Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament


Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament

The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament, Inc. (also referred to as The Great Peace March, GPM, and the March) was a cross-country action in 1986 to raise awareness of the growing danger of nuclear proliferation and to advocate for complete, verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons from the earth. The GPM consisted of hundreds of people, mostly but not exclusively Americans, who convened in Los Angeles, California, USA, in February 1986 to walk from L.A. to Washington, D.C., the nation's capital. The group left Los Angeles on March 1, 1986 and arrived in Washington, D.C. on November 15, 1986, a journey of about 3,700 miles, nine months and many campsites. The March was conceived by Los Angeles businessman David Mixner, who formed a non-profit organization called PRO-Peace (People Reaching Out for Peace). Due to a variety of factors, including bankruptcy, PRO-Peace folded while the March was in Barstow, California. What followed were a few weeks of round-the-clock meetings to assess resources, reorganize and form a more grassroots, self-governed organization. Afterward, the March continued its eastward trek.

Along the way, in addition to creating a vibrant visual impact as they walked through small towns and big cities alike, marchers generated many opportunities to interact with local populations and conducted educational workshops for each other and for the communities through which the March passed. The workshops usually centered on options for non-violent conflict resolution, and peace-and-justice topics related to the mission of the March. Marchers generally self-selected the facets of GPM life where they wanted to focus their energies. The speakers' bureau spoke in schools and community centers from coast to coast; other outreach activities included a "Marcher In The Home" program to match up GPM marchers with "townies" for overnight stays (sleeping indoors!), and special events like concerts and community potlucks. For many, the walk-a-day life of a peace marcher also brought opportunities for "marcher in the cafe," "marcher in the diner," and the popular "marcher in the laundromat." Through all of these activities and events, conversations were sparked, friendships were forged and the seeds were sown for communities to explore their own notions of peace, justice and non-violence long after the March was gone.

An average day's walk on The Great Peace March was about 15 miles. The group camped most nights, an advance team having scouted locations and secured permits in advance. Most people on the March walked at least some part of each day. There were gear trucks specially outfitted to transport clothing, tents and other personal supplies, in addition to a mobile kitchen and dry-storage trucks, a library, school and other specialty vehicles. For an expedition of this size and scope, it took many people working in camp to keep systems and processes humming, and each marcher was expected to volunteer for two regular in-camp "job" shifts each week. On any given day, dozens of marchers did not walk with the GPM along the highways and byways of that day's route, but were instead washing breakfast dishes, packing up the tractor-trailers and advancing to the next camp site, preparing lunch and gathering supplies for dinner, teaching the schoolchildren, cleaning and dumping the porta-potties, participating on councils or committees, making a presentation to a community group, leading a classroom discussion in a local school, re-shelving items on the library bus, fundraising, formulating logistics and negotiating land use permits, restoring damaged areas of the camp landscape caused by the heavy trucks and heavy foot traffic, and any of a number of other jobs necessary to keep this travelling community on the road and on schedule.

tatement of Purpose

A Statement of Purpose was approved with the following preamble "The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament is an abolitionist movement. We believe that great social change comes about when the will of the people becomes focused on a moral imperative. By marching for nine months across the United States, we will create a non-violent focus for positive change; the imperative being that nuclear weapons ar politically, socially, economically and morally unjustifiable, and that, in any number, they are unacceptable. It is the responsibility of a democratic government to implement the will of its people, and it is the will of the people of the United States and many other nations to end the nuclear arms race."

