PICKETING by Ammon Hennacy
"How are going to get people to put up the sword? My son died in Korea. I know you didn't kill him. God bless you." said an elderly woman as I was picketing the post office in Phoenix, Dec. 18, in response to Truman's 'emergency' declaration. The woman had seen my big sign which read:
PUT UP THY SWORD
HE THAT TAKETH THE SWORD
SHALL PERISH BY THE SWORD
On the reverse of this sign was a picture of a pot colored green with a sign on it-----Capitalist. Opposite was a red kettle----Communist. Underneath was the caption: "The pot calls the kettle black." I carried my old tax refusal sign as a sandwich in front. It read:
75% of your Income Tax
Goes for War.
I have refused to pay Income Tax
For Seven Years.
The reverse sign hanging on by back read:
Use Gandhi's Weapon
I attended Mass at St. Mary's before picketing and prayed for wisdom during my day which I feared would be more disturbing than my previous marches. In another church that morning a CW priest said Mass for the success of my witness for peace. I had notified the City Manager and the tax man that I would picket against the war emergency. Ginny Anderson, whose C.O. husband Rik vari-typed my leaflet and made the above signs, stood on one corner to hand me extra literature and be my "look-out" for trouble. Byron Bryant, Catholic anarchist, home on Christmas vacation from his duties as professor of English at a western university, stood on the other corner. There was an unusual amount of people going and coming. No one advised me to go back to Russia or called me a Communist. As is usual in picketing most people were afraid to be seen taking a leaflet. If one person took a leaflet all the others in line took it and if the first one refused so did all the others. Negroes and Mexicans and Indians always took the leaflet and many times a copy of THE CATHOLIC WORKER. My leaflet read as follows: "What's All The Shooting About.?"
It's about men who put money ahead of God. It's about young men on both sides misled into dying and killing each other. It's about rationing, inefficiency, dictatorship, inflation and politicians stealing a little more than usual.
War is what happens when one nation prepares to defend itself against another nation that prepares to defend itself.World War I and World War II did not end war not make the world safe for democracy. Neither will this one.
There just isn't any sense to war! What can we do about it? If the politicians think one person is important enough to become a soldier, a munitions maker, a bond buyer, or an income tax payer, then one person is important enough to Refuse to become a soldier, Refuse to make munitions, Refuse to buy bonds and to Refuse to pay income taxes. War does not protect you---it will destroy you!
You cannot overcome Communism with bullets. It can be overcome by each person doing what he knows in his heart to be right. The way of Jesus, of St. Francis, of Tolstoy and of Gandhi teaches us to love our enemy, to establish justice, to abolish exploitation and to rely upon God rather than on politicians and governments.
If you are a Christian, why not follow Christ? You might as well die for what you believe in as for what you don't believe in. If you must fight, fight war itself. Don't be a traitor to humanity.Wars will cease when me refuse to fight. No Johnny come lately to the peace movement, I served 2 1/2 years in prison for opposing World War I. 8 1/2 months of it in solitary confinement in Atlanta Penitentiary. And since more than three-fourths of one's income tax goes for war purposes, I have refused to pay my income tax for more than seven years. Nor did I register for the draft in either world war. I am a Christian anarchist, a follower of Tolstoy, Thoreau and Gandhi and invite your serious consideration of their examples.
"Extra, Extra, All Anarchists To Be Shot At Sunrise." shouted the good natured newsman stationed in front of the post office as I passed by. The one who had led the fight against me in August and later became my friend had left town.A woman looked at my sign and asked if I did not know that Jesus told Peter to sell his clothes and buy a sword. I answered: "Yes but when Peter showed him the sword which he had Jesus answered: that is enough, and when Peter used this sword to cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest Jesus did not day to cut off the other ear but said "Put up thy sword. He that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword," As the woman walked on she shouted back: "Jesus called for a sword so he could perform a miracle. He never said: 'Put up your sword.' You better read your Bible."
Somewhat different was a teen-aged boy who pointed to an ad for the Marines and said that meant more to him than my sign or my leaflet which he had just read. I told him that if he believed that way---and he was to leave next month---that he should do what he thought was right. He refused to take a copy of THE CATHOLIC WORKER although he was a Catholic and went to St. Mary's. I hoped that he would return safely and could then confer with the priest as to the possibility of being a pacifist Catholic. It was not his fault that he had never heard the pacifist message before. We parted in a friendly spirit.
One gruff fellow asked: "What have you got there?" I answered: "It's either very good or very bad; depends on how you look at it; better read it and see." He smiled and went his way reading the leaflet.
A Catholic anarchist woman walked with me for a bit and was going to come after 3pm and take Ginny's place. While Byron and I went for lunch the Catholic banker whose bank had been robbed spoke to Ginny. Although the CW says "Starve the bankers and feed the poor" he reads the paper and has visited me before on the picket line. Another Catholic anarchist woman came and missed us because of the following incident.
We had only brought along 500 leaflets and now at 3pm they were nearly all distributed. Many had stopped with kind words and no one had openly insulted us. Two good-natured policemen came up in a squad car and said they were having too many complaints about my picketing. They read my signs and leaflet. I told them that what I was doing was clearly subversive and that the FBI and the tax man had priority over them in my case and that they ought to confer with them. One cop did so while the other asked me questions. Meanwhile people crowded around and looked at my signs. I saw my tax man as he came up and also an FBI man. The police wanted to know what had been done when I had been arrested before. I told them that I had been released and had picketed seven days more without being bothered. They conferred with headquarters and suggested that Ginny and I accompany them to the police station. There we waited about an hour while detectives and police looked over the signs and leaflet and asked questions. I offered a CW paper to one police captain but he refused it saying that no Catholic paper could support such un-patriotic actions as mine. I asked him if he knew Father Dunne and he said he did. I advised him to call him up and see what he said about me and the CW. Later Father Dunne told me that the man had called him.
Byron had phoned a Catholic attorney who was a friend of the Catholic Worker who spoke to Chief Clair. The latter told us we could go but I had better not picket for I might cause a riot and then charges of disorderly conduct would be made against me. I told him that I had been able so far to handle individuals and crowds. He shrugged his shoulders inferring that I would on my own. I said that I had been on my own all my life and another half hour was not much to worry about. Before I left I told him that I would picket again on March 14th. He replied: "That is another day."
We went back and gave away our few remaining leaflets. Postal employees looked out of the windows and saw that the police had not stopped us.One of the calls had come from an ultra-patriotic employee but another employee to whom I had offered a leaflet earlier in the morning and who had refused it later asked for one and after reading it praised me for my stand.-----From THE CATHOLIC WORKER of January 1951.