Carrying daisies, holding hands, and singing peace songs from the '60s, more than 1,600 anti-nuclear demonstrators were arrested here today as they tried to erect a human blockade in front of the U.N. missions of five major nuclear powers.
The day-long protests resulted in the largest number of arrests for a political demonstration in this city's history.
The participants, who came from 34 states and seven countries, had been schooled in passive resistance, taking courses of four hours or more. Police, according to Sgt. James Mullaly, had "specifically been told no force, no cuffs, no search, and no taking anyone with children."
In front of the U.S. Mission across from the United Nations, where the greatest number of arrests was made, police officers in riot helmets put a hand on the shoulder of each demonstrator--none of whom was actually blocking an entrance--and asked if the protester preferred to be carried on a stretcher or to walk to an awaiting police bus. Either way, the demonstrator went off to cheers.
At the end of the afternoon, the only injuries that had occurred were non-combative injuries to police officers, an arm broken or back pulled while moving a barricade. A spokesman for the June 14 Civil Disobedience Campaign, an umbrella organization of religious and secular groups, said that while no one had been prevented from entering a place of work, the day's activities had still been a great success.
"The point of this demonstration was not directed at blockading the entrances of buildings, or preventing employes from going to work," said Diane Becker. "It was more of a symbolic action to stop business as usual, where for more than 30 years of negotiation there hasn't been much progress in arms reduction. We wanted to make a statement, rather than an actual blockade."
Three thousand extra police officers had been called in on overtime to handle the protests at a total cost of $700,000, city officials said.
Timed to coincide with the United Nations' Second Special Session on Nuclear Disarmament, at which President Reagan is scheduled to speak Thursday, the demonstrations began early this morning at the missions of the United States, Soviet Union, Britain, France, and China. By late afternoon, 878 arrests had been made at the U.S. Mission, 278 at the Soviet Mission, and lesser numbers at the other three.
Protest organizers estimated that about 150 of those arrested held foreign citizenship, and that the average age was "largely over 30." But in the early hours outside the U.N., despite the occasional gray-haired woman or middle-aged priest, the protesters seemed to average between 20 and 30 years.
Laura Wilson, a dancer and student from the University of Minnesota, sat on the cold pavement linking hands with Lyne Zaschata, from the same school, and Janie Minnetti, of Biddeford, Maine. Wilson's resistance was decidedly passive.
"It's more important to show support of life than to get your head bashed in," she said.
Behind her from West Virginia, school psychologist Frank Termi was holding a hand-made banner, done with country paisleys, saying, "The Hills Are Alive, Leave Them That Way."
"We'll stay here as long as we can for disarmament," he said. "That's the point, not getting arrested."
Those arrested at the demonstrations faced two charges. If they walked off the bus at police headquarters they were charged with disorderly conduct, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail or a $250 fine. If they had to be carried off, they faced a charge of resisting arrest, which has a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $500 fine.
The booking process went quickly and smoothly. Some demonstrators, police said, were issued summons on the bus and were left with enough time to head back to the United Nations and be arrested a second time.