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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Roger Priest: Guilty Until Proven Guilty
Roger Priest, Journalist Seaman Apprentice, U.S. Navy, and editor of OM, faces a general court-martial which is to convene on the fourth of this month. His crime? Exercising his First Amendment rights while on active duty status. Possible sentence? 39 years in the Brig and dishonorable discharge.
Roger Priest has been for the past few months editing and publishing the anti-war newspaper OM. OM was one of the first servicemen's news papers, published by active-duty servicemen, to hit strongly at U.S. Vietnam intervention, U.S. Militarism, Military injustice, and at inept government and military leaders. One issue depicted a certain “war-mongering” congressman who was depicted as having a less-than-human nature, and the word went out: “Silence Roger Priest and stop that damn OM. You hear, Boy?” The Navy is trying its best.
The charges against Priest are that he “Solicited members of the military to desert and commit sedition, and that he published statements urging insubordination, disloyalty and refusal of duty by members of the military and naval forces with intent to impair loyalty, morale, and discipline,” as well as publishing statements with “design to promote disloyalty and disaffection among members of the armed forces of the United States. “ In other words, Roger Priest printed a story on Canada and to some extent described the working of military “justice”.
When Priest was in El Paso to address the Oct. 15th rally in San Jacinto Plaza, he told this reporter he did not consider himself a martyr for not skipping out before his court-martial. He sees his fight as an extremely important one, because hanging is the right of free speech for all of us. And Priest expects to win. Support is pouring in from all over the country. Peter, Paul and Mary dedicate “The Great Mandella” to Roger at each of their concerts. Senator Charles Goodell of New York has said, “When Roger Priest enlisted in the Navy, he did not, however, forfeit his constitutional rights as a citizen of the United States.” Citizens are writing the Secretary of the Navy, John Chafee, the Pentagon, Wash. D. C., their Congressmen, newspapers, and Roger himself. Many are sending donations. We in the service must also give our support. If we let the military silence Roger Priest, it will be that much easier for them to silence the rest of us.
Gigline, vol. 1, no. 4