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 “Evil is a participatory phenomenon. It counts on participation to be successful. The option you have is to withdraw your participation. From there it’s all liberation, whatever the cost.”
  - David Harris in The Boys Who Said NO!

The Boys Who Said NO! is the first documentary film to profile the young men and women who actively opposed the military draft in order to end the Vietnam War. The film shows how their personal and collective acts of nonviolent resistance, risking arrest and imprisonment for up to 5 years, were a critical part of the antiwar movement, intensifying opposition to the war and eventually forcing an end to both conscription and the war.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, resistance to the American war in Vietnam grew substantially. Hundreds of thousands of draft age men refused to cooperate with the draft. Tens of thousands immigrated to Canada, Sweden and other countries. American soldiers in Vietnam increasingly refused to follow orders and risked court martial and prison for organizing inside the military. Claims for conscientious objector status soared to unprecedented levels. Millions marched against the war.

While an estimated 500,000[1] young men resisted, evaded or just refused to cooperate with the draft, overloading federal courts, just 10,000 were indicted and 4,000 were imprisoned for their beliefs. These young men were willing to serve long prison sentences on the basis of their beliefs that the war was immoral and human life was sacred.

The Boys Who Said NO! draws on original interviews with more than thirty male and female nonviolent activists and historians. Among the better known people featured in the film are:

  • Joan Baez, legendary folksinger, long-time nonviolent activist, who married Resistance leader David Harris during his incarceration;

  • Daniel Ellsberg, the Washington insider who, inspired by draft resisters, released the top-secret Pentagon Papers that detailed decades of government deception about the war, risking up to 115 years in prison;

  • David Harris, cofounder of The Resistance, speaker and author, who served 20 months in federal prison for refusing induction;

  • Randy Kehler, a draft resister, and later a national leader against nuclear weapons, whose decision to resist influenced Ellsberg to release the Pentagon papers;

  • Mark Rudd, a key organizer of Students for a Democratic Society and later the violent Weather Underground, now a proponent of nonviolence;

  • Michael Ferber, leader of tje Boston Resistance and co-defendant with Dr. Benjamin Spock in a major conspiracy trial;

  • Cleveland Sellers, co-founder of SNCC and an early draft resister;

  • Bob Eaton, leader of Philadelphia Resistance and captain of the Phoenix, a boat that carried medical supplies to North Vietnam during the war.

The Boys Who Said NO! explores the influence of Gandhian nonviolence and the impact of the civil rights movement on Resistance members, a connection illustrated in footage of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. visiting and supporting Joan Baez and others jailed for blocking the Oakland Induction Center in 1967.

The film highlights the prosecution and trials of war resisters. Documentary and news footage capture anti-war demonstrations and marches, anti-draft meetings, and men, young and old, speaking out in support of the resistance movement. Smuggled film shows resisters serving time in Federal prison.

The Boys Who Said NO! is an overdue and definitive account of the principled and powerful nonviolent resistance to America's most problematic war. These young men risked years in prison to challenge a war of tragic human proportions. Their leadership, personal sacrifices, and example had a direct effect on ending the war, and are an important example for today's movements for social justice and peace.


[1] Baskir, Lawrence M. and William A. Strauss.   Chance and Circumstance: The Draft, the War and the Vietnam Generation.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf.  1978.

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