Photo: Steve Rees
October 14 The Presidio mutiny: a sit-down protest is carried out by 27 prisoners at the Presidio stockade in San Francisco, California. The stiff sentences given out at courts martial for the participants (known as the Presidio 27) attract attention to the extent of sentiment against the Vietnam War in the armed forces. Two events set the stage for the protest. The first was the death of Richard Bunch, a prisoner in the stockade, who was killed on October 11 with a shotgun blast after walking away from a work detail. Other prisoners state that he taunted guards to shoot him. That evening there is a vocal protest against the killing. The stockade is overcrowded, with up to 140 prisoners housed in a space intended for 88, and there are charges of mistreatment by guards.
The protest is set into motion by a group of four AWOL soldiers who turn themselves in the next day at the end of a large anti-war march in San Francisco, where the Presidio is located. The military had made attempts to prevent service members from participating in the march, ordering up mandatory formations and special maneuvers to keep men on base.Nevertheless a large contingent of several hundred active duty and reserve servicemen march at the front of the parade. The four AWOL soldiers (Linden Blake, Keith Mather, Walter Pawlowski, and Randy Rowland), having been put in the stockade, meet with prisoners over the weekend and convince them to participate in a protest over prisoner conditions and against the war.
The protest is carried out during the morning formation on Monday the 14th. 28 prisoners break ranks and sat in the grass, singing “We Shall Overcome”. One of them returned to ranks when challenged, but the remainder continue to sing, with Pawlowski reading a list of demands. After orders to disperse are ignored, the camp commandant reads the articles of mutiny, and eventually the protest is broken up by military police who remove the protesters. See The Unlawful Concert by Fred Gardner for a fuller description of the Presidio mutiny.
Lt. Susan Schnall is charged under Articles 92 and 133 of the UCMJ as result of her participation in the October 12th GI/Vets organized antiwar demonstration in San Francisco. A1/C Michael Locks is charged with wearing his uniform to the same antiwar demonstration in San Francisco.
Short clip from the Presidio park museum, installation of the Presidio 27 mutiny.
From Sir, No Sir Documentary (2005) starting at 8:34 to view through 14:22.
Two more clips to watch. For the first clip below use password SNS9.
2nd clip from Sir No Sir on the 27, use password Presidio