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This Week in People’s History, June 13 . . .

A people's tribune's birthday. Opposing the Vietnam War in 1968. Opposing U.S. imperialism in 1898. Debs' 1918 sedition conviction. A win for abolitionists in 1833. Boycotting Jim Crow in 1953. Thousands say, 'Escalate the war on poverty!' in 1968.

Photo of attorney Michael Ratner denouncing torture of prisoners at Guantanamo
Michael Ratner.,

June 13, 1943 (80 years ago).  Michael Ratner, who grows up to be an authentic tribune of the people, is born in Cleveland, Ohio.  Ratner, who died in 2016, spent his professional life using the law to fight against injustice. Ratner and his colleagues at the Center for Constitutional Rights won many significant legal victories, perhaps most memorably convincing the Supreme Court in 2004 that -- contrary to the position of the U.S. government -- prisoners held by the U.S. on the island of Cuba have the Constitutional right to legal counsel, even though they were not in U.S. territory. Ratner was the author of many books, including The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book and Against War with Iraq, and Guantanamo: What the World Should Know.

June 14, 1968 (55 years ago).  In Federal court, Benjamin Spock, William Sloane Coffin, Mitchell Goodman, and Michael Ferber are convicted of conspiracy to counsel, aid, and abet draft resistance by publicizing the very effective "A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority" concerning the war in Vietnam.  When the judge sentences them to two years in prison, he tells them "Where law and order stops, obviously anarchy begins."  A year later, on July 11, 1969, a Federal appeals court sets aside the convictions Spock and Ferber and orders a new trial for Goodman and Coffin but the prosecution later abandoned the case.

June 15, 1898 (125 years ago).  With more than 10 thousand U.S. troops poised to invade the Philippines, the American Anti-Imperialist League is established at a large meeting at Boston's Faneuil Hall.

June 16, 1918 (105 years ago).  Eugene Debs, the head of the Social Democratic Party of America, delivers a speech at the state convention of the Ohio Socialist Party.  Two weeks later, Debs was indicted for having given a speech that violated the Espionage Act because it "attempted to cause and incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States" and "obstructed and attempted to obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States."  Debs was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. While in prison Debs ran for President on the Socialist ticket and received 3.4 percent of the votes cast.…

June 17, 1833 (190 years ago).   A large number of abolitionists surround the Detroit jail, where self-emancipated former slave Thornton Blackburn is being held for deportation to his Kentucky slavemaster. A melee ensues, during which Blackburn escapes and crosses the border into Canada.  Michigan requested Blackburn's extradition, but the Canadian governor refused on the ground that lifetime slavery is too severe a punishment for any crime less than murder, establishing the firm precedent that Canada will not extradite self-emancipated former slaves to the U.S.…

June 18, 1953 (70 years ago).  In Baton Rouge, Louisiana's third largest city, Black transit riders decide to resist official segregation of buses (the city's only public transportation) by forming the United Defense League to boycott the segregated buses.  The boycott is extremely effective due to community support and a UDL-organized ride-sharing progam. In what was than a rare victory against Jim Crow in the deep South, after only six days the City Council agreed to modify the segregation to make it substantially less onerous, in what transit riders regarded a significant victory.

June 19, 1968 (55 years ago).  Five weeks of Poor People's Campaign actions in Washington, D.C., demanding an escalation of the war on poverty, climax in a Juneteenth rally, which attracts an audience of 50,000 - 100,000 participants.

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