Seeds of Fire: A People’s Chronology
– December –
Recalling events that happened on this day in history. Memories of struggle, resistance and persistence.
Compiled by Ulli Diemer
December 1, 1933 The Nazi party, the NSDAP, becomes the state party in Germany: the only political party permitted to exist.
William Allen: The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town
December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks (a seamstress and civil rights activist) refuses to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and is arrested. Parks is not the first to defy the law, but her arrest sparks the successful year-long Montgomery Bus boycott, which eventually brings an end to segregation on buses. At the time of her action, Parks was a member of the NAACP, and earlier in 1955 she had taken part in courses at the Highlander School where non-violent civil disobedience was discussed.
December 2, 1859 Abolitionist John Brown is executed for leading an unsuccessful raid at Harper’s Ferry aimed at freeing slaves. He is not forgotten: less than two years later, Union soldiers are marching into battle against the slaveowners’ Confederacy, singing John Brown’s Body, the song which proclaims: “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave, His soul is marching on.”
John Brown, Abolitionist
Related Topics: Anti-Slavery
December 2, 1914 Marxist Karl Liebknecht stands alone in voting in the German parliament against the war. He is arrested shortly therafter and conscripted into the army.
December 2, 1923 Birth of Maurice Brinton (Christopher Agamemnon Pallis) (1923-2005), libertarian socialist, writer, and physician.
Related Topics: Libertarian Socialism
December 2-4, 1964 Protesters at the Berkeley campus of the University of California occupy Sproul Hall to assert their right to free speech after the university administration attempts to prevent students from setting up an information table about the Civil Rights movement in the American South. Police move in two days later and arrest some 800 students. Ultimately the Free Speech Movement forces the administration to back down, and becomes a pivotal moment in the civil liberties movement of the 1960s. On December 2, Mario Savio stands on the steps of Sproul Hall and gives a speech which galvanizes the movement. He says: “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious – makes you so sick at heart – that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”
Hal Draper: Berkeley: The New Student Revolt
Related Topics: Free Speech
December 3, 1984 The Bhopal disaster. A gas leak occurs early in the morning at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. A gas cloud consisting of a mixture of toxic chemicals makes its way to the shantytowns located near the plant; more than half a million people are exposed to toxic gases. Estimates of the death toll vary; at least 2,259 die immediately; some 8,000 die within two weeks, and an estimated 8,000 more die from their injuries later. An Indian government report says that 558,125 people suffered injuries, including thousands of severe permanent injuries. Chemicals abandoned at the plant continue to leak into the groundwater up to the present day. The company uses prolonged court action to avoid responsibility. In 2010, 26 years later, seven company managers are convicted of negligence, serve a few days in jail before being released, and are made to pay a fine of about $2,000 each.
Bhopal.net: International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
December 4, 1964 Police arrest some 800 students protesting in favour of free speech at the the University of California, Berkeley.
Hal Draper: Berkeley: The New Student Revolt
December 4, 1969 In a night-time raid, police kill Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Hampton’s Chicago apartment. Clark was killed by police as they burst through the door. Hampton was shot while he lay sleeping in his bed; evidence later shows that an FBI infiltrator slipped a barbiturate into Hampton’s drink to ensure that he would be unconscious when the raid took place. When it was found that Hampton was wounded but still alive, police fired two bullets into his head as he lay in bed to finish him off.
December 5, 1837 Outbreak of rebellion in Upper Canada. Some 500 to 1000 rebels, some armed with rifles, others with staves and pitchforks, gather at Montgomery’s Tavern north of Toronto and prepare to march into the city. They are held back by armed militia, and dispersed by December 8.
December 5, 1955 Start of the Montgomery Bus boycott, sparked when Rosa Parks was arrested on December 1, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. The boycott ends in victory on December 20, 1956. It attracts national attention and helps to catalyze the national civil rights movement in the U.S.
December 6, 1848 Harriet Tubman (1820 or 1821 - 1913), an African-American slave, escapes her owners in Maryland and goes to Philadelphia. After escaping, she immediately returns to Maryland to rescue her family. She makes repeated trips to help other slaves escape to the northern U.S. and then to Canada, using the network of activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. When the Civil War breaks out, Tubman works for the Union Army, first as a nurse and cook, and then as an armed scout and spy. She becomes the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, the Combahee River Raid, which frees more than 700 slaves. After the Civil War she is active in the women’s suffrage movement.
