Webinar on May Day 1971 Mass Arrests for Civil Disobedience

Mayday 1971: What it Meant Then and Now

April 29, 2021, 7 p.m.  ET

View the webinar on youtube here     https://youtu.be/ESlJhDS2UxI

Mayday was the largest civil disobedience protest of the American war in Indochina and in US history.  More than 12,000 people were detained or arrested in Washington.  This webinar features an account of how it was organized and what took place by participants and writers.  Panelists will discuss its effect on the war and on the antiwar movement and reflect on comparisons with the January 6 violent assault on the Capitol.


Lawrence Roberts, author "Mayday 1971"

L.A. Kauffman, author  "Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism,"

Judy Gumbo, Mayday staff, author Yippie Girl

Jay Craven, national Mayday organizer, film maker

Phil Hirschkop, attorney

Sheila O'Donnell, private investigator

Bill Zimmerman, Illinois Mayday organizer, Medical Aid to Indochina

John McAuliff, Moderator, Indiana Mayday organizer

We depend on viewers' support to cover costs for this and future webinars.  Tax deductible contributions can be made here.

Scroll down for personal stories from Mayday.

Lawrence Roberts has been an editor of investigative journalism for most of his career. He's worked at the Washington PostProPublica, Bloomberg News, and the Hartford Courant, and was executive editor of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund. He was a leader on teams honored with three Pulitzer Prizes.

Roberts started out in the Pacific Northwest, where he helped create an alternative weekly, the Seattle Sun. He served as bureau chief for United Press International in Madrid, Spain, and taught journalism at Wesleyan University as a Koeppel Fellow. He lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Mayday 1971 is his first book. His website: www.lawrenceproberts.com

L.A. Kaufman is the author of acclaimed movement history, Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism, which opens with a penetrating essay about May Day 1971 and was reviewed by Rebecca Solnit for the New York Times as “the best overview of how protest works – when it does – and what it’s achieved over the past 50 years.” 

Kaufman has spent more than 35 years immersed in grass roots movements, as historian, journalist, organizer and strategist.  Her writings on organizing and social movement history have been published in The Guardian, The Nation, The Progressive, Mother Jones, The Village Voice, The Baffler and others.  She was a central organizer of the two-year direct action campaign that saved more than 100 New York City community gardens from bulldozing in 1999 - and was the mobilizing coordinator of the massive anti-war protests of 2003-2004. More recently, she was a key organizer of successful campaigns to save two iconic New York Public Libraries from being demolished and replaced by luxury towers.  

Phil Hirschkop is the lawyer who managed overall legal actions and strategies for May Day 1971.  Hirschkop "started his career at the top" by taking on Mildred and Richard Loving as clients in a landmark case (Loving v. Virginia) that ended the enforcement of state bans on interracial marriage – and was made into the Academy Award nominated film, Loving.  The ACLU assigned the case to him and fellow volunteer cooperating attorney Bernard Cohen who shared the oral argument for the petitioners before the United States Supreme Court.

Hirschkop went on to argue two additional cases before the Supreme Court in the 1970s. His other clients have included Martin Luther King, Jr. H. Rap Brown, Norman Mailer and "numerous anti-war protesters during the 1960s and 1970s." Hirschkop has served on the ACLU's national Board of Directors and as Chair of the ACLU of Virginia, which he helped found in 1969. He also served as executive director of the Penal Reform Institute.  In the 1960s, after the McCarthy era, he served as the vice chair of the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee, which now is the Defending Dissent Foundation.

Sheila O’Donnell is a long-term peace and justice advocate who is a licensed CA Private Investigator; her career was informed by her anti-war activism.  She was a partner in ACE INVESTIGATIONS and was involved in major cases throughout her forty-five year career both nationally and internationally with trial preparation her specialty.  She taught workshops for many years on Common Sense Security to teach activists how to keep themselves and their projects safe from those who would stop their resistance.  

She has been on many Death Penalty teams as an Investigator and Mitigation expert; her first [1978] ended with the release of Johnny Harris who was imprisoned on trumped up charges in Mississippi. She co-founded PUBLIC EYE magazine to expose government misconduct and the rise of the right in the mid-seventies; the magazine is currently published by POLITICAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATES and can be found on their webpage.    She co-founded another magazine, PROPAGANDA REVIEW, that ceased publication after several successful years. 

In 1990 she became a facilitator at the Center for Attitudinal Healing with her first bout of cancer 

and in 2000 co-founded an ongoing group, Women Living Well with Metastases and is thriving with no evidence of disease after three recurrences.  She elected for amputation of her left arm in 2019 and is now a Certified Peer Counselor with the AMPUTEE COALITION.  

