Jerry Rubin was an Anti-Vietnam War activist and co-founder of the Yippie party in the 1960’s. Rubin grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and attended Oberlin College before moving to Jerusalem with his younger brother. There he studied at Hebrew University for a few years. Before returning to the states, Rubin shortly visited Cuban in hopes of observing the revolution. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Cincinnati. He went on study at the University of California, Berkeley until he dropped out in 1964. (Laurie) At this point the United States government had been involved in the Vietnam war for 10 years, and Rubin turned his attention to speaking out and organising in opposition. He sought to use large groups of youths to protest continued aggression in the war by actively attempting to impede its progress. Rubin thus became a major proponent of negative peace in the late 1960’s
After leaving school Rubin became active in organizing students and young people in opposition to the war in Vietnam. In 1965 his associates had caught wind of incoming trains carrying soldiers to the the Oakland Army Base, and he immediately got to work. As co-chairman of the Vietnam Day Committee, he organized a phone tree capable of assembling a large number of protesters on a moment’s notice. In his book, Do it, Rubin describes their interaction with the first train. “Within two hours 300 people stood waiting for the train, stretching a huge banner across the tracks: STOP THE WAR MACHINE.” (Rubin, 33) Over the next few days and the next few trains, each one plowed through and the protesters had to flee at the last second. By the third day, the protesters, police, and the media presence had significantly increased leading to clashes. An article in the Chicago Tribune recounted the events, “Officers gripping riot sticks with both hands crowded demonstrators back when they tried to board the train, which had slowed to six miles per hour. About one-third of the demonstrators were women, some carrying babies.” (300)
Throughout his career as an activist, Jerry Rubin placed great importance on media coverage. He knew the more he could play up these protests, the more attention they would receive. Rubin recounted how they managed to constantly alert the media and mobilize before the police were able to catch wind, "The press speculated about the VDC’s incredible intelligence. We knew when the trains were coming before the police knew. We notified the press about coming trains. How did we know? We just winked, keeping everybody guessing, while VDC commandos kept their around-the-clock vigil waiting for the train. (Rubin, 34) Rubin would continue to use this tactic of collected masses of protesters standing in the way, combined with heavy media coverage, to attempt to stop the government's efforts in Vietnam.
Rubin’s next big venture was to lead a march on the Pentagon in opposition to the war in October of 1967. The entire event was advertised to, “ all Americans who oppose our Government’s aggression in Vietnam… for a direct, personal and collective confrontation with the warmakers.” (Cadwell) Leading a crowd of 100,000 protesters, Rubin came face to face with both police and soldiers attempting to block the procession. The protest endured over the next two days with a total of 683 arrests. (100,00) Despite the failure of the event to end the war, the march on the Pentagon was highly televised and aided to the peace movement as a whole.
Jerry Rubin and the Yippies pulled their biggest political stunts during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Rubin orchestrated a festival to be held in Lincoln Park across the street, again in opposition to the Vietnam War. Their hopes were to draw the attention of the politicians and all of America. Once again, Rubin sought to utilize the media, “For the Yippies, convention week was also a coup de theatre, a show of illusions, dreams and magic ... Idealistic youngsters, priest, nurses, and liberal politicians were cast as heroes of sorts…. In a performance that was televised - in color, in prime time, fully sponsored.” (Buckley) Violence erupted when the police marched through the park at midnight and forcibly removed the protesters attempting to camp there. As a result, Rubin and 7 other party leaders were charged with inciting a riot and had to appear in court. The group was dubbed the “Chicago 7” as their highly publicized trials proceeded. Each of the group made a show of the trials, but Rubin went as far as to write in his book an “Academy Award of Protest Acceptance Speech” (Rubin, 191)
"300 Pacifists Fail To Halt Troop Train." Chicago Tribune (Chicago), August 13, 1965. Accessed April 2018.
Buckley, Tom. "The Battle Of Chicago: From the Yippies' Side." New York Times (New York), September 15, 1968. Accessed April 2018.
Caldwell, Earl. "War Foes To Try To Shut Pentagon." New York Times (New York), August 29, 1967. Accessed April 2018.
"100,000 People March on the Pentagon." History.com. 2009. Accessed April 21, 2018.
Laurie. "Rubin, Jerry." In Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History, edited by Spencer C. Tucker. 2nd ed. ABC-CLIO, 2011.