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Page 10
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G.I.s Struggle


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Black G.I.s Attack Racism

On the morning of January 16th, 100 black GIs, men and women, took control of a dining hall at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to protest racist treatment by the Air Force.

The previous evening was marked by a large fight in which several airmen were injured, following a banquet and dance honoring the memory of Dr Martin Luther King. Military authorities tried to cover up the incident by stating that it was in no way related to the Dining hall takeover the next morning.

Initially the dining hall was seized by 100 GIs, 27 of whom remained the entire 6 hours of occupation. The black men and women agreed to give control back to the base commander, Col Robert Spencer, with the agreement that no reprisals would be made against the militants. All the GIs involved then returned to duty with the exception of 5 representatives who entered into discussions with Col Spencer. They will be discussing the demands expressed during the takeover, the chief of which was "better race relations on the base and in the community."

With national attention focusing on Minot AFB, located just south of the US-Canadian border, the Pentagon was forced to admit that things weren't going smoothly there and serious racial problems do in fact exist at Minot. It was, in reality, the unified action of men and women rising up together that brought attention to the conditions.

The military officials have tried to make the takeover appear as an isolated incident that mysteriously occurred, rather than the direct result of the racist practices and conditions that the military continually perpetuates and encourages.

The situation was best summed up by a spokesman for the GIs involved in the takeover, who state: "We were there because of major problems that exist on base and in the community, and I don't mean the weather."

G.I.s Right To Resist: New Ruling In Smith Case

A GI can use "reasonable force" to resist an illegal arrest by MPs. That is what the Court of Military Review recently decided in the case of Billy Dean Smith. He is the GI who was arrested and brought to trial for supposedly "fragging" (throwing a fragmentation grenade at) and officer in Vietnam.

When the MPs tired to arrest him on charges which he knew were phoney, Billy Dean resisted this false arrest with force, and wound up being charged with assaulting an MP as well as the "fragging" charge.

At his trial in Fort Ord, California, which gained worldwide attention, Billy Dean, with the support of many thousands of GIs and civilians, won acquittal of all charges except the "assaulting" of the MP. For that he got a reduction in grade to E-1 and a bad conduct discharge. On the appeal, the Army Court of Military Review overturned the assault conviction, reasoning that since he knew he was innocent of the charges for which he was arrested; Billy Dean had a right to resist arrest. The court said that the acquittal "served to establish the arrest and apprehension to have been unlawful. Thus he was entitled to resist such an arrest with reasonable force."

Of course this is a great victory for Billy Dean Smith and the many people who supported him. But, it is also a step forward for all GIs who are constantly being harassed and busted by military police of the various services on phoney charges. Usually, what happens is that they beat the hell out of a GI and then charge HIM with assault. Until now that has almost always resulted in heavy penalties for the GI.

The new decision in Billy Dean Smith's case seems to give GIs the right to resist these phoney busts with force. We are not advocating you use force to resist every arrest. But, we are saying that you do not have to take abuse from Military Police and that if they are wrongfully messing with you, you can use reasonable force to resist.

The Thinking GI (poem)

General, your tank is a mighty vehicle.
It smashes down forests.
And it crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.

General, your bomber is powerful--
It flies faster than a storm.
And it carries more than an elephant.
But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic.

General, a man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But it has one defect:
He can think.

-Bertolt Brecht

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