She co-founded community radio station, KWMR-FM in West Marin, CA that is in year twenty-one with all volunteer programmers; this started in response to a wild land fire leaving residents of the 

rural area with no information as the fire raged taking homes and forest lands.  She is happily retired living the good life in northern California.

Award-winning filmmaker, teacher and impresario Jay Craven participated in the December 1970 Peoples Peace treaty delegation to Vietnam – and subsequently helped organize the May Day 1971 antiwar civil disobedience demonstrations in Washington, D.C. where nearly 13,000 people were arrested.  He has also been active on issues of civil rights, nuclear power and U.S. interventions in Central America.  His 1980 documentary film, “Dawn of the People,” chronicles Nicaragua’s National Literacy Campaign and his most recent narrative picture, “Martin Eden” (2021) is based on Jack London’s autobiographical novel of the same name. 

Judy Gumbo is an original member of two late 1960s satirical protest groups - the Yippies and W.I.T.C.H. Judy attended and worked at the Chicago Conspiracy Trial where Yippie founder and Chicago defendant Abbie Hoffman told her she “should have been indicted.” No women were. She briefly managed the defendants Trial office, then became responsible for distributing Trial transcripts to national and international media. Judy is one of a very few North Americans to visit the former North Vietnam while the war still raged. She returned to travel around the United States organizing against the war and for the liberation of women.

In 1972, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover named Judy “the most vicious, the most anti-American and the most dangerous to the internal security of the United States.” Judy’s home was illegally burglarized seven times in one year by FBI agents who also installed two tracking devices on her car, one of which she found. With that, surveillance ceased.

Judy visited Vietnam in 1971, 2017 and in 2019, when she was awarded a medal by the Vietnamese government for her anti-war activities.

Judy spent the majority of her professional career as an award-winning fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. She is the widow of Yippie founder Stew Albert with whom she has a daughter, and of David Dobkin, founder of Berkeley Cohousing. Judy is now married to Art Eckstein, distinguished professor and author, among others, of “Bad Moon Rising: How the Weather Underground Beat the FBI and Lost the Revolution.” Judy likes to say the FBI brought them together.

Find Judy Gumbo on her website www.yippiegirl.com or on Facebook.

Bill Zimmerman organized for, participated in, and was arrested at Mayday ’71. In 1972-73, he built and led Medical Aid for Indochina. In North Viet Nam in May 1972, he filmed civilian bomb damage and made the documentary, Village By Village. In 1974-75, he helped lead the Indochina Peace Campaign. After the war, he managed Tom Hayden’s 1976 campaign for the US Senate, then began a long career as a political campaign manager and media consultant serving progressive candidates and nonprofits nationwide. He is the author of Troublemaker: A Memoir from the Frontlines of the Sixties.

John McAuliff is the founder and executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development and coordinator of the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee.  As a student at Carleton College, he organized support for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and participation in the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964.  After serving in the Peace Corps in Peru, he became the first President of the Committee of Returned Volunteers, leading its participation in the anti-war movement, including the demonstration at the Chicago Democratic Convention.  He represented CRV in national anti-war coalitions and the U.S coalition at international conferences in Sweden.  For ten years he directed the Indochina Program in the Peace Education Division of the American Friends Service Committee, traveling on its behalf to Hanoi with a delegation that arrived on April 30, 1975, the last day of the war.  In 1985 he founded the Fund for Reconciliation to continue his AFSC work for normalization of relations with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  After that was accomplished in 2005, he refocused most of his work on a similar goal with Cuba.  He was "detained" at the March on the Pentagon and the Mayday action. 


Mayday 1971 

by Lawrence Roberts

Direct Action

Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism

by L.A. Kauffman, Verso Books

excerpt on Mayday here 



A Memoir for the Front Lines of the Sixties

by Bill Zimmerman

with a chapter on Mayday

"A riveting book."  -- Dan Ellsberg

"How 1971’s Mayday actions rattled Nixon and helped keep Vietnam from becoming a forever war"  Unparalleled in its size and variety of actions, the last and largest national anti-Vietnam War demonstration offers lessons for challenging U.S. militarism today.  

by Robert Levering  in Waging Nonviolence

"May Day 1971 Was a Day Against War"

by Steve Early in Jacobin

The First On-Air Original Broadcast by NPR was about Mayday, listen here

"Protesters shut down D.C. traffic before. It helped end the Vietnam War — and reshaped American activism" by Hannah Natanson,  The Washington Post


Mayday Excerpt from Navigating the Zeitgeist by Irish writer Helena Sheehan, click here


May Day organizing film used for promoting participation in the event, click here


"May 3, 1971 – The Day They Arrested 7,000 Demonstrators In Washington D.C."