ynopsis of GPM history from the Swarthmore College Archives

Historical Introduction by Swarthmore College The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament evolved from another peace effort, PRO-Peace (see below). Formally organized on April 2, 1985, by David Mixner of Los Angeles, California, PRO-Peace envisioned raising $20 million to send 5000 marchers 3000 miles eastward to Washington D.C. The march departed from Los Angeles on March 1, 1986, with only 1200 participants and a fraction of the needed monies in hand. The marchers soon began to realize that the collapse of PRO-Peace was imminent and some began to organize a new structure to take its place. On March 14, while camped near Barstow, California, they received word from David Mixner that PRO-Peace no longer existed. Many marchers departed but those who remained incorporated on March 19 into the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament. A home office was established in Santa Monica, California, and financial aid was received from individuals and organizations, including the Peace Development Fund and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The GPM, also known as Peace City and now numbering approximately 600, resumed its eastward walk on March 28. Its governance and organizational structure adapted to meet its evolving needs. Marchers assumed volunteer jobs, replacing the highly structured and paid PRO- Peace network, and a Policy Board began the task of governing. A City Council soon replaced the Policy Board with decisions made preferably by consensus. The Board of Directors was enlarged from three to seven members and a Judicial Board oversaw resolution of disputes and disciplinary problems among marchers. Three City Managers, one for each of the tent cities, plus department heads, formed an Operations Council. Mayor Diane Clark represented Peace City at ceremonial occasions as the GPM made its way across the United States.

Many departments and task forces were created to carry on the work of the March. These included the Community Interaction Agency which planned outreach events with communities the March passed through, the Field Department which later merged with the C.I.A., Education (Peace Academy) which worried about school for the children on the March as well as issue-oriented speeches for marchers, and Entrance/Exit which handled marcher applications.

The marchers crossed the United States through California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, and arrived in Washington, D.C. on November 14. Concluding ceremonies were held the following day in Meridian Park, followed by speeches in front of the White House, and closing ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial.

Jobs and duties on the March

Board of directors, city council, judicial board, meeting facilitators, city manager, city duty officer, security duty officer, legal council, mayor, mayor's assistant, "trees-and-keys" ceremony coordinator, Info-Comm ("Peace City News" daily newspaper, route maps), sites and routes, advance team (to procure sites/permits), logistics, front-gate reception, camp tours, media bus, CIA (Community Interaction Agency), Peace Academy (public education and outreach), entrance/exit committee, documentary camera crew, photogapher, state-by-state branch office staff, transportation, sending (all of camp), receiving (all of camp), semi-truck drivers, bus drivers for the kids' school buses and shuttle bus,"blister bus" driver, maintenance, vehicle muraling, tent repair, water hauling ("Aqua one" and "Aqua too"), loading/unloading, campscape (set up town hall tents upon arrival, restore site upon departure), recycling, trash, porta potties, security/peacekeepers, dish washing, meal prep, kitchen, food purchasing, dry food storage, cold food storage, teaching, medical and dental, mediation, counseling, school teachers, child care, music/entertainment, library bus, mail bus, Marcher-in-the-Home coordination, merchandising, fundraising, finance, March officer (DMO), Silver Thread editor (the yearbook/directory of marchers), aikido instruction, hometown support (care packages). And, of course, march potatoes — those who frequently enjoyed a more, shall we say, leisurely pace. Porta-Pottie Poem
"This poem was posted inside the numerous, and very well maintained, porta potties to recruit help."

"Porta-pottie Poets come here not to sit and think.

(I bet you're sure I'm going to end this line with stink.) No. We sit for inspiration, for our goal, you see,

Is to attain salvation, to emulate Gandhi.

Mahatma was a lawyer, a statesman and a seer. Yet the mean, lowest toilet-bowl cleaner was his peer.

So be a great soul like Gandhi — hey, Tom, Sue, and Gus!

Join Porta-pottie Poets: come clean this john with us."

Resources: film, books, music, research

Film

"Just One Step" was a documentary film of the Great Peace March by Cathy Zheutlin, edited by James Knight * [http://www.hollywood.com/movie/Just_One_Step_The_Great_Peace_March/180725]
Description: Twenty years ago, a group of 500 people walked across America for nine months in a mobile community known as "Peace City." With her Betacam, Cathy Zheutlin, producer and director, videotaped this journey and created an hour-long documentary called "Just One Step."

