Over the past 200 years, there have been a series of dynamic and successful nonviolent direct action movements in the U.S. stretching from abolishing slavery and winning women’s rights to advancing wider civil rights, equality, disarmament, and peace. Influential Americans including William Penn, Henry David Thoreau, Jane Addams, and Martin Luther King, Jr. all opposed war and defended human rights, and countless numbers of others have followed their example throughout the country and around the world.
In that tradition, tens of thousands of young people followed their consciences and actively refused to cooperate with the draft and the Vietnam War during the 1960s and 70s because of the injustice and violence they represented. Featuring recently filmed interviews with the men and women involved, The Boys Who Said NO! explores the important but little known story of young people who organized resistance to the draft and chose prison instead of war.
Nationally, over half a million young men evaded or resisted the draft during these years, and tens of thousands risked substantial fines and prison sentences of up to five years for publicly taking a stand. In the end, the government convicted 3,250 draft resisters and sentenced them to between one and five years in federal prison.
These young men became part of the largest mass incarceration of war resisters in U.S. history. Ultimately, they inspired and influenced countless others to question the war, oppose conscription, and end the conflict in Vietnam. United States history shows that activists like these, who have developed effective conflict resolution strategies using nonviolence, have moved critical national issues forwards without violence.
Our director is Judith Ehrlich, who won an Academy Award nomination for codirecting The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Her earlier films include The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It, about conscientious objectors in WWII. Our producer Christopher C. Jones was inspired to make this film by a reunion of seventy nonviolent activists in 2013. He is a former draft resister as are our other Advisory Team members Robert Cooney, Steve Ladd and Lee Swenson. Bill Prince, MD is our co-producer.
How do the lessons of the nonviolent draft resistance movement relate to social conflicts we have today and in the future? What impacts did the imprisonment of these young Americans have on their lives, on society and on stopping the war? These are some of the questions the film explores. Please visit our website and see some early edited draft film segments: www.boyswhosaidno.com