NBC Nightly News (audio only)  Gordon Skene Sound Collection


May Day Raw

Compilation on vimeo of contemporaneous news accounts and later interviews, John Kerry's testimony at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, click here


April 30 Fri  7:30pm   Goddard College  Doc and Q&A

Mayday Video Eddie Becker, Videofreex Skip Blumberg; VT peace activists Jay Craven, Bridget Downey-Meyers, & Reuben Jackson;  Moderator film writer/teacher Rick Winston

May 1 Sat   5pm       Crandell Theatre    Q&A  (view Doc in advance)

Mayday Video/Videofreex Carol Vontobel, Parry Teasdale & Skip Blumberg; film writer Laurence Kardish;  Moderator Deborah Shaffer.

May 1 Sat 8pm  RhizomeDC    Doc Outdoor Screening and Q&A

In person: Eddie Becker, Joan Yoshiwara, Videofreex Skip Blumberg; moderator Dechen Albero.

Personal Stories

Peter Weyland
Mason Neck VA
Drove up from Hampden-Sydney College. My Mom was CIA and personnel supervisor in charge of SE Asia dropping operatives behind the lines. I didn't realize until years later. Both my parents were unfavorable towards the war. My Mom lost a # of people.

Rick Halperin

Dallas  TX 

I was an undergrad at George Washington Univ. during the tumultuous years 1967-1968, 1969-1971 (I studied in Paris 1968-69)...From the march on the Pentagon in Oct. '67, through the Nov. '69 Moratorium, the May riots of 1970 following the Kent State killings to the May Day riots and arrests...I would not trade my experience in and out of the classroom for anything in the world.

I bring those days and my own experiences into my own classroom teaching today, and am saddened, but not surprised, that the overwhelming majority of my students have had no knowledge of those years, and have never even heard of such defining events at the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre in S.C., the My Lai Massacre, or the killings at both Kent State and Jackson State.

It is a constant reminder of how each successive generation of young people has been, and is being, academically failed by having no (mandatory) exposure to the pedagogy of Human Rights education in this country.

I am blessed to be the Director of our university's undergraduate Human Rights program, one of only 7 (!!) such programs in the USA.  There are zero (!!) Ph.D. programs in Human Rights in the US today.

Dr. Rick Halperin, Director, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program  

Charles/Pauline Sullivan 

Washington DC

I think there were three movements that resulted in our arrests in May Day. They were the Vatican Council in the early sixties, the civil rights movement and, of course, the anti-war movement. Charlie was first stationed as a priest in Demopolis, Alabama, which is very near Selma and it was in 1966 right after the March. Pauline was a stationed as a nun at St. Stephen's school which was In "the Reservation" in Minneapolis.  Pauline played a role in the start-up of the American Indian Movement.

When they met in 1969, Charlie was working on a revolution in the Catholic Church. Pauline replied that she was interested in the "other" revolution---the revolution in the world! 

In 1970, they left Minnesota in a $400 VW van (that broke down a lot) to seek their place in the revolution.  They lived in the van for over a year, travelling to Mexico and Canada as well as involved in demonstrations throughout the United State.  

They also visited people like Dorothy Day. This visit in New York City was in early September, 1971, because we had to return to DC for our May Day trials. While waiting for our trials, we lobbied against the military draft and at night in our van parked on Capitol Hill, we listened to the VW radio report on the uprising at Attica.

We had briefly been involved in Texas in our travels, but decided then to return to San Antonio and get totally immersed in prison reform. We started in 1972 with a bus service for families to visit their loved ones in the prison system and started organizing these families on the buses into an organization we called CURE.

In 1974, we moved to Austin and CURE became a statewide organization. In 1985, we moved to Washington  and expanded CURE nationally. In 2001, we had our first international conference and now have a strong presence in Africa and Asia.

Pauline was right in that our commitment to revolution in the world and, as you can see, started in a way with May Day and still continues even though we are in our eighties. Charlie 

PS. We are still very Catholic, but not revolutionary Catholics. We have enough to keep us busy with prison reforms!

 We are ever reminded about the quote from George Bernard Shaw " When I die, I want to be all used up!"  cure@curenational.org

Nina Lazar 
Cedar Grove, NJ 
I was active during Civil Rights Movement and during the Vietnam War years.  I was at the '63 March on Washington and had been to almost all the anti-war demonstrations in DC and in NYC.  However,  I had just had my first child in March, '71 (he just turned 50, of course) and I wasn't even considering going down to DC with a newborn.  And while I was always involved  - I organized on campus and then after graduation, among my teacher colleagues - I wasn't willing to be arrested.

