WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union and anti-draft groups Thursday promised 'every legal effort' and 'a season of nationwide protest' against the prosecution of youths who fail to register for potential conscription.
'Despite denials to the contrary, it is clear that this administration is preparing for the return of the draft,' said Warren Hoover, executive director of the National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors.
When compulsory conscription does come, he said, conscientious objectors will have no choice of alternative service and will probably end up in the equivalent of 'concentration camps.'
He was among a group of speakers at a news conference called at ACLU headquarters following the indictment in San Diego Wednesday of Benjamin Sasway, a 21-year-old university student who has refused to register.
'Stay strong; you are right to resist,' Teresita Ferrera told those who have not registered. She is associate legislative director for the Women's International League for Peace and a member of the Committee Against Registration and the Draft.
With Sasway's indictment, she said, 'the Reagan administration moved this country one step closer to the brink of war.' She said demonstrations supporting Sasway's 'courageous stand' are already being staged 'all over the country.' About 70 protesters chanted slogans in Washington in front of the Justice Department as employees walked in and out of the bulding during lunch hour.
Alex Reyes, Washington representative of the National Resistance Committee, said, 'A season of nationwide protest has returned to America. ... Our calls for peace will be heard in the streets and town halls of this land.'
Barry Lynn, president of Draft Action, another anti-conscription group, said Sasway's indictment 'will just cause us to redouble our efforts to use every tactic possible to discredit and dismantle the draft registration apparatus which threatens the freedom of the young men of America.'
A network of anti-draft lawyers will defend non-registering clients, he said. 'Draft Action is also encouraging local groups to publicize to potential jurors their right of jury nullification and acquit draft resistors who come before them.'
If registration is not junked, he said, 'the divisive encounters over the draft in the 1960s will be repeated in the 1980s.'
David Landau, ACLU's legislative counsel, said the organization 'will pursue every effort in court' to defend non-registrants.
The Selective Service Board has reported that about 500,000 youths have failed to register.