Tenants of “The Peace Pentagon”
339 Lafayette Street has been a sanctuary for many different peace groups over the past four decades. Organizations are able to rent space for offices and meetings in the building at reduced cost, which allows them to perform their activities in a central, easily accessible location for an affordable rate. Current tenants include:
Deep Dish TV (www.deepdishtv.org/), a Muste Building tenant since 1985, links independent videomakers and activists with local television access producers in a progressive national satellite network, educating and mobilizing the public through creative TV.
Libertarian Book Club, founded in 1945 to promote anarchist ideas and discussion of social issues, has been a Muste Institute tenant since 1987.
Metropolitan Council on Housing (www.metcouncil.net/), a Muste Building tenant since 2001, is a New York citywide membership organization fighting for the rights of tenants since 1952.
Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, formed in 1987 by several groups already based at the Muste Building, seeks to educate the public about US intervention and grassroots resistance in Latin America through its Weekly News Update on the Americas and Immigration News Briefs publications.
Paper Tiger TV (www.papertiger.org/), a volunteer video collective founded in 1981 to challenge and expose the corporate control of mainstream media, has been a Muste Institute tenant since 1986.
Socialist Party USA (http://sp-usa.org/), founded in1901 and a Muste Institute tenant since 1998, carries out educational work and organizing geared toward building a radical democracy that places people's lives under their own control. In October 2008, the New York Times featured an article about the Socialist Party's office at 339 Lafayette titled “Inside Socialist Party Headquarters.”
War Resisters League (www.warresisters.org/), founded in 1923, seeks to end war and injustice through nonviolent education and action. The League bought the Muste Building in 1969 from the original owner and sold it to the Muste Institute in 1978.
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Metro NY Chapter (www.wilpfnymetro.org/), founded in April 1915, works for world disarmament, full rights for women, racial and economic justice and an end to all forms of violence. WILPF's NY Metro chapter has been a Muste Building tenant since 1990.
Past Tenants of 339 Lafayette include:
Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) (www.anarchistblackcross.org), founded in the early 1900s, is an anarchist politics support organization that provides prisoners with political literature and organizes material and legal support for class struggle prisoners worldwide.
BAILOUT! was a small and powerful grassroots effort that was an offshoot of NYC War tax resistance in the 1970’s. The group provided bail money for poor and political arrestees held in the Manhattan Detention Complex, and helped their families with transportation and other expenses. BAILOUT! also monitored the courts.
Catholic Peace Fellowship (www.catholicpeacefellowship.org/), is a pacifist membership organization promoting non-violence. CPF has been active in anti-nuclear and disarmament campaigns and in opposing U.S. intervention in Central America in the 1980's. The organization’s early and current emphasis is on supporting Catholic conscientious objectors through education, counseling, and advocacy.
Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) was started in 1986 to work with Asian communities on issues of racially motivated violence and police brutality. CAAAV brings together Asians of different nationalities, ethnicities and generations to address issues of racism, anti-immigration discrimination and economic injustice. CAAAV assists victims of anti-Asian violence and seeks to change the police department, criminal justice system, public policy and media representations of Asians and Asian-Americans.
Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants (CHRI) was founded in 1997 in response to an increase in workplace raids by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. CHRI seeks to secure labor rights for undocumented people in the U.S. by confronting anti-immigrant policies through grassroots education and action.
The Committee to Free Arthur Burghhardt Banks was a support committee for an actor sentenced to a five-year prison term for draft resistance. Mr. Banks was harassed in prison for organizing and resistance activities. The Committee operated out of 339 Lafayette from 1971-1972.
The Committee on New Alternatives in the Middle East (CONAME) was founded in 1970 by leaders in the anti-war movement including Noam Chomsky. Allan Solomonow was CONAME’s staff person until it was dissolved in the fall of 1974. CONAME was the first peace group to work solely on the Middle East conflict, Palestinian-Israel dialogue and collaboration in joint peace activities. In 1974 it also raised the prospect of a Palestinian State, a two-state solution and support for Israelis who would not serve in the occupied territories. CONAME sponsored a number of the earliest U.S. tours for Palestinians and Israelis.
The Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice, a coordinated network of hundreds of individuals who walked 8,000 miles cross-country from January to October 1976 in order to promote disarmament through unilateral action and nonviolent resistance, was headquartered at 339 Lafayette from 1975-1977.
Enola Gay Action Coalition (EGAC) was formed in 1995 to protest the Smithsonian’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the Hiroshima bomb. The coalition (led by WRL and a half dozen other groups) organized protests and civil disobedience actions at the Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC, on June 28, 1995, the opening day of the exhibit. EGAC also put together an exhibit of 20 panels about the history of nuclear weapons called “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and 50 Years of Nuclear Terror,” which was distributed to local groups across the country for simultaneous display.
Episcopal Churchpeople for a Free Southern Africa (ECFSA) provided direct support to Southern Africans visiting the U.S., raised funds for education and relief activities in South Africa, and engaged in grassroots activism to change U.S. policy towards South Africa.
Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) (www.epfnational.org/), founded in 1939, is a national membership organization promoting pacifism, justice, and conscientious objection to war.
Free Assata Shakur
Fund for Open Information and Accountability (FOIA) opposed government surveillance and helped people and groups with their Freedom of Information Act requests.
Gallery 345 Art for Social Change was an art gallery in 339 Lafayette’s ground floor storefront that featured artwork with themes of social justice.
