Bruce Beyer, prom­i­nent Buf­falo Nine an­ti­war ac­tivist in 1960s

The Buffalo News - - OBITUARIES - By Mark Som­mer Staff reporter Dale An­der­son contributed to this re­port.

The story in Au­gust 1968 spoke to the times and to Bruce Beyer’s con­vic­tions.

The head­line, “Pro­test­ers, Po­lice Bat­tle in Church,” ap­peared on the front page of the Buf­falo Couri­erEx­press in large let­ters, above pho­tos of the con­fronta­tion.

“Seven Jailed Along With 2 Re­sisters.”

They be­came known as the Buf­falo Nine – Mr. Beyer and his friend Bruce Cline were the war re­sisters – and their ar­rests drew na­tional at­ten­tion. Thirty-two FBI agents and fed­eral mar­shals, backed by 100 Buf­falo po­lice of­fi­cers, came to the Uni­tar­ian Univer­sal­ist Church on Elm­wood Av­enue to ar­rest him. It led to a fist-swing­ing melee and Mr. Beyer’s con­vic­tion for as­sault in 1969.

The episode marked a turn­ing point for Mr. Beyer, who died Mon­day from com­pli­ca­tions of con­ges­tive heart fail­ure in Hospice Buf­falo, Cheek­towaga. He was 70.

Ten months be­fore that con­fronta­tion, Mr. Beyer stood on the steps of the Jus­tice De­part­ment in Washington, D.C., to re­turn his draft card dur­ing a large protest against then-U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ram­sey Clark.

In Au­gust 1968, af­ter re­fus­ing to re­port to the Army for in­duc­tion, Mr. Beyer and Cline took sym­bolic sanc­tu­ary in the Uni­tar­ian Univer­sal­ist Church, where his par­ents were mem­bers, af­ter his fa­ther con­vinced parish­ioners to take in the war re­sisters. Af­ter 10 days, the feds ar­rived.

“Bruce had an un­canny abil­ity to in­spire peo­ple to ac­tion with his com­mit­ment,” said Bill Berry, a fel­low mem­ber of the Buf­falo Nine who be­came friends with Mr. Beyer in 1968. “He laid his body and his be­liefs and his whole life on the line in ded­i­ca­tion to the cause of the an­ti­war move­ment and equal­ity,” he said.

It set him on a life­long course of op­pos­ing what he con­sid­ered the

U.S. gov­ern­ment’s im­pe­ri­al­ist for­eign pol­icy and of­fer­ing sup­port to those who re­sisted the mil­i­tary. It also put him squarely on the side of those he con­sid­ered victims of an un­just so­cial and eco­nomic sys­tem.

Mr. Beyer was also a great friend, Berry said.

“He would al­ways just be there if you needed him,” Berry said. “He was a loyal and sup­port­ive friend. He was also ex­pres­sive, a very emo­tional guy. I al­ways learned a lot from him.”

Born in Buf­falo, Earl Bruce Lazarus was given up for adop­tion by his mother, Pamela Lazarus, an un­wed teen from Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Seek­ing to find his bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents through An­ces­ in 2015, he dis­cov­ered through DNA test­ing that his ac­tual fa­ther was a ma­jor league base­ball player, Joe Tip­ton, the backup catcher for the Cleve­land In­di­ans in the 1948 World Se­ries, who had played for the WilkesBarre Barons in 1947. Tip­ton died in 1994. Pamela Lazarus died in 2012.

Adopted by Robert and El­iz­a­beth Beyer, he at­tended a mil­i­tary academy and grad­u­ated in 1966 from Bennett High School. In a com­men­tary in The Pub­lic in 2017, he re­counted how he worked as a night clerk in the Im­pe­rial 400 Mo­tel at Main and Sum­mer streets dur­ing the ri­ots on the city’s East Side in 1967 and “I drew par­al­lels be­tween the (Viet­nam) war and racial in­jus­tice.”

Nev­er­the­less, he re­called, he planned to en­list in the Air Force that sum­mer un­til he met a woman, an anti-war ac­tivist, who con­vinced him to be­come a re­sister. Two months later, he said, he went to an anti-war demon­stra­tion in Washington and turned in his draft card.

While out on bail, Mr. Beyer gave a speech at the Univer­sity at Buf­falo and was charged with in­cit­ing a riot af­ter stu­dents de­stroyed the ROTC of­fices in Clark Gym. Fac­ing a three­year jail sen­tence, he fled to Canada and then to Swe­den, where he was granted hu­man­i­tar­ian asy­lum. He mar­ried his Cana­dian girl­friend and moved back to Canada, where he lived for five years be­fore re­turn­ing to the U.S. to face the as­sault charges.

Mr. Beyer crossed the Peace

Bridge back to Buf­falo in Oc­to­ber 1977, joined by Clark, the for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral, and 50 Viet­nam vets, in­clud­ing a Marine Corps ex-prisoner of war, who called for uni­ver­sal un­con­di­tional amnesty.

In the end, U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge John Curtin, who had al­lowed Mr. Beyer to at­tend the Wood­stock fes­ti­val while out on bail in 1969, re­duced his sen­tence to 30 days, with 19 days served.

He set­tled in Buf­falo and lived for many years on the East Side above his wood­work­ing shop. He was a stage­hand with Lo­cal 10 of the In­ter­na­tional Al­liance of The­atri­cal Stage Em­ploy­ees.

In Oc­to­ber 2017, Mr. Beyer re­turned to the steps of the Jus­tice De­part­ment in Washington to com­mem­o­rate his act of de­fi­ance there 50 years ear­lier.

“We have not even be­gun to atone for the geno­cide com­mit­ted against na­tive peo­ples when we in­vaded their lands,” Beyer wrote in The Pub­lic then. “We have yet to pay repa­ra­tions for hun­dreds of thou­sands of African-Amer­i­cans dragged here in chains and forced into slav­ery,” he said. “Long dor­mant bombs and anti-per­son­nel de­vices con­tinue to kill across South­east Asia.

“Agent Or­ange per­sists, af­fect­ing the lives of un­born chil­dren,” he said. “When will we ever learn?”

Sur­vivors in­clude his wife of 28 years, Mary Big­gie Beyer; three daugh­ters, Liz Beyer Partin, Amy Ro­driguez and Brid­get Baumer; and a son, Brian Fitzger­ald.

“The last words he spoke were ‘I love you,’ ” Big­gie Beyer said.

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