I was active in the Pledge of Resistance throughout the 1980s. The Pledge began as a widespread collection of groups across the United States intent on preventing a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. In 1979, the ruthless Nicaraguan dictator Somoza was overthrown in a revolution that brought democracy to the Central American nation. It also brought the wrath of the U.S. government, which had supported Somoza and was busy waging a covert CIA war to quash the leftist revolution in nearby El Salvador. The United States began training and funding brutal terrorist organizations, collectively known as the Contras, made up of former National Guardsmen of the Somoza regime.In secret, and in complete contravention of U.S. law, the Reagan Administration was selling arms to the Iranian government and funneling the profits to the Contras, while people like Oliver North were skimming a bit off the top for themselves. Along with this covert funding came logistical support from the U.S. for the Contras to raise money by trafficking huge amounts of cocaine in the United States.
With the drug-running, terrorist Contra groups failing to dislodge the democratically elected government in Nicaragua, signs emerged from Washington of a possible U.S. invasion. Many saw the seemingly random U.S. invasion of the tiny island nation of Grenada as practice for such an attack.
The Pledge of Resistance was a document signed by Americans all across the U.S. Signers of the Pledge declared their readiness to either engage in acts of peaceful civil disobedience, or support those who would, in the case of a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. The Pledge was triggered at certain key moments when the escalation of war efforts seemed apparent. In one such activation of the Pledge, while still in high school, I occupied the offices of Senator Richard Lugar, in Indiana, with a Pledge affinity group.
I moved to Washington, DC in 1990 and joined a local chapter, the DC Area Pledge of Resistance. Now the threat was a U.S. invasion of Iraq. We started organizing protests and street theater just before the Gulf War. Our most renown protest was in the U.S. Senate chambers when we interrupted Senate debate on whether invading a country in the Middle East would be a good idea, with chants of “No Blood For Oil!” It may not have been our most nuanced public antic, but it did earn us a mention in the newest edition of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
Peace Movements Worldwide, by Michael Nagler and Mark Pilisuc, includes a history of the Pledge of Resistance and its context in the U.S. peace movement.
Here are scenes of police harassing peaceful demonstrators during protests in Washington DC against the 1991 Gulf War: