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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

Stockade Prisoners Organize

"Obedience to the law is freedom" -- that ambiguous lie can be seen on a slab of wood that is encased in barbed-wire over the entrance of the Fort Dix stockade.

It reminds us of the equally arrogant lie that rested over the entrance of the Auschwitz concentration camp before and during World War II ("Arbeit Mach Frie"-"Work makes you free").

I walked under the sign and into the Fort Dix stockade on Sunday, February 2, with approximately 200 friends and relatives of the GI prisoners who were being victimized by Pentagon laws within the stockade.

I was there to visit and extend Union support and solidarity to Sp/4 John Lewis, a brave Union member who was stopped on the Jersey Turnpike by State pigs while he was on his way to Fort Polk, La.,where he was to refuse orders for Vietnam. He was brought to Dix and charged under article 86 (AWOL).

Once inside the stockade reception building we visitors were told by the NCO in charge that nothing was to be given to or accepted from the prisoners. One young girl had a valentine for her boyfriend which she was told to keep out of sight. She argued and said that it was cruel, but the NCO said that it was the regulation. When her boyfriend arrived they kissed and holding hands they sat down on chairs that the Army had placed opposite each other, but the same NCO approached them again and made it clear that certain Army regulations made even the most innocent act of a boy and girl holding hands forbidden. Humiliated and angry the couple separated.

When I met John Lewis he told me that he and the men in his cell block (C-B 83) had successfully staged a strike only two weeks before. 32 of the men were told on January 18 that they would have to pull 18 hours of KP the following day from 5 AM to 11 PM. All of the men reported to work but by 7:15 in the evening 27 of them had gotten together and refused to work any longer. The mess sergeant ran over to them and screamed, "What is this? Get back to work; this is mutiny!"

Five minutes later, ten MPs came rushing in and the men were told by an officer that if they didn't go back to work in three seconds they would all be charged with mutiny. Nobody budged.

The men were then brought back to their barracks -- but one of them (a quiet Puerto Rican) was taken by the MPs and accused on the scene as being a leader and an instigator.

John said, "He was just one of the guys. They were looking for somebody to crucify."

Bob North, another prisoner who was trying to hold hands with his girl said, "The men in Cell-Block 81 are holding a hunger strike. They refused to eat two out of the three meals a day because of bad food."

Bob like John, who is an objector to the war and in his own words: "Just about everything else in this bureaucratic country," received an ovation from 150 fellow prisoners when he stood up at a UCMJ class and said to the lifer instructor, "I think you're a bunch of fascists. When I came into the Army you told me that it was important to fight communists but you acted just like you claimed the communists did. I don't believe you anymore."

Cell-Block 60 is where they keep all of the conscientious objectors. North said, "They try to keep the political and hard core objectors separately from the rest of the stockade. If each cell block had two men from C-B 60 we would tear the fences down."

Lectures on "military justice" have become a joke. 15 to 20 men are court-martialed a day and at the end of the week at least 65% have been given the maximum.

A conversation began among the Union GIs. One man asked: "What's the Union local number outside the stockade?"

"We could have a meeting right now in the yard," another man proposed.

Another commented, "I don't think we'd have much success right now. I think we should talk privately with each other and try to come closer to the black and Puerto Rican guys."

At the moment it didn't seem to matter which one was right -- a discussion of tactics had started.

The Bond, vol. 3, no. 2

 

 

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