Members of the “Camden 28,” an anti-Vietnam war group arrested in 1971 when they raided a draft board in Camden, N.J., shared their stories with the College at a panel discussion and documentary screening Thursday night.
Gene Dixon and Father Michael Doyle, two members of the group, were asked to speak at the College by Celia Chazelle, professor of history, along with filmmaker Anthony Giacchino. Chazelle had seen his documentary “The Camden 28” two years ago, and immediately became interested.
In 1971, The Camden 28 unsuccessfully raided the Camden draft board as a statement in opposition to the war in Vietnam. An undercover FBI agent known as Bob Hardy pretended to be one of them, and the 28 were indicted and charged with conspiracy, destruction of government property and interfering with the Selective Service system. They were found not guilty of all charges.
When asked about their relationship with undercover agent Bob Hardy, both men admitted to feeling a strange sense of gratitude, because without him, some of the events would not have happened.
“I still have this one little shadowy corner in my mind where I say ‘OK Bob, don’t get too close,'” Dixon said.
In regards to the documentary, both Dixon and Doyle said Giacchino “resurrected the story.”
“It feels like I’ve joined the action. Like I am part of the Camden 28,” Giacchino said.
When Giacchinio approached Dixon about making the documentary, he replied, “Well, in terms of tickets, do you think you’ll sell any more than 28 of them?”
In fact, they sold many more than 28. “The Camden 28” won both the Jury Prize and Audience Award for best documentary in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival. Since then, it has been screened all over the world.
Giacchino started filming it in 1995, finishing 10 years later.
“It finished in the right time in terms in what was going around the world,” he said, referring to the war in Iraq.
Although the documentary is about the Camden 28 and their struggles in the city and on trial, the panelists said it is also about the fight against the war then, and the fight against the war now.
A native of Ireland, Doyle said, “The Vietnam War, and this war, is built on deception. The whole bloody thing is unjust. War is always unjust.”
Diane Bates, department chair of sociology, said she “could have listened to them for another 10 hours.”
“I hope it planted some seed for the students to inspire and dream bigger of peace and justice,” Reverend Dawn Adamy, a campus minister at the College. said. “I wonder what it will take to wake us up?”
“We can’t be silent anymore. We have to do something about it – we have to do something about war,” Dixon said. “It is evident that young people are now listening to the people who will do the real changes. The hope is in the young people who say, ‘Enough of this.’ That’s the direction we should take.”