Related Topics: Anti-Slavery
December 6, 1921 J.S. Woodsworth and William Irvine are elected to Canada’s Parliament as Independent Labour MPs.
December 6, 1928 The Banana massacre, (in Spanish, Matanza de las bananeras or Masacre de las bananeras), a massacre of United Fruit Company workers in the town of Ciénaga, Colombia. An unknown number of workers die after the government sends the military to crush a month-long strike.
December 6, 1989 Fourteen women are murdered at L’ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. December 6 is now commemorated in Canada as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
December 6, 1998 Hugo Chavez is elected president of Venezuela.
Related Topics: Venezuela
December 7, 1837 Battle of Montgomery’s Tavern. Some 500 to 1000 rebels are defeated by government forces at Montgomery’s Taven, north of Toronto.
December 7, 1928 Birth of Noam Chomsky, linguist, author, political activist, libertarian socialist.
December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Related Topics: World War II
Related Topics: Enlightenment
December 8, 1886 Birth of Diego Rivera (1886-1957), Mexican artist and communist.
December 8, 1987 Start of the First Intifada in Israeli-occupied Palestine, a campaign of militant resistance against Israeli military occupation. The uprising begins in the Jabalia refugee camp and quickly spreads throughout the occupied territories: Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinian actions primarily include nonviolent civil disobedience and resistance, including general strikes, boycotts on Israeli products, refusals to pay taxes, graffiti, barricades and demonstrations.
December 9, 1828 Birth of Joseph Dietzgen, German Marxist and philosopher.
December 9, 1842 Birth of Peter Kropotkin, Russian anarchist-communist, zoologist, geographer, and theorist of mutual aid.
December 9, 1893 The anarchist Auguste Vaillant throws a bomb into the French Chamber of Deputies.
December 9, 1978 Police in Toronto stage simultaneous raids on four gay bath houses. Twenty owners are charged with “keeping a common bawdyhouse”; 286 men are charged as found-ins. The attitude of the police during the raids is highly belligerent. They are offered keys to lockers but refuse them, instead they use crowbars to break them open. Sledge hammers are used to smash in walls. One of the bath houses, The Richmond, is so heavily damaged by the police that it never reopens. Mass protests and rallies are held denouncing the incident; these evolve into Pride Week.
December 10, 1835 U.S. Marines invade Peru to ‘protect American interests’ after an attempted revolution breaks out.
December 10, 1992 The United States sends its military forces to intervene in Somalia.
December 10, 1997 Julia Butterfly Hill, age 23, climbs “Luna,” a 1,000-year-old California redwood, to protect it from loggers. She stays up in the tree for more than two years, sustained by a network of supporters, who keep her supplied with food, water, reading matter, and other supplies. As might be expected, several supporters send her copies of Italo Calvino’s novel The Baron in the Trees.
December 11, 1962 Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas are hanged in Toronto’s Don Jail. They are the 709th and 710th persons to be hanged in Canada – and the last. Capital punishment formally ends in Canada on July 14, 1976 when the House of Commons votes 130-124 to abolish it.
Further Reading: The Capital Punishment Debate
Related Topics: Capital Punishment
December 11, 1995 The first mass Day of Action against Ontario’s extreme-right Conservative government, headed by Mike Harris, takes place in London, Ontario.
Alien Invasion: How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario
December 12, 1901 Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi receives the first transatlantic radio transmission in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Related Topics: Radio History
December 13, 1805 Birth of William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), anti-slavery campaigner.
December 13, 1903 Birth of Ella Baker (1903-1986), African-American civil rights activist.
December 13, 1918 Birth of Martin Glaberman (1918-2001), American Marxist writer and autoworker.
December 14, 1837 Rebels in Lower Canada are defeated by government forces at St-Eustache.
December 14, 1852 Birth of Daniel DeLeon (1852-1914), American socialist and revolutionary unionist.
Further Reading: DeLeon: Socialist Reconstruction of Society
December 14, 1917 American socialist and women’s rights advocate Kate Richards O’Hare is sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for a speech denouncing World War I.
December 14, 1970 Workers in Gdansk, Poland, lead food price protests.
