Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Peace activist Marv Davidov dies" Star Tribune - Mpls MN Jan 14, 2012

"Peace activist Marv Davidov dies" Star Tribune - Mpls MN Jan 14, 2012


by Randy Furst • 612-673-4224


He was nationally known for demonstrations against Honeywell, which

made cluster bombs used in Vietnam.


Marv Davidov, an iconic figure in the Minnesota peace movement who

founded and led the Honeywell Project in a decades-long campaign to

halt the production of anti-personnel weapons by the Honeywell Corp.,

died Saturday afternoon at Walker United Health Care Center in



Davidov, who also was active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s

and beyond, was 80, and had suffered from a number of health problems.


A chain smoker until recent years, he was an immediately recognizable

figure at protests, with his large mustache, blue skipper's cap,

almost always wearing a T-shirt with a protest slogan on it.


In 1983, nearly 600 protesters were arrested outside Honeywell's

Minneapolis headquarters in a civil disobedience action, the type of

demonstration that Davidov and his allies had organized so many times

that it was honed to a fine art.


For years during the Vietnam War era, Davidov carried around a

deactivated cluster bomb, the size of a softball, to show anyone who

would listen that Honeywell was creating weapons being used by the

U.S. military. He said the weapons indiscriminately killed innocent

civilians in Southeast Asia.


Honeywell eventually spun off its defense contract work to Alliant Techsystems.


Davidov estimated that he was arrested 40 or 50 times, mainly in

antiwar and civil rights demonstrations.


He was one of the original Freedom Riders, young people who rode on

buses through the South in 1961 to desegregate bus transportation and



He and five other white youths from the Twin Cities were arrested at a

blacks-only lunch counter in a Greyhound bus station in Jackson,

Miss., when they refused to comply with police orders to move on.


In a hospital room interview Thursday, Davidov, although sedated with

pain medication for a worsening circulatory problem, spoke with

animation about being locked up for 40 days with other civil rights

demonstrators at a Mississippi prison farm. Black and white protesters

were incarcerated together, he said.


"We were the first group of integrated prisoners in Mississippi state

prison history," Davidov said with a smile.


'An inspiration to many'


In an autobiography he wrote with Carol Masters, he described himself

as a "nonviolent revolutionary."


One of Davidov's admirers was Daniel Ellsberg, the White House

consultant who leaked the Pentagon Papers about U.S. military

decision-making in Vietnam to the media. Ellsberg, who later became a

peace activist, helped raise money for the Honeywell Project at Davidov's invitation.


"Thanks to people like him, we're still hanging on as a species,"

Ellsberg said. "His nonviolence and his indefatigability and energy

are an inspiration to many people.


"He's lived a good life, and I told him so" when he spoke to Davidov

by phone on Friday, Ellsberg said.


Last week, as Davidov's medical condition worsened, a number of peace

activist friends kept a hospital vigil. "It's one of those great

things that happens," Davidov said. "This kind of solidarity and love

and support that people give one another."


John LaForge, an antiwar activist friend, had brought a small

refrigerator to his room with a bumper sticker on it that read, "No

more war."


Bill Tilton, a St. Paul attorney, said he first met Davidov in 1969 at

a sit-in at the University of Minnesota in support of the African

American Action Committee, which was demanding more scholarships for



"Marv is one of my heroes," Tilton said. "He never took his eye off

the ball of advocating for the rights of the underprivileged and

accountability of government."


For years Davidov taught a class on "active nonviolence" at the

University of St. Thomas. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, who taught the class

with him, said, "There was a warmth that came across when he related

to students, a deeply respectful interaction in which Marv would share

parts of his life story that awakened within students a possibility

that they too could impact society."


Barbara Mishler said she got to know Davidov when she took a class of

his at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in south Minneapolis 30 years



"When I first met him, I was so terrified of nuclear war," she

recalls. "He said, 'Settle down and read and inform yourself, before

you hit the streets.' "


Nothing to say? Hardly


Lying in bed, barely able to sit up on Thursday, Davidov welcomed a reporter.


Asked if he had any thoughts that he'd like to pass on to young

people, Davidov thought for a moment, smiled and said, "I've been

waiting for this interview my entire life, and now I've got nothing to



But as anyone who has ever known Davidov knows, he was never really at

a loss for words, including on Thursday.


On the current presidential election campaign: "It reminds me of one

of the books that Paul Goodman wrote in the 1950s -- 'Growing Up

Absurd.' Once again the needs of the people who have most everything

are satisfied first."


In this election year: "Find the people in your community who are

probing reality and talking about how to fundamentally change it and

work at a local level on these problems, creating peace, freedom and



On the Occupy protests against Wall Street: "I thought it was great.

The people were locating what their needs were and going out in the

streets without compromise."


On the kind of memorial gathering he'd like: "I want people to

remember and tell funny stories about me and the struggle, and try to

create a deeper, more profound movement and build the numbers."


He is survived by a brother, Jerry Davidov, a retired Minneapolis

firefighter. Services are pending with the Cremation Society of




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