Monday, February 22, 2010

Marv Remembers

My friends Marv Davidov and Carol Masters have collaborated on a book documenting the former’s life of justice and peace activism.

Entitled, You Can’t Do That: Marv Davidov, Nonviolent Revolutionary, the book was reviewed by Marilyn Hoegemeyer in yesterday’s Star Tribune. Following is this review in its entirety, with added images and links.


A Symbol of Protest

By Marilyn Hoegemeyer

Star Tribune
February 20, 2010

Lifelong Twin Cities activist Marv Davidov
looks back on his life, his causes,
and the Honeywell Project.

About 150 protesters gathered to decry a violent reaction
to the WTC & Pentagon bombings in front of steps of Northrop Auditorium
and listened to a voice from more than 30 years ago, Marv Davidov,
an anti war protester during the Vietnam war. (Photo: Mike Zerby)

For more than five decades, Marv Davidov has been a fixture on the streets of Minneapolis, on college campuses and in newsrooms and boardrooms around the Twin Cities, a persistent spokesman against war and injustice.

His longest running battle was the Honeywell Project, pitting Davidov and hundreds of citizens against Honeywell Inc., which was then headquartered in Minneapolis and was the state’s largest military contractor.

Honeywell’s “cluster bomb” became the symbol of the protest, and for years Davidov carried an unarmed version with him wherever he went. The story of a judge who insisted he relinquish the bomb in his courtroom is among the anecdotes in this book about Davidov’s life.

The author, poet Carol Masters [pictured at right], joined the protest movement herself in the 1980s and has spent 25 years listening to Davidov’s stories. More recently she began taping his recollections and providing historical detail.

In 1949, at 18, Davidov moved from Detroit to St. Paul to work in his uncles’ Midway department store and begin classes at Macalester College. His parents and brother joined him a year later and, except for a brief stint in the Army and several years in the mid-’60s in Berkeley, Calif., he has always called the Twin Cities home.

The book contains frank admissions: Davidov describes his bouts with depression. There are hints at his many romantic liaisons. There are complaints about the lack of media coverage for his causes.

And there are countless names of those who inspired him (from Dan and Phil Berrigan, John Lewis and Grace Paley, to Meridel LeSueur, Vernon and Clyde Bellecourt, and Howard Zinn), and details about the many causes Davidov has joined. He was a Freedom Rider in the South in the early ’60s, a participant in the Walk to Cuba for Peace effort, a part of the Minnesota farmers' power line struggle. He joined Native American causes, labor union struggles, Vietnam War protests, and protests against the war in Iraq. But the Honeywell Project was his centerpiece.

In 1990, Honeywell announced a spin-off of its military and marine systems business into a new company, Alliant Tech Systems Inc. Davidov’s take: that more than 20 years of protests were worth it. “After 2,200 arrests and nearly 100 trials, Honeywell reduced its dependence on weapons systems. We were – thousands of us – a major factor in the decision.”

Now nearing his 80th year, Davidov has survived prostate cancer, has diabetes, kidney failure and undergoes dialysis three times a week. But that hasn't stopped him from telling his stories to the medical staff who care for him and to his students at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, where he co-teaches a class called Active Nonviolence in Justice and Peace.

The book ends with “A Note of Thanks from Marv” – six pages, in small type – for the people who supported him with money, medical care and legal aid and helped him foster peace and justice in the world.

The last paragraph is Davidov’s list of more than a dozen things still needed to reform the United States. Clearly, his work is not complete.

Marilyn Hoegemeyer is a former assigning editor for the Star Tribune.


Left: Standing at right with Marv and other members of the Minnesota War Resisters League (Sister Rita Steinhagen Chapter) - April 2007.

Standing in the back row, third from right, is Frida Berrigan, daughter of the late Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister. Frida, who serves on the War Resisters League’s National Committee in New York City, was a special guest at our April 2007 meeting.

Above: Marv participates in the General Strike for Peace – Friday, September 21, 2007.

Above: While in the Twin Cites in July 2005, my parents met Marv when they joined me in attending the weekly Wednesday morning peace vigil outside of the corporate headquarters of Alliant TechSystems - the largest Minnesota-based weapons manufacturer and the primary supplier of landmines, cluster bombs, nuclear missile rocket motors, and depleted uranium (DU) munitions to the U.S. Department of Defense. Pictured above from left: Marv, Marie Braun, Greg Corcoran, Dad, and Mary Vaughn.

Above: Marv with friends Susu and Dee on the occasion of his 76th birthday – Saturday, August 25, 2007.

Above: My photo of Marv that is included in You Can't Do That. It shows Marv teaching a class in the history of nonviolence at the University of St. Thomas in April 2009.

UPDATE: Marv passed away on January 14, 2012. For my tribute to him, click here.

Recommended Off-site Link:
Marv Davidov: Still An Activist After All These Years
– Cass Sanford and James Sanna (Twin Cities Daily Planet, August 31, 2008).

Images: Michael Bayly (except where noted otherwise).


Raphael said...

Go Marv...what a guy, lucky to have met him. Nice article Mick!

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hey, Raph! Thanks as always for your positive feedback.

You know, I think I have a photo of you and I and Marv at Brigid's St. Patrick's Day celebration in 2004! I'll find that, scan it, and add it to this post!

Talk to you later.



Carol said...

I love looking back at the photos - they'll help us remember and carry on Marv's work! Carol Masters

Warren Hanson said...

These photos and the whole post is fantastic. I have downloaded the photos in preparation for a photo gallery to be projected at Marv's Memorial Celebration (date TBD) being planned by the memorial committee. If anyone has other photos and you would like to share them please email them to I will incorporate them into the photos for the celebration. Thanks!- Warren Hanson

Michael J. Bayly said...

Warren, you may also want to check out the photos of Marv here.