John Lennon - Political Activism

Political Activism

Further information: Bed-In and Bagism

Lennon and Ono used their honeymoon as what they termed a "Bed-In for Peace" at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel; the March 1969 event attracted worldwide media ridicule. At a second Bed-In three months later at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal Lennon wrote and recorded "Give Peace a Chance". Released as a single, it was quickly taken up as an anti-war anthem and sung by a quarter of a million demonstrators against the Vietnam War in Washington, DC, on 15 November, the second Vietnam Moratorium Day. In December, they paid for billboards in 10 cities around the world which declared, in the national language, "War Is Over! If You Want It".

Later that year, Lennon and Ono supported efforts by the family of James Hanratty, hanged for murder in 1962, to prove his innocence. Those who had condemned Hanratty were, according to Lennon, "the same people who are running guns to South Africa and killing blacks in the streets. ... The same bastards are in control, the same people are running everything, it's the whole bullshit bourgeois scene." In London, Lennon and Ono staged a "Britain Murdered Hanratty" banner march and a "Silent Protest For James Hanratty", and produced a 40-minute documentary on the case. At an appeal hearing years later, Hanratty's conviction was upheld after DNA evidence matched. His family continued to appeal in 2010.

Lennon and Ono showed their solidarity with the Clydeside UCS workers' work-in of 1971 by sending a bouquet of red roses and a cheque for £5,000. On moving to New York City in August that year, they befriended two of the Chicago Seven, Yippie peace activists Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. Another peace activist, John Sinclair, poet and co-founder of the White Panther Party, was serving ten years in prison for selling two joints of marijuana after previous convictions for possession of the drug. In December 1971 at Ann Arbor, Michigan, 20,000 people attended the "John Sinclair Freedom Rally", a protest and benefit concert with contributions from Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger, Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party, and others. Lennon and Ono, backed by David Peel and Rubin, performed an acoustic set of four songs from their forthcoming Some Time in New York City album including "John Sinclair", whose lyrics called for his release. The day before the rally, Michigan State had drastically reduced the penalties for Sinclair's crimes and three days after the rally, he was released on bail. The performance was recorded and two of the tracks later appeared on John Lennon Anthology (1998).

Following the Bloody Sunday incident in Northern Ireland in 1972, in which 14 unarmed civil rights protesters were shot dead by the British Army, Lennon said that given the choice between the army and the IRA (who were not involved in the incident) he would side with the latter. Lennon and Ono wrote two songs protesting British presence and actions in Ireland for their Some Time in New York City album: "Luck of the Irish" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday". In 2000, David Shayler, a former member of Britain's domestic security service MI5 suggested that Lennon had given money to the IRA though this was swiftly denied by Ono. Biographer Bill Harry records that following Bloody Sunday, Lennon and Ono financially supported the production of the film The Irish Tapes, a political documentary with a Republican slant.

According to FBI surveillance reports (and confirmed by Tariq Ali in 2006) Lennon was sympathetic to the International Marxist Group, a Trotskyist group formed in Britain in 1968. However, the FBI considered Lennon to have limited effectiveness as a revolutionary since he was "constantly under the influence of narcotics".

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