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War Resistance Arrests Rise

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Arrests for War Resistance Increase Again


By Bill Quigley.  Bill is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  The NUCLEAR RESISTER is published 5 to 6 times a year.  They can be contacted at


“We can never forget that everything that Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal,’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany, but I am sure that if I lived in Germany during that time I would have comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal...we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension.  We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.”   Martin Luther King, Jr.


There have been over 15,000 arrests for resistance to war since 2002.  There were large numbers right after the run up to and invasion of Iraq.  Recently, arrests have begun climbing again.  Though arrests are a small part of anti-war organizing, their rise is an indicator of increasing resistance.

The information comes from the NUCLEAR RESISTER, a newsletter that has been reporting detailed arrest information on peace activists and other social justice campaigns since 1980.  Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa, publishers of the NUCLEAR RESISTER, document arrests by name and date based on information collected from newspapers across the country and from defense lawyers and peace activists.

Since 2002, the NUCLEAR RESISTER has documented anti-war arrests for protestors each year:

2002 – 1800 arrests

2003    6072 arrests

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2004    2440 arrests

2005    975 arrests

2006    950 arrests

2007    2272 arrests

2008    810 as of May 1 

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“Arrests for resistance to war are far more widespread geographically than most people think,” according to Cohen-Joppa of NUCLEAR RESISTER. “Yes, there are many arrests in DC and traditional big cities of anti-war activity – like San Francisco, NYC and Chicago, but there have also been anti-war arrests in Albany, Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bangor, Bath, Bend, Brentwood, Burlington, Campbell, Cedar Rapids, Chapel Hill, Charlottesville, Chicopee, Colorado Springs, Denver, Des Moines, East Hampton, Erie, Eugene, Eureka, Fairbanks, Fairport, Fort Bragg, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Great Dismal Swamp, Hammond, Huntsville, Joliet, Juneau, Kennebunkport, La Crosse, Los Angeles, Madison, Manchester, Memphis, Newark, Northbrook, Olympia, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Portland, Portsmouth, Providence, Richmond, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Fe, Smithfield, Springfield, St. Louis, St. Paul, Staten Island, Superior, Syracuse, Tacoma, Toledo, Tucson, Tulsa, Vandenberg, Virginia Beach, Wausau, Wheaton and Wilmington just to name a few.”

“In fact,” notes Cohen-Joppa, “in 2007, anti-war arrests were reported during 250 distinct events in 105 cities in 35 states and the District of Columbia.  So far in 2008, arrests have been reported at 65 events in 43 different cities in 19 states and D.C.”


An example of the scope of resistance can be found in the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence.  They joined with other major peace groups like CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace, and the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance in early 2007 to launch The Occupation Project, a campaign of resistance aimed at ending the Iraq War.  Theirs was a campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience to end funding for the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq.  The Occupation Project resulted in over 320 arrests in spring of 2007 in the offices of 39 U.S. Representatives and Senators in 25 states. 

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Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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