It is a film about persistence, commitment, passion, counter-cultural behavior and mainstream America. People from all walks of life—grandparents, children, doctors, veterans, computer programmers, many of whom had never marched for anything before—gathered from all over the United States in a historic effort to affect the politics of a nation. "Just One Step" chronicles not only the logistical, emotional, and spiritual trials of the marchers as they crossed the country—living in tents, walking through every conceivable terrain and weather—but jhand ke bal kay read kar rhai hai love do also their interaction with thousands of Americans in rural and urban communities along the way: farmers, unemployed steelworkers, housewives and school children, who welcomed the marchers into their churches and schools and even their homes.

Anthropos Award for Social Justice Film — write-up for "Just One Step" * [http://www.anthrosource.net/doi/abs/10.1525/var.1989.5.1.55]

Books about the Great Peace March

"The Great Peace March: An American Odyssey" (Peacewatch Edition) by Franklin Folsom, Connie Fledderjohann, Gerda Lawrence * [http://www.betterworld.com/The-Great-Peace-March-id-0943734142.aspx?afid=11] Description, "A noble dream: To walk across America to demand the end of the nuclear arms race. It began in Los Angeles on March 1, 1986 with 1,200 people-old and young, from nearly every state and nine other countries-and nearly ended just two weeks later in the bitter cold and rain of the Mojave Desert with the financial collapse of the sponsor....Here is their fascinating story-how they did it, whom they encountered along the way, and what this accomplishment means for the future of the American peace movement." This book has 208 pages and is illustrated.

"Feet Across America" by New Zealand marcher Anne Macfarlane * [http://www.biblio.com/books/74068200.html]
"Two New Zealand women, neither of them young, trekked across America on foot in 1986, covering more ground than most people do in a lifetime. Their purpose? To promote the idea of nuclear disarmament, as members of 'The Great Peace March'. Visiting communities large and small, protesting at the Nevada Test Site and learning about what happened to those who lived 'down wind' from it, scaling the 12,000 foot Loveland Pass in the Rockies, observing the rural decline in the midwest, addressing local groups, coping with the group dynamics of the march, seeing America from the unusual perspective of the pedestrian Anne Macfarlane has a story to tell, and it's compulsive reading."

"Peace Like a River: A Personal Journey Across America" by Sue Guist * [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0943734177/oceantreebooks]
" What is it like to walk across America? To clock an average of 20 miles per day for nine months, in good weather and bad, with companions as diverse as Buddhist Monks and teenage Anarchists? Motivated by a desire to free the world from the ultimate holocaust, Sue Guist took her first steps in March 1986 heading out from Los Angeles across the Mojave Desert. And she began at an age when most folks have put their adventuring years behind them. Learn what the "Road of Life" taught her on those 3700 miles about her fellow Americans, about peace making with strangers, about patience and endurance, trusting in the road's next bend, and the human magic of lifes simplest pleasures." This book has 197 pages and is sprinkled with photographs by Jeff Share and camp illustrations by Guy Colwell.

"Lost Journals from the Great Peace March" by Gene Gordon * [http://wochica.tripod.com/lostjournals/] AuthorID=11997
"Way in the back of my closet one day I found piles of old papers and books. Beneath musty volumes some journals lied buried. Dog-eared, weathered and torn, stained with liquid and food - what could these be? I sat right there on the floor turning page after... But no! Some pages were missing entirely. Others were near unreadable, smeared with rain, bleached by sun. Still, I could make out enough to appreciate that recorded here was a tremendous adventure."

It told of a nine-month march across the United States, of hundreds tramping 3,700 miles from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. In these pages I found people calling for peace, for an end to atomic threats and nuclear tests. TAKE DOWN THE BOMBS! These journals told of love in tents, of poetry and song. Food, sex, danger in the wild - there was much pleasure in these pages.

"The Great Peace March", song into children's book by Holly Near, Paintings by Lisa Desimini * [http://www.hollynear.com/cds/great.peace.html]
The words to Holly Near's stirring song and Lisa Desimini's dramatic paintings combine to create a powerful picture book. The Great Peace March is both a lyrical evocation of and a powerful call to action for a peaceful planet - a book that celebrates the courage and determination to make it real. Peace activists, teachers, parents, musicians, children, and anyone who hopes for a harmonious world will welcome this book to their homes, classrooms, repertoires, libraries.