Those who are willing to be arrested have my respect and support. My granddaughter was arrested twice in Brooklyn during the BLM demonstrations last year.  I was very proud of her participation and dedication to the struggle for equal justice.  BTW, Kenna, said granddaughter, is 1/2 Vietnamese, and she is presently working outside of Ho Chi Minh City, teaching English.   

We can never forget the war, the painful losses and the movement, which had incredible influence.  I certainly believe in the power of protest!  

Lawrence Dworkin
Media PA
Went to 14th St. Bridge.  As a result of tear-gas most demonstrators fled.  My friends and I (7) walked around looking for intersection to sit in.. Walking towards one we saw the look on police officer's face as in "please find another spot to come to, I'm having a rough day.  We moved on.  Later arrested (because the sergeant told the cops to) and spent night in DC prison yard which was better than the cell.

Wendy Brawer 
New York, NY 
Green Map System  As a high schooler from Detroit, I had a life-changing experience those days in DC - all positive. 

Zelda Gamson
Retired,  University of Massachusetts Boston
I was in an affinity group with Howard Zinn,  Noam Chomsky,  Marilyn Young,  Daniel Ellsberg,  and 2 or 3 others. Got maced with Dan did not know at the time,  nor did I know afterwards that this was such an important protest. Why would this have been so? I was not arrested,  as Zinn was. Marilyn and I had small kids at home and courses to teach so decided not to get arrested. Glad that didn't make a big difference.

Kurt Jacobsen
Chicago IL
Swept out of Potomac Park. Blocked traffic with mixed success next morning. Tear gassed,  knock down by a motorcycle cop.

Ken Brociner
Somerville MA
One of the strangest memories of my time in the anti-war mvt was being fast asleep in  a sleeping bag on the ground in Potomac Park and being woken up by a helicopter flying  overhead telling us to leave the park within (20?) minutes or face arrest.  Blocked a street leading to Key Bridge - chased into a backyard by a cop who then threatened to send me to a hospital while he a

Helena Sheehan
Dublin, Ireland  
I have written about my experience of Mayday in my book Navigating the Zeitgeist (NY: Monthly Review Press,  2019)  I was a Mayday organizer,  first from Philadelphia and then based in DC as part of the Mayday collective. 

Bob Young
Merrick NY
Arrested at Dupont Circle early AM on May 3rd. 

Woody Widrow
Austin US
I was arrested and taken to the DC jail and eventually the charges were dropped.

Brian Spears
Atlanta GA
Arrested outside of Department of Justice

Wayne Smith
I was serving in Vietnam as a combat medic.  When gathered with some like minded friends,  we avoided all combat!

John Greg Miller
San Jose CA
May 5, 1971 was a transformative experience for me, as I was attacked and beaten by the SFPD Tac Squad for participating in non-violent actions against the Viet Nam War.  I learned how police lie to cover up their violent actions.

Michael Organek
Springfield VA
Retired U.S. Civil Service Whore "I was arrested on May 3,  on Constitution Ave,  and initially put in an outdoor double fenced field.  At night fall,  we were transferred to the old D.C. Convention Center.  I was released late in the afternoon on May 4th.   May 5th,  arrested again,  on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building,  and was put back in the old D.C Convention center,  for about 36 hours.  I was part of the Class Action Lawsuit,  ""Dellums et al vs. the Washington,  D.C. Metropolitan Police Dept.""  In 1981,  as a result of the class action lawsuit,  I received $2, 179.49.  I have had Cerebral Palsy since birth. "

Dave Logsdon
Minneapolis MN
Veterans For Peace "I dissented while in the military and was sympathetic and appreciative of anti-war activists. The vast majority of Veterans For Peace continue to organize in opposition to all past and present wars."

Mark Looney
Averill Park NY
How was nonviolent training for civil disobedience utilized and implemented for the May Day protests? What was the People’s Lobby that occurred in DC then and how did it differ from the May Day protest?

Stephen Lorenz
Silver Spring MD
Vernacular Music Association  I have delivered papers on Mayday to the DC Historical Society,  looking forward to the talk.  

Ken Mayers
Brooklyn NY
St Francis College,  Amnesty International USA "I was pretty young and had just moved to State College,  PA (Penn State University) from Washington,  DC.  What are lessons learned that we can share with protesters in 2021?"

Detentions and arrests at the Washington Coliseum 

Representative Bella Abzug addresses May Day Supporters on the Capitol Steps

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