the Pentagon Monday afternoon.  The “Duane Arnold Decommissioning Affinity Group[“ grew to 12 people by Sunday night.  We all ate our last meal together before going to bed in Bethesda, MD at the home of the Johnsons, a local support family.  Monday started early as we ventured back into the city.  By 9:30 am there were 1,400 people gathered at the DOE.  The DOE is the only federal agency which researches, builds, develops, and promotes both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.  At the DOE we met up with Steve Mardsen, Bill Douglas, and Leighton Berryhill, who drove all night from Iowa to make it to the action.  Our numbers grew again!  From the DOE to group marched to the Pentagon in three different segments in search of the source of the nuclear madness–the War Department.  Once at the Pentagon, all 1,400 people were divided into five different task forces, each assigned to a side of the Pentagon.  The Iowa affinity group, along with 200 other folks, approached the concourse side of the Pentagon.  This is the side to which the daily bus and subway traffic to and from the Pentagon must come.  It is also the entrance to the concourse, a public shopping center right in the middle of the Pentagon–in the belly of the Beast!  We decided to enter the Pentagon concourse and try to disrupt as much as possible from within.  There were about 10 different affinity groups averaging 20 people each involved in our effort.  We quickly tried to block the main security doors leading from the concourse into the Pentagon itself.  Once past the security doors a person needed clearance.  It was at these doors that we spent most of the afternoon.  Once we managed to block these doors by sitting in front of them, the police would drag us off, making sure that there was always a corridor for people to go through.  It was obvious that the Pentagon security people were reluctant to make arrests.  For close to three hours we would try to plug the gaps that the police kept opening, only to be dragged further away.  There seemed to be as many police as there were demonstrators.  As time went by, we received word from messengers about how the campaign was going on the other side of the Pentagon.  People were being arrested on the River Side where the VIPs came to work.  One ex-military man burnt his uniform in protest of the arms race.  Folks on the loading dock are had to contend with police on horseback.  The presence of 1,400 demonstrators, while not able to shut the place down, was surely being felt throughout the Pentagon. There were no arrests made in the concourse area until 4 pm, when the affinity groups started to block the doors leading to the subways and buses.  It was at this time that the Iowa folks got arrested.  We were trying to block access to an escalator leading to the subway with a number of other affinity groups when the tempo of the demonstration picked up.   The police tried to keep the access open and Pentagon workers were having a field day kicking and stepping on the demonstrators on their way home.  As one of the arresting officers put it, “There were generals climbing over your people!” It was at this time, after being saved by the police, that Duane Arnold came into the picture.

Arrests were being made in order to clear the access and prevent potential injury.  Our affinity group was separated at this time because the police were very selective about who they were arresting.  We were packed into a small room and uncomfortable van, and after considerable delay, were on our way to the Arlington County Jail.  There we were separated from the women and given warrants for our arrest.  We were than transported to a suburban jail.  Steve Marsden refused cooperation to the extent that he had to be carried everywhere by the officers, nor did he give any information.  Steve continued his non-cooperation until the actual time of the arraignment.  A night in jail, then it was back to the Arlington court house to be arraigned.  There were close to 400 folks in all arrested at the Pentagon.  The 18 who were arrested in the concourse at the subway entrance were charged with blocking a public passage and a local county offense.  The judge accepted a no-contest plea and sentenced us to 30 days in jail, 28 days suspended, with one year unsupervised probation.  We all copped the no-contest plea and were sent to the Arlington jail to serve the remainder of our term–one night.  We all had a good time from then on, singing songs and telling stories of the  past couple days.  We were released at 12:30 am Wednesday.  We all ended up sleeping in a friend’s apartment within sight of the Pentagon.  The next day was spent gathering up belongings and tying up loose ends.  Brent had left the day before with a carload that had to get back to Iowa, so Steve Marsden became my traveling partner.  That night Steve and I paid a visit to Fr. Dick McSorley and the Catholic Worker House.  it is so heartening to see a man like Fr. McSorley once again starting up with the every day practice of hospitality.  Helping him is Fr. Marv Mottet, a Davenport, IA priest working for Human Development in Washington, D.C.  It rained the whole next day, and we caught a night’s lodging with a Socialist Party friend of Steve’s.  Thursday morning we paid a visit to St. Steven’s Episcopal Church and the headquarters for the “1980 Year of Election Campaign” put on by Jonah House.  we touched base with Al Zuch and John Schuchardt.  From there we went to Baltimore and our friend at Jonah House.  we missed Liz McAllister who was in Ohio with the kids giving talks.  We got to visit with Phil Berrigan, Ladon Sheets, and Louie DeBenedetta, and Mary West, who was formerly of the Detroit CW.  After supper, Steve and I went to Rose Maguire and Jay Dudgeon’s for a visit and the experience of mystery ice cream drink made up by Jay.  After a good night’s sleep we were on our way to Kent State by way of Pittsburgh and a second visit with Chris and Vince.  Our friends in Pittsburgh treated us to a movie and a Saturday afternoon anti-draft rally.  We rolled into KSU just in time for a play put on by the students about the Kent State killings.  Steve and I stumbled into two front row seats.  As the play progressed, it became clear that we were sitting in front of one of the mothers of the slain students.  Between reliving those painful memories up on the stage and hearing a mother’s muffled tears, I couldn’t keep from crying myself.  It was clear that night what Kent and Jackson were all about, and even clearer that Kent is now our not so distant future!