"Central Body: The Art of Guy Colwell", including work from the years 1964 to 1991. Includes a section of his sketches of the G.P.M. * [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0896201163] excerpt from review, "There is a particularly fascinating section where he shares memories and art from his participation in the Great Peace March (1986). His sketches of life in "Peace City" are both humorous and charming. Although this section slightly suffers from the you-had-to-be-there dilemma, Colwell's GPM art has a significant place in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Colwell's GPM art remains to this day as a reminder of a near-forgotten part of late-20th Century American history related to the Cold War."

Research paper about the GPM "Peace March: Process = Success", Conflict Resolution Consortium, Working Paper 90-3, May, 1990. By Lynne Ihlstrom, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado at Boulder. * [http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/full_text_search/AllCRCDocs/90-3.htm] Excerpt from paper, "One example of an action with minimal visibility and relatively low membership, yet powerful effect on those it touched, was the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament. The participants believed their walk across the United States needed to uphold a certain peaceful image if there was to be any credibility given to the group as they marched for their specific goal of an anti-nuclear statement. What grew from this experience was an unexpected daily process of conflict management, sharing, and cooperation that not only empowered those on the March, but also impressed all those thousands that came into personal contact with the group. Instead of solely being an anti-nuclear action, the Peace March gave credit to its name by learning to be peaceful."

Music on the March

"The Great Peace March" theme song by Holly Near

“Ancient eyes are watching in the night

The stars come out to guide the way

The sun still shines despite the clouds

And the dawn is dusk is dawn is dusk is day

Farmers rise and dream to feed the world

The world awakes to feed the heart

Hearts beat while a thousand flags are waving

And the farmer sees a dream has played a part

"Chorus:"

We will have peace, we will because we must.

We must because we cherish life. And believe it or not, as daring as it may seem, it is not an empty dream:

To walk in a powerful path

Neither the first nor the last Great Peace March.

Life is a great and mighty march!

Forever for love and for life on the Great Peace March.”

Anne Feeney page about the March and Wild Wimmin for Peace * [http://home.earthlink.net/~unionmaid/id2.html] "During the Reagan years it was pretty easy to drift into cynicism and helplessness. Enter Wild Wimmin for Peace. It was late September of 1986, and they were nearing the end of a journey that had begun almost six months before. I didn't have much in the way of expectations when I was asked to present this 20 women ensemble of peace marchers. I figured they were activists, not artists, and that the show would be boring and preachy. NOT! I was so wrong! Their energy and optimism and tribalism and spiritualism and humor and talent just blew me away. I couldn't get their music out of my head."

"Wild Wimmin For Peace CD" * [http://www.ladyslipper.org/rel/v2_viewupc.php?storenr=53&upc=gmp1cd00000&pt=1&affnr=-1]

Lyrics for song from Wild Wimmin CD-Bridgett Evans by Judy Small [http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiBRIDEVAN.html]

"No More Silence" YouTube video. Song written by marcher Darryl Purpose, This updated version sung by Clan Dyken with new rap added * [http://youtube.com/watch?v=H14bQuQ-2a8]

No More Silence lyrics * [http://www.clandyken.com/Music_Lyrics/nomoresilence.txt]

"Beautiful Planet" by Michael Krieger. Scroll down to "Look Inside" CD * [http://www.michaelkrieger.com/mk/music.html]

News articles and radio interviews

Nineteen major news articles dating from November 14 through 16, 1986. * [http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=international+peace+walk&cid=8531162259521576&scoring=t&um=1&sa=N&start=10] from these following newspapers; Boston Globe, New York Times, Atlanta Journal, San Jose Mercury News, Philadelphia Enquirerer, Los Angeles Daily News, Chicago Sun Times, Dallas Morning News, Lexinton Herald Leader, Beacon Journal, Miami Herald