December 15, 1969 Giuseppe Pinelli, a railway worker and activist being held for questioning by police, ‘accidentally’ falls to his death from a fourth-floor window in a Milan police station. The authorities subsequently investigate themselves and find themselves not guilty. Pinelli’s death is the inspiration for Dario Fo’s play Accidental Death of an Anarchist.
Related Topics: Accidental Deaths in Police Custody
December 16, 1929 Police in Rothbury, New South Wales, open fire on striking miners, killing one and wounding more than 40.
December 16, 1989 Mass protests in Timisoara, Romania mark the outbreak of revolt against the Ceausescu regime. The protests escalate and spread, and on December 25 the regime falls.
December 17, 2010 Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Tunis, sets himself on fire in protest against harassment and confiscation of his wares by officials. He dies on January 4. His act becomes a catalyst for demonstrations and riots against the Tunisian regime, which lead to the collapse of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s government on January 14, 2011.
December 18 - 29, 1972 U.S. bombers launch a “maximum effort” bombing campaign against Hanoi and Haiphong in an all-out attempt to defeat Vietnamese resistance to American occupation. It comprises the largest heavy bomber strikes launched by the US Air Force since the end of World War II.
December 18, 2010 Start of Tunisian protests that lead to the overthrow of the government on January 14, 2011.
December 19, 1940 Birth of Phil Ochs (1940-1976), American singer-songwriter.
December 20, 1812 The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, publish the first volume of Children’s and Household Tales (German: Kinder- und Hausmärchen), a collection of German folk tales. The collection is commonly known today as Grimm’s Fairy Tales (German: Grimms Märchen).
December 20, 1916 Birth of Michel Chartrand (1916-2010), unionist and activist.
December 20, 1956 The Montgomery Bus boycott ends in victory with a court ruling that segregated buses are unconstitutional.
December 20, 1989 The United States invades Panama. They kill an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people and install a new government. It is the 20th time the U.S. has invaded Panama since 1856.
December 21 The December solstice (Winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, Summer solstice in the southern hemisphere).
December 21, 1844 The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers opens the first co-operative store.
December 21, 1907 Chilean soldiers massacre striking workers, along with their wives and children. More than 2,000 are killed.
December 21, 1919 Some 250 foreign-born radicals, including Emma Goldman, are deported from the United States and sent to Russia.
December 21, 1991 The dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Related Topics: Soviet Union
December 22, 1969 Radio Free Alcatraz begins broadcasting after the United Indians of All Tribes’ takeover of Alcatraz.
Related Topics: Aboriginal History
December 23, 1939 The first Canadian troops arrive in Britain.
December 24, 1838 U.S. forces attack towns in Sumatra (now part of Indonesia) to inflict collective punishment on the inhabitants because there have been incidents of interference with American shipping in their waters.
December 24, 1865 The founding of the Ku Klux Klan, an American white supremacist, anti-immigrant, terrorist group.
December 24, 1906 Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden (1866-1932) makes the first-ever audio radio broadcast of music and speech. Up to that point, only Morse code signals had been transmitted via radio waves. Fessenden alerts radio operators on ships near the New England coast to listen for a special transmission on December 24. When they tune in, they hear, instead of the normal dots and dashes of Morse code, music and spoken words. Fessenden begins his historic broadcast by playing a phonograph record of Handel’s Ombra mai fu (Largo), which thereby becomes the first piece of music ever broadcast.
December 24, 1907 Birth of I.F. Stone (1907-1989), radical investigative journalist, whose publication I.F. Stone’s Weekly (published 1953-1971) specializes in challenging the lies and distortions of government, the military, and the mainstream media.
December 25 In the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church chooses December 25 as the date on which the birth of Jesus Christ (whose actual birthdate is unknown) will be celebrated.
Related Topics: Christmas
December 25, 1831 The ‘Christmas Rebellion’ in Jamaica breaks out with as many as 60,000 slaves rising in revolt. The rebellion is put down by British troops; afterwards Jamaican slaveowners take brutal reprisals, killing hundreds.
