“You are still a radical!”

From Charlie Sullivan, Washington: I am a former priest and my wife, Pauline, is a former nun. We were arrested together during the Mayday protests. Our first arrest was outside the Justice Department [on Tuesday May 4th]. I decided to go limp after we were tear-gassed. But Pauline was yelling at me not to, because “they are going to hit you with those clubs.” Thus, when a policeman started dragging me with his arms under my arms to the jail bus, she reached down and picked up my feet. I asked the policeman to stop and he did and I said, “Put me down, I will walk.” I realized that when Pauline helped to carry me, my entire non-cooperation message was lost! The policeman continued to escort us to the bus with tears in our eyes from the tear gas…

When we got on the bus, we shall never forget that this kind and gentle young student we had met during the demonstration was sitting there with blood coming out of both ears. Things were so chaotic that we could not help him. But, we have always wondered if he received any medical care. Pauline may have been right about the clubs!

When we recently watched a [police film] about Mayday [on Youtube] we came across a picture of my second arrest that week, along with hundreds of others, at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, May 5th, the third day of the protest. (Pauline would have been with me, but she was still in jail from our arrests the day before at Justice.)

Charlie Sullivan, center, during the Mayday 1971 protests

I didn’t remember why I had “POW” written on my forehead, but you explained it [in the book MAYDAY 1971.]

One of those illegally arrested on May 5th, as we all were, was Ron Dellums, who was one of the three members of Congress who spoke to the Mayday protesters when we were on the steps of the Capitol.

A few years back, I had an opportunity to talk to Dellums, who had become the mayor of Oakland, after he gave a speech in the Madison Building [in D.C.] near where the arrests took place.

When I talked to him, I started off by saying that we were arrested together. Mayor Dellums immediately responded, “Right out there!” I then told him how these arrests and the Attica prison uprising [later in 1971] brought about Pauline’s and my decision to go to Texas, where we became involved in prison reform by starting CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants). In 1985, we expanded CURE nationally and moved to DC and in 2001, we went international and now also have chapters in Africa.

Mayor Dellums listened intently and then said what I will always treasure: “You are still a radical!”

2 thoughts on ““You are still a radical!””

  1. Great story — the world needs more “radicals” like you and your wife who turned your days of protest into meaningful life’s work with prison reform.

  2. I am humbled and impressed by the courage and determination of Pauline and Charlie fifty years ago, and feel a bit guilty to admit at that point in my life I was still deeply ensconced in the material world. It took another twenty years before I woke up to the radical call for change by MLK, Gandhi, Tolstoy, Thoreau and the Christ. The Call is still on!


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