Harvey Richards began his photography starting in the late 1950's, when peace demonstrations against nuclear testing and proliferation broke the silence of the 1950's McCarthy era. Local and national press refused to cover these events, motivating Harvey to pick up a camera (or two) to help publicize and promote the rising voices of dissent. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of the U.S. Congress conducted witch hunts against progressive peace activists, communists and other dissenters, attempting to shut down these voices. Harvey Richards was subpoenaed and forced to appear before HUAC in 1957 where he refused to testify. By the late 1950's, HUAC itself became a target of demonstrators demanding that HUAC be abolished. Harvey covered these early demonstrations, although he missed the most famous one in which anti-HUAC demonstrators were washed down the steps of the San Francisco City Hall with fire hoses turned on by hysterical local police. HUAC never showed its face again in the Bay Area.
Harvey Richards peace documentaries start with Women for Peace (1962) made in collaboration with his wife, Alice Richards, who was a co-founder of the organization. He documented the founding of the organization and their marches against nuclear testing at the Nevada nuclear testing site. In Everyman (1962) he photographed the attempt to sail a boat named Everyman into the nuclear testing zones in the Pacific Ocean. As the Vietnam war escalated from 1965 onward, he produced three films about the anti-Vietnam war movement. He photographed Berkeley troop train demonstrations as well as the Vietnam Day Committee marches from Berkeley to Oakland in Hot Damn! (1965). In Decision in the Streets (1965) he photographed many peace and civil right demonstrations including the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley. No Greater Cause documented the 1967 Stop the Draft demonstrations in Oakland, California to end the military draft system and the great San Francisco Vietnam War protests that helped bring an early end to the war in Vietnam.
Harvey Richards photography began to help overcome the isolation imposed on the United States’ peace movement by mainstream press censorship and bias in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The images below take you to image galleries of the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s peace demonstrations that he witnessed. His photo images of the peace movement are displayed in 18 galleries.
As the 1960's opened, the peace movement continued to grow in response to world crises in Cuba and Vietnam and elsewhere. San Francisco peace demonstrations led the country in finding its voice to protest war policies of the US government and to ignite the cultural explosion of the 1960s.
He photographed the protests against nuclear testing and for nuclear disarmament in 1958. He went to Nevada when Women for Peace picketed the Nuclear Test Site there. He documented the Everyman, a boat built to sail into the nuclear testing zones in the Pacific. He filmed the Hands Off Cuba demonstrations, the anti-HUAC demonstrations and the early anti-Vietnam war protests by groups such as the Committee for Non-Violent Action (CNVA). When the war escalated, the peace marches swelled in size. Richards photographed anti-napalm demonstrations, the Vietnam Day Committee march from Berkeley to Oakland in 1965, the Spring, 1967 Peace Mobilization, the anti-draft protests in Oakland, and the ever larger marches in San Francisco in the years that followed. He took special care to document the increasing role of active duty soldiers and Vietnam veterans protesting the war. His images show the powerful upsurge against the war that helped end the Vietnam war early. It is a powerful legacy for peace-minded people still confronting the forces of endless war now in power in the USA.
From 1965 until the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, peace movement actions against the war continued to grow in the face of the rapid escalation of violence.
As the war got bigger, more troops were deployed, more bombs dropped, and more body bags returned home, so too the opposition to the war expanded across the country and especially in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1965, moral witness demonstrations of pacifist and religious oriented protesters helped break the silence with their pleas aimed directly at the soldiers leaving from places like the Oakland Army Base for the war in Vietnam. Committee for Non Violent Action (CNVA) protesters led civil disobedience protests at the gates of army bases and napalm factories, chased troop trains down railroad right of ways, calling for soldiers and workers to listen to their consciences and refuse to make war. Harvey Richards photographed these early protests while mainstream media enforced its news blackout.
Word spread and students in from the University of California joined the protests in increasing numbers. The Vietnam Day Committee, a coalition of left wing political groups, called for a march from the UC campus to the Oakland Army base but was stopped at the Oakland/Berkeley border in a confrontation with a wall of helmeted cops. A second march, weeks later with permit in hand, made it to Oakland but stopped at Defermery Park, agreeing not to go to the Army Base.
Widespread community involvement followed with ever larger demonstrations filling the street and finally entering the headlines and TV news stories. The Spring Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam on April 15, 1967 put together one of the largest peace protests ever seen on the West Coast. Marching up Market Street in San Francisco to a rally that filled up Kezar Stadium, protesters demanded "Bring the Troops Home Now!" . Harvey Richards photographed these powerful demonstrations and marches during the years from 1965 to 1967 in the San Francisco Bay Area. His images are presented in the peace galleries here.
When draftees, soldiers, and Vietnam veterans joined the peace movement, the protests moved from civilians marching on the streets to citizen soldiers disobeying orders and undermining the fighting capacity of the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
Even as peace marches grew larger and more frequent in the late 1960's and early 1970's, the U.S. political system continued its escalation of the war in Vietnam. Harvey Richards recognized this deepening of the protest movement and photographed the actions that struck at the heart of the military machine.
The Stop the Draft Week demonstrations that began on October 16, 1967 in front of the downtown Oakland Army Induction Center opened deep cracks in the pro war political consensus and began the massive involvement of soldiers, on duty and as veterans, in the peace movement. Protesters arrived at the Oakland Army Induction Center to greet busloads of draftees reporting for duty with picket signs, victory signs and chants of "Hell No We Won't Go". Joan Baez joined the sit in in front of the main entrance to the Induction Center and was arrested along with many others. A massive police presence cleared the streets and sidewalks and then the buses drove up and unloaded the draftees at the main door. Two months in December, 1967, a second Stop the Draft Week protest witnessed protesters sit down in the street in front of buses loaded with draftees to prevent them (at least symbolically) from going to war. More draft cards were burned. Many were arrested. Even though the war machine had its way, the sight of open civil disobedience in the face of the patriotic hysteria in the midst of a shooting war shocked the nation.
In April, 1968, "GI's for Peace" signs appeared in the large peace march in San Francisco. On October 12, 1968, GI’s for Peace organized and led another march to end the war in Vietnam. Active duty soldiers in uniform in full defiance of U.S. Army orders not to do that led the march and spoke openly at the rally in front of City Hall. The march reflected the increased numbers of soldiers rebelling against the war. During 1968, there were 155,536 individuals who were Away Without Leave (AWOL) from the U.S. Army. Of those 53,357 were designated desertions. On October 14, 1968, two days after the march, 27 prisoners in the Presidio brig staged a sit down protest over conditions there. Newspaper headlines read “Mutiny in the Presidio”. The sit down protesters sang “We Shall Overcome” and were charged with desertion with a possible death penalty. The film "Sir, No Sir!" by David Ziegler is about these events. Harvey Richards' film No Greater Cause filmed these brave soldiers speaking at the rally. David Ziegler's film contains their reflections about their experiences 30 years later.