The "Minnesota 8"
The Minnesota 8 was one part of a larger group, called "The Minnesota Conspiracy to Save Lives," whose members raided Selective Service draft boards in various non-urban areas of Minnesota on July 10, 1970. The FBI arrested eight men in three draft boards - at Alexandria, Little Falls and Winona. Several other draft raids were successfully conducted that evening. No one from these other raids, which included a women, were ever arrested. Three trials were held from November 2, 1970 through January 18, 1971 in the Minnesota federal district courts in Minneapolis and St. Paul. One of the 8 pleaded guilty, and he received probation. The other seven received the maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
The play, "Peace Crimes: the Minnesota 8 vs. the war," commissioned by the History Theatre and co-produced with the University of Minnesota Theatre Department, is based upon "Outlaw or American Patriot?" a post-trial/pre-prison memoir written by Frank Kroncke. It relates the key events and includes trial testimony, dates, etc. Other materials are available at the Minnesota Historical Society. Go to http://mnhs.mnpals.net (search "Author" enter "Kroncke F").
To grasp the tenor and temper of the times, the 8 were arrested on the charge, "Sabotage of the National Defense." This carried a ten year sentence. Bail was set at $50,000.00 each. This despite the fact that they were all first-time offenders, and arrested for an ostensible act of nonviolent civil disobedience. They sweated out a hot July week in Hennepin County until the bail was reduced to $10,000.00 apiece.
The 8 were indicted on "interfering with the Selective Service System by force, violence or otherwise." They were convicted of an act of violence, and they received the maximum sentence of five years. All mention of the Vietnam War and any tradition or principles of morality were judged "irrelevant and immaterial." One Judge stated, "You gentlemen are worse that the common criminal who attacks the taxpayer's pocketbook. You strike at the foundation of government, itself."
Why are the Minnesota 8 developing the "Peace and War in the Heartland" project? Democracy is best served by informed citizens who are actively involved in forming public policy and public opinion. There are too few public conversations and too many discordant and polarizing discourses being delivered primarily to choirs of true believers. The Minnesota 8 value the Quaker principle of "speaking truth to power" and the practice of bearing witness. Since no person, organization or movement has a lock on power or truth, it is timely for everyone - from every "side," "perspective," "opinion," and "moral stance" - to open a conversation with their fellow citizens about what history has taught us concerning the issues of peace and war.
For more information, newspaper clippings, photos, trial documents, writings, etc. see Minnesota 8
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