Thursday, May 12, 2016

PHOENIX and GOLDEN RULE (13) Trial

     Although it took a full year the jury trial was open and shut, a simple question of trespassing: Is this area off-limits to American personnel?  Are you American?  Did you enter this zone?
     Yes.  Yes.  Yes.
     Guilty.
August 28, 1959
     Skipper was sentenced to two years in jail and a $5,000 fine.  He never had to serve time because he appealed immediately but until the conviction was overturned two years later he was stripped of the title "Dr." which he had worked so hard to earn. 
While out on bail he was free to fly to the mainland for a speaking tour which included 58 major talks, 20 other meetings, 21 radio programs, and eight television appearances.
     We began to hear from friends, then strangers, almost all of them supporting our stand.  Dozens, then hundreds, of them would send us anything from a dollar bill to a substantial check to defray our legal expenses.  I wrote the thank you notes on behalf of all of us.  
     We even printed up Honorary Crew Member cards to send to them.



     One of our staunchest supporters was Norman Cousins, Editor of the Saturday Review, later famous for his book Anatomy of an Illness about healing through laughter.   Cousins had been instrumental in bringing the Hiroshima Maidens, 25 of the young women most badly disfigured by the atomic bomb, to the States soon after the war.  He helped arrange plastic surgery for them at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.  He and his wife Ellen took some of the women into their own home between surgeries and adopted one of them, Shigeko Sasamori.

     In their attempt to sail to the “Bikini” test zone, the Golden Rule had made news.  We had followed up, entering the zone on July 1, 1958.  Was any of this making any impact on politics or public opinion?

     Lawrence Wittner writes in his book The Long Voyage: The Golden Rule and Resistance to Nuclear Testing in Asia and the Pacific, “No longer able to hold the line against public opposition to nuclear testing, the nuclear powers began a reluctant retreat.  In late August 1958, Eisenhower announced that, as of October 31, the United States would suspend its nuclear tests and would join other nuclear powers in negotiations for a nuclear test ban treaty.  Although these negotiations dragged on for years, the U.S., Soviet, and British governments did halt their nuclear tests.  Their testing moratorium collapsed in the fall of 1961, when the Soviet government led the way by resuming nuclear tests.  But popular protest resumed [including ours] and, in the summer of 1963, resulted in the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty, banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere . . .”

     On April 3, 1960 Skipper wrote in The Forbidden Voyage, "Barbara and I have taken one of the most important steps of our lives.  We have applied for membership, and have been accepted into, the Society of Friends.
     "There was never any doubt about Barbara's being accepted; her life, beliefs, and personality are in complete harmony with the Quaker ideal.  For me, not only did I have very real doubts as to whether I should apply, but I also had grave concern over whether I would be acceptable. . .”

     Two years earlier, after his arrest for trespassing into the Pacific test zone, his probation officer asked Skipper his religion.  He said, “None.”  He said he had been baptized Roman Catholic (I knew that in his teens he had even been considering the priesthood) but no longer practiced it.

     “When did you fall away from the church?” the probation officer asked.

     “I didn’t fall away.  I walked away,” he’d said bluntly.

     Now he was applying for membership in one of the Christian traditions known for its pacifism and quiet contemplation.  

      (Back to Earle:) "'I'll probably make the world's worst Quaker, " I told secretary of the meeting Ben Norris.
     "'Now that remark,' he smiled, 'is the clue to your personality.  You have to excel in everything you do.'"
     By that time Dad’s conviction was overturned and we were free to sail back to Japan.  The ocean was open again, since the series of Hardtack nuclear tests was over.  So on April 24, 1960, we were once again on the high seas, heading across the Pacific, our goal still Hiroshima, Japan.

     Following a route just slightly north of the one we had taken in 1958, we entered the no-longer-forbidden zone--the bomb tests had long since been concluded.  Except for France's three Sahara explosions there had been no further tests of nuclear weapons since the fall of 1958.  The score to date: United States: 129; U.S.S.R. 53; Great Britain, 20; France, 3." (J.M. Fowler, editor, Fallout, 1960)
     A small announcement atypical of the publication appeared in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in February, 1961: "The conviction of Dr. Earle Reynolds, who sailed into the US nuclear test area of the South Pacific as a protest during the 1958 tests, was reversed December 29 by the US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.  The court held that Reynolds was wrongly convicted of a felony because he had committed no more than a trespass, a misdemeanor." (NYT, 12/30, italics added)  With those few words, the academic community restored my father's doctorate.
     But the actual, unanimous, ruling actually went further than that.  It said the regulation Skipper was convicted of violating was "not authorized by the statute under which it was purportedly issued and was therefore invalid. . .The conviction therefore is without legal authority and it must be set aside and the judgment reversed."
     As Skip pointed out, this had significance, also, in the Golden Rule case.  The five men of the Golden Rule were jailed for 60 days on a conviction rooted in an illegal regulation.

     Note: Bert Bigelow went on to participate in further antinuclear and other protests of conscience.  He was one of the first Freedom Riders in 1961, when, once again defying the authorities by traveling into forbidden territory, he boarded a bus to the Deep South with others challenging segregation.   Along the way, he managed to block a white racist assault on young John Lewis (today a member of the U.S. House of Representatives) by absorbing the blows himself.   Later on the trip, Bigelow narrowly survived a firebombing of the bus by a racist mob outside Anniston, Alabama.  

     Jim Peck, another pacifist crew member of the Golden Rule, also became a Freedom Rider and was severely injured by white racists. . . [Wittner, ibid]


  


    
  


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