Related Topics: Slave Revolts
December 25, 1914 The Christmas Truce of 1914. On Christmas Day, in the first year of World War I, German, British and French soldiers disobey their superiors and fraternize with “the enemy” along two-thirds of the Western Front. German troops hold Christmas trees up out of the trenches with signs, “Merry Christmas.” “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Thousands of troops stream across the no-man’s land strewn with rotting corpses. Soldiers embrace men they had been trying to kill a few short hours before. Afterwards, a shudder runs through the high command on both sides. Here is the ultimate disaster in the making: soldiers declaring their brotherhood with each other and refusing to fight.
December 25, 1989 A revolt which broke out on December 16 overthrows the Ceausescu regime in Romania. President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife are executed.
December 26, 1992 In Belgrade, Women in Black begin a campaign against rape during war, The Group for Women Raped in War. Volunteers assist the survivors by providing basic needs, solidarity and sometimes counseling.
Further Reading: Belgrade Women in Black
December 26, 1996 A general strike begins in Korea. It becomes the largest strike in Korean history.
December 27, 1938 Russian poet Osip Mandelstam dies in a transit camp after being sentenced to five years in a ‘correction’ camp for writing subversive poetry.
December 27, 2002 1500 people gather in Tel Aviv to protest the Israeli military occupation of land beyond the 1948 borders.
Related Topics: Situationism
December 28, 1964 – January 1, 1965 The Student Union for Peace Action (SUPA) is founded at a convention in Regina.
December 29, 1845 U.S. President James Polk signs documents annexing the ‘Republic of Texas’ to the United States. American settlers in the Mexican territory of Texas, many of them slave-owners unwilling to abide by Mexico’s abolition of slavery, had declared Texas an independent state in 1836. Wanting to seize more territory from Mexico, the U.S. follows the annexation of Texas by declaring war on Mexico a few months later.
December 29, 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee. U.S. troops surround and start firing on a Lakota encampment, killing somewhere between 150 and 300 men, women, and children.
December 30, 1890 Birth of Victor Serge (1890-1947), revolutionary activist and writer.
December 30, 1936 Start of the Flint Sit-Down Strike. Workers at General Motors Fisher Body plant in Flint, Michigan, go out on strike. At lunchtime, word is received that GM plans to move key production equipment out of the Fisher #1 plant, intending to defeat the strike by moving production to another plant. Workers respond by physically occupying the plant and keeping management out. Outside supporters keep up a regular supply of food to the strikers inside while sympathizers march in support outside. The company uses both violence and legal measures to try to defeat the strikers. The company finally signs an agreement with the recently formed United Auto Workers Union on February 11, 1937. The strike leads to a surge of support for the UAW: in the next year, its membership grows from 30,000 to 500,000.
December 30, 1971 Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo are indicted and charged with espionage, theft, and conspiracy for releasing secret government documents about the Vietnam War, known as the Pentagon Papers, to the New York Times. Ellsberg admits giving the documents to the press. He says: “as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public. I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision.” The trial begins on January 3, 1973. On May 11, 1973, after a series of revelations about grotesque government misconduct in the case, the judge hearing it dismisses the charges. Government misconduct includes offering the judge the directorship of the FBI if he convicts Ellsberg and Russo.
The Most Dangerous Man in America
December 30, 1977 Police raid offices of The Body Politic gay liberation newspaper in Toronto and seize twelve packing crates of material as “evidence”, including subscription lists.
December 30, 1994 Two receptionists, Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, are murdered in two clinic attacks in Brookline, Massachusetts. John Salvi, who prior to his arrest was distributing pamphlets from “Human Life International”, is arrested and confesses to the killings.
Related Topics: Anti-Abortion Violence
December 31, 1775 Two American armies attack Quebec City in an attempt to conquer Canada, but are defeated and driven back.
The Invasion of Canada 1775
December 31, 1921 The Life and Labour Commune, a Tolstoyan agricultural commune, is founded near Moscow.
December 31, 1958 Start of the Newfoundland Loggers Strike: hundreds of loggers employed by Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company at Grand Falls strike for wage increases and for improvements in living conditions at wood camps.
Seeds of Fire is compiled for Connexions by Ulli Diemer. References used include the Connexions Library generally, and Connexipedia specifically, Wikipedia, Sources, the Peace History feature on Peacebuttons.info, the books and articles of Noam Chomsky and William Blum (marvellous antidotes to historical amnesia), and a wide, wide variety of other sources.
Donate or Volunteer
Selected Resources by