Articles written by marchers

"A Laboratory in Democracy: Revisiting the Great Peace March" by Steve Brigham * [http://www.co-intelligence.org/S-GPM.html] excerpt from article, "Within a week of being on the road again, the legitimacy of the board of directors was called into question. Because marchers so distrusted any connections to PRO-Peace, it was agreed that four marchers would be added to the board, through city-wide elections. From this point on, the Board of Directors would be in charge of general March policy relations with the "outside world" -- but internal matters and daily March decisions were the City Council's responsibility. But as with everything on the march, even this new board's status was not permanent. In early June, just two months later, all board members were asked to resign, and there was yet another city-wide vote and seven new members were instated. Ironically, two anarchists -- running with a slate of candidates on a platform to abolish the board altogether -- were elected, joining a body they didn't believe in to help it set policy and direction for the entire community. This new board served the March the rest of the way."

"How to Make a Decision Without Making a Decision" (written for "Communities" magazine, Winter 2000) by Tom Atlee * [http://www.co-intelligence.org/I-decisionmakingwithout.html] excerpt from article, "At any rate, here it was June already and we were being eaten away from the inside by a conflict that just wouldn't stop -- the familiar war between "maintaining an acceptable appearance for the rest of the world," and "expressing our authentic selves." Nearly every community has its own version of this. Ours had been festering for almost two months before we landed in the fertilizer factory (we'd been decamping on its lawn when the storm rolled in). Our two polarized camps were: "We should march along in orderly rows to impress the media and maintain order in the face of traffic!" and "We should move at our own pace in a strung-out line so we can appreciate the natural world and chat with people in homes and schools we pass!" You can pretty much imagine who was on each side. And each side was ready to leave the march ... "if you people are going to wreck the march like that!" But today we were momentarily drawn together by our common enemy, the rain. Taking advantage of our temporary communion, a few wise marchers set up a portable speaker system right there amidst the piles of odiferous chemicals, suggesting that anyone who wished to should take a 2-minute turn speaking into the microphone about our conflict. So we did that, with great passion and messiness."

"The Tao of Democracy" by Tom Atlee * [http://www.taoofdemocracy.com/prologue.html] Excerpt from Tom's article, "Our leadership could not have been more tenuous, conflicted and diffuse. Our governing councils had virtually no power to enforce their decisions. By all traditional logic, the whole operation should have just fallen apart and blown away. There was no way it should have been able to work or survive. But it did. And in the process, it became an extraordinary crucible for personal and collective learning and transformation."

Audio interviews

"The Wisdom of the Whole", audio of Tom Atlee * [http://www.wie.org/unbound/media.asp?id=7] Description, "Beginning with his first experience of collective mind on the Great Peace March for Nuclear Disarmament in 1986, this passionate activist tells one astonishing story after another about the power of collectives. And he discusses how co-intelligence can revitalize democracy through “wisdom councils”—groups of ordinary citizens who access a higher wisdom to determine what's best for the whole."

"Audio interview with New Zealand marcher Maynie Thompson" * [http://www.archive.org/details/MaynieThompsonWaihekePeaceActivist] Description of topic content: "On the 8th of June it is the 20th anniversary of the passing of legislation to make New Zealand a nuclear free zone. To get a local slant on this historic occasion, The Beach 99.4fm invited Waiheke woman Maynie Thompson onto our Island Life magazine show to discuss her involvement in the anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s.

In this interview, she discusses the inspiration for her involvement in the anti-nuclear movement and some of her adventures as a front-line activist. In the eighties, Maynie and other local women took their message of peace to the world. In 1983, a march to Wellington calling for the New Zealand government to take a stand on the nuclear issue. A year later, Maynie visited Britain to join the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp protesting the deployment of American nuclear missiles on British soil. Two years later, Maynie again ventured overseas to participate in the Great Peace March across the United States walking much of the way from Los Angeles to Washington DC again calling for peace and an end to the nuclear threat. Maynie's activism continued into the 1990s with the 1995 Peace Flight to Tahiti to protest French Nuclear testing on the Pacific atoll Mururoa."

