Whatever the ultimate effect last week’s mammoth disarmament rally in New York City will have on the prospects for world peace, it did much to rehabilitate the idea of peaceful public protest. The high purpose, sincerity, good humor and orderliness of the more than 750,000 marchers who gathered on Central Park’s Great Lawn were widely and justly praised; even the New York police and sanitation departments were purring. The organizers of the demonstration, the June 12 Rally Committee, should be complimented for the way they kept the inevitable squabbles among participating groups from marring the aura of the occasion and its cumulative impact. Still, those who rally for life must not forget those for whom life is being made unlivable by Reagan budget cuts.
Equally worth noting was the dignity with which acts of civil disobedience were committed on June 14 by 1,600 demonstrators at the consulates of five nations with nuclear weapons. It was a good refresher course in the power of civil disobedience–deliberate, nonviolent violations of valid laws through which protesters invite punishment or injury to themselves in order to call attention to matters of overriding moral urgency. As carried out by the antinuclear protesters last week, the action was lawbreaking in the spirit of fidelity to law.
A sour note during this antibomb weekend was the report of the arrest of a handful of peace activists in Moscow, who only a week earlier had established a group to forge ties and engage in joint actions with kindred groups in the West. Participants in the June 12 rally, and all who share their commitment, should join in protesting these arrests to the Soviet authorities and in demanding that they grant to their citizens the same right to demonstrate that was exercised so gloriously in New York.