After the play we met up with folks from Iowa who came out to Kent, among them my brother Tom.  That night, there was a candlelight vigil around the campus and back to the spot where the killings took place.  A most moving ceremony with about 1,000 people involved.  We carried a large beautiful needlepoint work by Bob Lang depicting one of the killings.  The Iowa people (12 in all) shared an apartment of a local support person.


Sunday morning after Mass at the Newman Center, there was a large rally with speakers and music; about 2,000 people were on hand.  The weekend at Kent State brought back a lot of memories and emotions.  I hope and pray that if we are about to enter into another interventionist war that the resistance to that war will be willing to sacrifice as much in a nonviolent way, and that our actions are a response to the truth that is in our own hearts rather than a mirror of violence of the system.


Back on the road Sunday afternoon, we picked up an extra rider, my brother Tom.  He is going to start a house of hospitality in Ames, IA next fall, land want to come with us as we visited the CWs in Chicago and Davenport.


We rolled into Chicago about 11:30 pm and were graciously greeted by Lynn Groff and Megan Morrissey.  After a good night’s sleep and a couple cups of coffee, we met Fr. Roy Bourgeois who came over to touch base with us.  Roy is a Maryknoll priest who was kicked out of Bolivia for his activities with the poor.  Roy was arrested last year at the arms bazaar in Chicago with our own Peter Demott.  Roy has also been to our house to give a Friday night discussion.  He is leading a group from the Chicago area out to Washington, D.C. at the end of this month to participate in the Jonah House “1980 Year of Election Campaign.”  We talked to him about getting some folks to come out to SAC for our August 6-9 activities.  Back on the road by late morning, we rolled into Davenport, IA and the Catholic Worker at 4 pm.  Lucia Dryanski gave Tommy the royal tour and we filled up on homemade bread and cream cheese.  I got back to Des Moines around 9:30 pm feeling like I had been gone for over a month.  All I wanted to do now was sleep in my own bed, may annual urge to head east satisfied!




Any Iowan can claim the name Duane Arnold and give their address as Palo, IA.  The Duane Arnold Nuke is a legacy that each and every Iowa for generations to come will have to live with, and many someday die from it.  It was only fitting that among the Iowans arrested at the Pentagon on April 28 of this year (1980), Duane Arnold be included.  The United States government does not see any distinction between nuclear power and nuclear energy.  Why should we?  The history of nuclear industry is inseparable from the history of nuclear weapons.  The Department of Energy is the only federal agency which researches, builds, develops, and promotes both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons; and it is the Pentagon that pulls the strings at the DOE.  On April 28 the right name, Duane Arnold, was in the right place–the Pentagon.


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