Related links and archives

GPM Web site* [http://greatpeacemarch.org/]

Peace Pilgrim site. Documentary film edited by James Knight, music by Darryl Purpose * [http://www.peacepilgrim.com/FoPP/]

Great Peace Walk, Painting by Painter Bill Rane Bill Rane Commemorative Painting "The Great Peace Walk, A Soviet-American Jounry, 1987* [http://www.billranestory.info/id56.html]

Related Archives

Swarthmore College * [http://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/DG100-150/DG147/DG147GPM.htm]
Archives from Pro Peace * [http://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/DG151-175/DG152ProPeace.html]
California Online Archives * [http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt8w1006s0/]
Pro-peace/Mixner archives * [http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=kt8w1006s0&chunk.id=bioghist-1.7.3&brand=oac]
Yale University Archives, David Mixner's papers * [http://mssa.library.yale.edu/findaids/stream.php?xmlfile=mssa.ms.1862.xml]
Franklin Folsom's personal papers archived at University of Colorado at Boulder * [http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/specialcollections/collections/archivalcolls.htm]
Harvard Archive of the International Peace Walk | Folsom, Affeldt, Smith et al. Scroll down to the word "International" * [http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~martin11/DocN.html]
Archive Grid | Various items related to the GPM. * [http://www.archivegrid.org/web/jsp/lp.jsp?id=407]

GPM reunions

*20-year reunion (2006) photos on Shutterfly' * [http://gpm20year.shutterfly.com/action/]
*18-year reunion (2004) in Ashland, Oregon * [http://www.greatpeacemarch.org/reunion.html]
*Every September—California reunion

Peace marches after/before the GPM

"Pleading for Peace, Archaeologists Studying Camp Where Anti-nuclear Activists Staged Protests." Article about the Nevada Test Site. * [http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2002/Mar-24-Sun-2002/news/18354606.html] Excerpt from article: "Like the towers and craters from 41 years of nuclear weapons testing that dot the landscape of the Nevada Test Site, a patch of ground on the other side of the highway has attracted archaeologists charting the last years of the Cold War. It's known as Peace Camp, the location where anti-nuclear activists from around the world staged some of the largest civil disobedience actions in America."

"Analysis of Mother's Day Action 1987" (Once there, click on magnifier image to bring up text. Scroll up a bit to get to the beginning of the subject.) * [http://books.google.com/books?id=_hgYfQP5aRMC&pg=PA317&lpg=PA317&dq=mother's+day+action+test+site&source=web&ots=PVgDVk9fZi&sig=hGYpdqWn45h03IIIhY0iMJ7Bg1o#PPA319,M1]

"American Soviet Walk: Taking Steps to End the Nuclear Arms Race," by Fred Segal and Fred Bastion. * [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0962167703]

"OurMove.org" [http://www.ourmove.org] offers a detailed, annotated photographic account of the American Soviet Peace Walk, which took place on the 450 kilometer stretch between St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and Moscow, Russia, in the summer of 1987. Ourmove.org is based on a 1988 book by Fred Segal & Fred E. Basten, "American Soviet Walk: Taking Steps to End the Nuclear Arms Race," published by the United World of the Universe Foundation.

Article with quite a bit about the Soviet-American walk, "Saying No To Power Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and Thinker," by William Mandel. * [http://www.billmandel.net/h/26.shtml] Excerpt: "In 1987 I was back in the USSR again, taking part in the American-Soviet Leningrad-Moscow Peace Walk. I saw my purpose as helping the two hundred American walkers to see the realities of rural and small-city life along our camping route from the perspective of Russian and Soviet history rather than that of Americans. They certainly knew equivalent American realities. Consider some of the places from which they came: Black Mt., North Carolina; Coralville, Iowa; Lincolnville, Maine; El Prado, New Mexico, as well as every major city."

