Report on My Lai 50th Anniversary Vigil
By Terry Provance, VPCC Organizer
On a very cold March 16, 2018, a group of peace and justice activists representing numerous organizations gathered across the street from the White House to remember one of the most horrendous chapters in a book of outrageous tragedies and inhuman violations written by the US government and known as The Vietnam War. It was the 50th commemoration of the infamous My Lai Massacre.
With four speakers, one musician, one choir group and two Vietnamese reading the names of the 504 babies, children, women and elderly who were murdered that day, about 65-70 people gathered to call on the US government to acknowledge its moral responsibility for crimes of war committed in our name. We demanded an end to all military strategies that target civilians with anti-personnel weapons and drone strikes as well as US aid to clean up Agent Orange, land mines and unexploded ordnance still claiming lives in Indochina. And finally we sought the release of all government sequestered evidence of additional criminal actions committed by US forces in Indochina, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.
We began with the reading of names by Thien Phuoc Quang Tran who came from New York City. Then Earl Martin, formerly of the Mennonite Central Committee and who worked in Quang Ngai in 1968, spoke about village life and US strategies which brutalized families and rural communities. Environmentalist Charles Cray spoke of the continued devastation caused by Agent Orange and buried mines still killing and maiming children today. And finally during the first part of our vigil, Rose Berger from Sojourners read a poem which she had written for the liturgical resource created for worship services and readings many of which took place in other cities.
Local and talented guitarist and singer David Hamilton did two songs and was followed by history professor Howard Jones from Alabama who spoke from his recent book on My Lai. After we read our Call to Action and more music from David Hamilton, Bill Ramsey and Barbara Helmick led us in a responsive litany, “Let Us Not Forget or Repeat.” Closing singing was provided by the DC Labor Chorus.
Among the groups which had participants at the vigil were the National Council of Churches, Pax Christi, Code Pink, Catholic Worker, American Friends Service Committee, United Church of Christ, Institute for Policy Studies, American University, Center for American Progress, Greenpeace and others.
During our one hour vigil, we distributed leaflets to passersby some of whom joined us. Our large banner “MY LAI: NEVER AGAIN” could be seen from all parts of Lafayette Square and we took time to discuss the reasons for our gathering with people who stopped and showed interest. Tourists photographed us.
Three television crews covered the demonstration - Reuters, Religious News Service, Al Jazeera, and BBC Radio 5 interviewed speakers. Vietnam News Agency ran a story and The Washington Post had an op-ed by Howard Jones that same day.
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