10 Pictures: Chicago, April 10,1982

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse”
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need

–The Rolling Stones

It seems fitting, as we prepare to launch into 2015, to think back.

In 1982, I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago.  I was also a photographer, having rehabilitated the abandoned darkroom in the International House basement.  I shot on Agfa black and white film and developed it in a Rodinal solution.

On one blustery April day, I went downtown with my camera and my hopes.  Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were running high, and this was before President Reagan had his own antinuclear conversion.  We thought we had to do something.  On April 10, the result was a demonstration that drew over 50,000 people.

Two of the photographs below were published in the University’s Chicago Maroon newspaper.  The others have languished in a folder until now.

4.10.1982-1 flag4.10.1982-2 cameraThis cameraman seemed astounded at what he was seeing.  His face, like so many of those at the demonstration, seemed so gentle to me.

4.10.1982-3 crowdThis is the one of the ones that ran in the Maroon.  The signs give you a sense of the ideas; the people give you some sense of the numbers.

4.10.1982-4 hope and fearThis woman looked to be on the border between hope and fear.  I think this was the other one that was printed.

4.10.1982-5 coupleAnd there was laughter as well.  The demonstration was remarkably heterogeneous in terms of the people who attended.

4.10.1982-6 man4.10.1982-7 man4.10.1982-9 manWe were old and young, male and female, black and white.

4.10.1982-8 guitarHere are some of the folks who led and coordinated the gathering.  You can see from the clothes that it was none too warm.

4.10.1982-10 girlOf the photographs I took that day, this one is my favorite.  All I remember is that she was riding on someone’s shoulders, and the crowd was applauding a speech that someone had made.  But again, there is a gentle look to her face.  Notice also the banner in the background referring to South Africa.  This was years before Nelson Mandela was released, when apartheid was still practiced in that nation.

There are many people who look at demonstrations like this one and regard them cynically–they’re nothing but (as the Stones said) places to “vent our frustration.”  I disagree.  Having recently read Richard RhodesArsenals of Folly, I understand now that there was a battle within the governments of both the US and USSR over nuclear policy, a battle that the hawks very nearly won.  I think that demonstrations like April 10, 1982 gave hope to the doves, and pause to the hawks, and so made a difference.

(In the long run, neither side fully won the battle, though the doves made significant headway.  Rhodes makes it clear that as early as the mid-1980s, there was real sentiment among leaders on both sides for complete nuclear disarmament.  Alas, that did not happen.  Arsenals tells the tale of why it didn’t, and it is a sad story indeed.)

But we’re still here.  37 years had passed between Nagasaki and and that demonstration in Chicago; since then, another 33 years have passed, and nuclear weapons have not been used in anger in all that time.  We’re still here.

Makes one hopeful.

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