40 Years Since The "Gainesville 8" Were Acquitted
GAINESVILLE - They were asking for the Vietnam War to end but instead were tried by the department of justice for conspiracy. Now the Gainesville 8 got together to reminisce about what happened 40 years ago.
The Gainesville 8 were a group of anti-Vietnam War activists who were charged with conspiracy because the department of justice claimed they were planning violence at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. However all eight men were acquitted and have a story to tell.
Scott Camil one of the Gainesville 8 members said, "They tried to paint us as violent criminals to discredit our message."
They were making all the headlines back in the 70's and now six of the Gainesville 8 are still alive. It's been 40 years since they planned to non-violently march at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami.
Don Purdue also with Gainesville 8 said, "By doing demonstrations we got the attention of the public and the news media. Once we got that attention we tried to educate the public to what was actually happening in Vietnam versus what the government was telling them."
However they were prosecuted for conspiracy to disrupt the RNC with violence.
While John chambers wasn't part of the Gainesville 8, he was one of the 23 people who were subpoenaed to the Grand Jury for the trial but refused to answer any questions, landing him more than a month of jail time. "I was opposed to the war and I was opposed to Richard Nixon, I just felt strongly that we needed to fight against him," Chambers said.
An independent film maker, Nancy Miller Saunders who believed in the vets' message also took a role in the movement. "I was so impressed by the veterans that i vowed to help sell their story. I even published a book. Many of them shared their story with me and i used my story as the thread that ties them all together," Saunders said.
Peter Mahoney one of the Gainesville 8 members tell me the fight isn't over. "When I look at the things we were fighting for and against 40 years ago and we're still fighting those same battles today. For me, it just re-enforces the fact that the fight is not over and unfortunately we need to fight the same battles that we were doing in those days," Mahoney said.
Seven of the eight men were officially part of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. All 8 men were acquitted on August 31st, 1973 in a highly publicized trial.
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