The last of the Vietnam-war protesters
In the wake of the shootings of four students by the National Guard at Kent
State during an anti-Vietnam War demonstration, students at Washington
University in St. Louis staged an angry protest during which the ROTC
building was set afire. During the chaos a "cherry bomb" firecracker was
thrown at police and firefighters. Howard Mechanic, a student in the crowd,
was charged and convicted under Nixon's new Federal anti-demonstration law
designed to squash protests against the Vietnam War.
The 1968 Civil Disobedience Act prohibited a person from interfering with
"any fireman or law enforcement officer who is doing his job during the
commission of a civil disorder." A civil disorder is defined as disruption
or damage caused by a group of three or more people. During Mechanic's
trial, 19 prosecution witnesses were called. Only one of them actually
testified against Mechanic and his testimony was far from conclusive: first
he said he saw the firecracker in Mechanic's hand, then that he only the
firecracker in the air and then that the firecracker could perhaps have
been thrown from five or six feet behind Mechanic. The other witnesses were
mostly firefighters who established that there were more than three people
in the crowd. Mechanic was sentenced to five years in Federal prison. To
this day, Mechanic claims innocence.
In 1972, having failed in the appeals process after serving twenty months
on a related state charge, Mechanic decided to flee rather than face
lengthy incarceration. In the thirty years that followed, living under the
name Gary Tredway, Mechanic started a successful business, became an
environmental activist, contributed his time and 25% of his income to
community causes and became so respected locally that he was persuaded to
run for a City Council seat in Phoenix. Reports digging into his background
came up with the decades old conviction and stumbled upon a warrant for his
arrest: "The last of the Vietnam-war protesters, still sought by the FBI."
Mechanic subsequently surrendered to Federal authorities. He is now
imprisoned in Florence, Arizona.
Use the letter below <http://www.thenation.com/actnow/#moreinfo>
to send an e-mail to U.S. Pardon Attorney Roger C. Adams expressing your
support for commutation of the sentence of Howard Mechanic, who is
presently serving a five year sentence for a thirty year old conviction.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Sep 14 2000 - 04:56:21 CUT