7. Facing the Consequences

Trials, Tribulations, and Escapes

Diagram of the stockade from the southern facade
Suggestion: If you are still on the south side of the building (near the sitdown), back up far enough that you can see the upper-floor windows on this side. Cell block 3 is behind these windows.
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After the sitdown demonstration, the Presidio 27 went back into the stockade to face the unknown consequences of their actions. Michael “Mole” Marino, Larry Reidel, Larry Zaino, Ricky Dodd, Rowland, Mather and Pawlowski — each of them chose to be carried back inside, a tactic of nonviolent resistance.

All of the 27 were taken to cell block 3, strip-searched and held there for the next several weeks. Block 3 is one large room-sized cage filled with bunks, designated for maximum-security prisoners. According to Captain Lamont, the attitude of the 27 after the demonstration was “belligerent and uncooperative.”

Immediately after the demonstration, feelings among the 27 would have swept across a continuum that swung from elation, relief, and optimism to disappointment, fear, and pessimism.

Elation at having achieved their act of resistance, and relief from finally having coherently expressed their grievances. Disappointment that the press hadn’t showed up, which was a big part of the reason for holding the demonstration outside. Pessimism that Capt. Lamont’s superiors would ever be made aware of their demands, or that conditions inside the stockade would truly improve. And a flicker of hope that on the Main Post, cooler heads would prevail and the mutiny charge (the military’s most serious offense) would be dropped. Perhaps reduced to special court-martials with a 6-month maximum sentence, or even to administrative discharges.

With mutiny charges hanging over their heads, many of the Presidio 27 had to wrestle with whether to try to escape the stockade and flee as a fugitive, leaving behind friends and family, or to stay and stand trial.

There were three successful, permanent escapes. On Christmas Eve, Walter Pawlowski and Keith Mather escaped the Presidio and headed for Canada. Randy Rowland helped Lindy Blake escape. (He describes their method in the video below.)

Going to Canada meant freedom but a life in exile. For those who stayed, some of the trials began in April 1969. “GUILTY”— their convictions came with sentences ranging from 6 months all the way up to 16 years.

Video

[WATCH: 2.5 min] Presidio 27 Mutineer Randy Rowland recounts his escape plan and the reason for abandoning it.

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[WATCH: 3.5 min] Keith Mather tells the story of how he escaped the Presidio stockade.

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