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Peace activist John Runnings was born in Canada in 1917. He served with the Royal Regiment of Canada during World War II. After the war, Runnings worked in Canada as a shipbuilder, then moved to the United States in 1951 and began work as a carpenter. He married his wife, Louise Ann Runnings, in 1952. They had four children: Bryan, Morgan, Gwyneth, and Anna.
Runnings, a Quaker, first participated in nonviolent protest when he demonstrated against the Trident Submarine Base in Bangor, Washington. At this protest, he was arrested and served a 45-day sentence. His first international protest took place in Moscow, where he handed out leaflets in Red Square until Soviet officials placed him on a plane to Helsinki. Perhaps most notably, Runnings also frequently traveled to Berlin and was arrested at the Berlin Wall 32 times for climbing the wall and burning his passport at Checkpoint Charlie, among other reasons. He was also the first person to chip off part of the wall and used a battering ram against the wall.
Runnings also protested locally, particularly against Seattle's Northgate Mall. He was arrested at the mall at least seven times for distributing political fliers and painting graffiti over the mall's entrance signs. Runnings argued that privately-owned shopping centers like Northgate Mall wrongly prevented free speech and political action, and painted over signs at the mall's entrances that stated that "permission must be obtained from Management Office to use this property for activities other than shopping."
Throughout his protests, Runnings's main cause was to achieve Universal Civil Law, which, according to a pamphlet distributed by Runnings, would "break down the political segregation imposed by diplomatic institutions and to create the political climate for political campaigns across international borders and to create courts where suits can be pressed across international state borders." In a world joined together as one political entity under Universal Civil Law, Runnings argued, there would be no wars and no need for militaries.
John Runnings died on Vancouver Island on April 25, 2004.
Pamphlets created and distributed by John Runnings. Included are "Toward Civil Law," which highlights Runnings's plan for action at the Berlin Wall and to declare himself an international politician in an attempt to achieve Universal Civil Law; "Supreme Court Upholds Theft of Civil Rights," in which Runnings argues that Seattle's Northgate Mall and other shopping centers prevent free speech and calls for action against privately-owned business districts; and "Boycott Northgate," which also challenges the policies of the Northgate Mall. Also included is an article from the University of Washington Daily about Runnings's arrest at the HUB for criminal trespass.
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