A somewhat unsurprising surprise

Bill Harlan caught something I missed. Turns out that Frank Pommersheim, from whom I took Indian Law at the USD Law School, and his wife, Anne Dunham, are two of the “Camden 28.”

For those not familiar with the term, the Camden 28 refers to 28 individuals who were arrested for breaking into a Selective Service office in Camden, N.J., in 1971. PBS’s P.O.V. broadcast a documentary on it last week that I watched on my DVR this weekend. Unfortunately, I stopped and deleted the recording just as it was beginning a “where are they now” summary at the conclusion and may not have paid close enough attention at any shots showing photographs of all the defendants or of a reunion that was held.

The documentary is very good and looks at the motivations of many of the anti-war protesters of the time, the FBI’s infiltration of anti-war groups, and how the political and social issues of the time worked their way into the trial of the case and ultimate jury nullification of the charges against the protesters. It also pointed out that most of the defendants represented themselves or were “co-counsel” with a criminal defense lawyer. Frank is not specifically mentioned in that regard, even though he’d obtained his law degree some three years before.

Although I was surprised to hear about Frank being one of the 28, the fact he would be involved in something like that certainly isn’t surprising. He and his wife (they married after the protest but before the trial) moved to the Rosebud Indian Reservation after the trial, where he worked for a decade before joining the law school faculty. He came to the law school after my first year and has been, in my opinion, a great addition. Not only is he an excellent teacher, he is a low key guy committed what he views as social justice matters, much like the others portrayed in the documentary. It’s also no shock that he would tell Bill Harlan that his participation in the famous protest is “not something I wear on my sleeve.”

By the way, as Frank points out in his Law School biography, he is also “well-acquainted with the collected works of Bob Dylan.” Need I say more?

Civil disobedience founded this country. This is what the American Revolution was about.

Historian Howard Zinn testifying at Camden 28 trial

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