Gay Activists Alliance (1980)
Good Ole Lower East Side (GOLES) (www.goles.org/) is a neighborhood housing and preservation organization founded in 1977 that is dedicated to tenants' rights, homelessness prevention and community revitalization.
Infant Formula Action Coalition (INFACT) was the NYC office of the large international boycott against Nestle, which sold baby formula abroad in unethical ways that resulted in many infant deaths. INFACT is now Corporate Accountability International (www.stopcorporateabuse.org/).
Learning Alliance was an independent educational clearinghouse that brought together thousands of NYC-based activists from diverse movements for various seminars and courses. Boasting a semi-annual catalogue which reached close to half a million people per issue, the Alliance eventually rented its own space, making rooms available at low cost to peace and justice groups. The Alliance’s founding director now plays a similar role in promoting progressive causes at the CUNY Graduate Center School of Continuing Education.
Liberation Magazine was founded in 1956 with support from WRL. Liberation was the literary magazine of the pacifist left with an editorial staff that included A.J. Muste, David Dellinger, Barbara Deming, Sid Lens, Bayard Rustin, Paul Goodman, Staughton Lynd, and David McReynolds, among many others. Liberation featured theoretical pieces, poetry, and investigative journalism on anarchism, civil rights, nonviolent direct action, unilateral disarmament, etc. The magazine folded in 1977.
Mobilization for Survival was a national coalition of peace and justice groups founded in Philadelphia in 1977 that organized a series of events and demonstrations at the UN during the 1978 first UN Special Session on Disarmament. These included the May 27 mass march and rally, which attracted 15,000, and the WRL-initiated June 12 “Sit-in for Survival,” at which 400 were arrested during a sit-in at the U.S. Mission to the UN. During the 1982 UN Special Session on Disarmament, demonstrations took place at the UN missions of the five nations with the strongest nuclear arsenals at that time. The Mobilization for Survival group at 339 organized a conscientious objection component of these demonstrations that resulted in almost 1600 arrests.
The Middle East Peace Project (MEPP) was formed in 1976 and lasted until 1983. The MEPP expanded CONAME’s scope (see above), strengthening ties to the religious community, providing support to Israeli and Palestinian peace groups, taking tours to the Middle East and fostering Jewish contacts with the PLO and the Arab world.
National Campaign for Universal Unconditional Amnesty (NCUUA) advocated for full amnesty for Vietnam era war resisters.
National War Tax Resistance was founded in 1969 to take advantage of the rapid increase in people not wanting to pay for the Vietnam War. The War Resisters League and others founded WTR “in the belief that the right to conscientious objection belongs to all people, not just those of draft age.” The founding press conference included Allen Ginsberg, Pete Seeger, and Bradford Lyttle, among others. WTR published a newsletter (Tax Talk) and two editions of a book (Ain’t Gonna Pay for War No More), and helped establish 192 war tax resistance “centers” and 40 “alternative funds” across the country. In 1972 the office moved to Kansas City, Missouri, to be more centrally located. It finally folded in 1976 after its move to Los Angeles.
New York Transfer (www.blythe.org/), founded in1985 and a Muste Building tenant from 1995 to 2008, works to disseminate alternative news and information through the internet
Political Art Documentation/Distribution (PAD/D), founded in 1979 and active through 1988, worked to provide artists with an organized relationship to society, to demonstrate the political effectiveness of image making, and to provide a framework within which progressive artists could discuss and develop alternatives to the mainstream art system.
Repo History (www.repohistory.org/), founded in 1989 as a study group of artists, scholars, teachers, and writers focused on the relationship of history to contemporary society, grew into a forum for developing public art projects based on history and a platform for creating them.
Sound-Hudson Alliance Against Atomic Development (SHAD Alliance), founded in 1978 and active through 1983, was a grassroots alliance of more than 20 local groups of people in southern New York State who were concerned about nuclear proliferation, low-level radiation, the nuclear fuel cycle, and the possibility of nuclear accidents. The New York City SHAD was based at 339 Lafayette and coordinated the activities of the other locals. Big demonstrations at Shoreham and at Indian Point, as well as the 1979 Wall Street Action demonstration (at which 1000 were arrested), were organized out of the building.
WIN Magazine was founded in 1966 as a pacifist, direct action, counter-cultural newsmagazine. It was published by the NY Workshop in Nonviolence (WIN), a project of the Committee for Nonviolent Action and an affiliate of the War Resisters League. WIN, the more irreverent sister to Liberation magazine (see above), included poets and writers such as Maris Cakars, Jackson MacLow, Allen Ginsberg (who also wrote for Liberation, Tuli Kupferberg, and Ed Sanders, among others. WIN attempted to inject joy, music, and celebration to enliven the more solemn demonstrations. WIN ceased publication in 1983, to be replaced, in part, by WRL’s The Nonviolent Activist.
Women's Pentagon Action was a loose coalition of feminists and pacifists that organized two demonstrations encircling the Pentagon. The first, in 1980, involved 2,000 women of which 140 were arrested and jailed up to 30 days. The second, in 1981, involved 3,500 women of which 65 were arrested. Among the creative tactics employed were weaving web-like blockades of brightly-colored yarn in front of the entrances, which was rewoven faster than the police could cut it.
Worker Solidarity Alliance (www.workersolidarity.org/), created out of a pre-existing network in 1984, is an anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian organization of activists who believe that working people can build a new society and a better world based on the principles of solidarity and self-management.