"Ten articles from 1987 about the International Peace Walk" (Soviet-American Walk) * [http://news.google.com/archivesearch?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLJ,GGLJ:2006-44,GGLJ:en&q=international+peace+walk&as_ldate=1987&as_hdate=1987&um=1&scoring=t&sa=X&oi=archive&ct=title] from these following newspapers; New York Times, Miami Herald, Orange County Register, Boston Globe, Fresno Bee, Chronical Telegram

At least one part-time participant of the Great Peace March, Kevin J. Shay, participated in a previous two-year march called Walk of the People - A Pilgrimage for Life that went across the U.S. and Europe in 1984-85. Shay walked with the Great Peace March for its first week in California.

PRO-Peace & the origins of the Great Peace March

ynopsis of PRO-Peace from the Swarthmore College Archives

PRO-Peace (People Reaching Out for Peace) was a non-profit, non-partisan organization begun in April 1985 by David Mixner, a partner in a Los Angeles public relations firm who was a key organizer for the Vietnam War Moratorium and a national co-chairman of Senator Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign. He served as Executive Director of PRO Peace until its collapse in March 1986. In its statement of purpose, PRO Peace members called themselves "abolitionists" who supported efforts toward complete global nuclear disarmament. Rather than working through political means, they sought to "capture the imagination of the world.., inspire and revitalize the American people.., and send a message to the Russian people." PRO-Peace did not wish to form any coalitions with other peace organizations but did ask for their endorsement of its Great Peace March effort.

Headquartered at 8150 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, its staff of approximately 80 paid "professionals" undertook to plan a march across the United States from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. The hope was that 5000 marchers would walk 15 miles a day for 255 days, departing on March 1, 1986. PRO-Peace staff recruited marchers, organized fund-raising events, procured permits, organized six field regions, prepared routes and sites across the country, and attempted to anticipate and solve the logistics of a mobile "Peace City."

As the departure date drew near, PRO-Peace announced that it had raised only 3.4 of the 18 million dollars it needed. Confirmed marchers numbered around 1200 including 75 children. Lacking proper liability insurance and some equipment, they nevertheless departed from Los Angeles on March 1, 1986. On March 14, as the marchers camped outside Barstow, California, David Mixner made an appearance and informed them that PRO-Peace no longer existed. Allan Affeldt, the first president of the Great Peace March, later wrote that PRO-Peace staff had not been paid since January 1, and that numerous proposals to reorganize, including the declaration of bankruptcy, had been made to and refused by Mixner. With mostly new leadership and greatly reduced numbers, the marchers reorganized as the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament, a grassroots, marcher-run, volunteer organization. The transcontinental trek to Washington D.C. was completed in November 1986.

Excerpt of interview with David Mixner, founder of PRO-Peace (from "Metro Weekly")

MW: In 1986, you conceived of the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament, in which thousands marched across the country from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. It was one of your biggest non-gay ventures.

MIXNER: Yeah. And the biggest political failure of my life. It was, in some ways, a success, but not because of me.

MW: Why?

MIXNER: Ego. Pure and simple. You start believing what people tell you at a young age. So instead of defining yourself and your own journey and the path that God has chosen for you, I started living the expectations of how people said they saw me. And my ego got out of control.

Fortunately, I directed my ego to a good cause -- nuclear disarmament. The concept of the March was good and the cause was good. But the decision-making apparatus within the organization was flawed because of my ego. And it failed in the way I had planned it. Now the wonderful, magnificent part about this story is that the marchers reorganized on their own and continued to walk across country, despite the burden I had placed on them.

It is without a doubt my biggest political failure and my biggest regret. Years later, I still get shaky every time I talk about it. But I have some pride in how I handled it. I didn't blame others. I didn't hold fundraisers afterwards to ask people to raise money -- I paid off four hundred and some thousand dollars worth of small debt on my own over the next five years. It got an enormous amount of attention at the time.

It could have succeeded if I hadn't wanted to be liked by everybody and had exerted strong leadership. And I realize now that all those people who were carrying me on their shoulders and calling me Moses, when the slightest hint of trouble arose, dropped me to the floor and called me Satan. It was a valuable lesson. Very humbling.


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