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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Protestors stand in front of the White House, signs in hand bearing messages to stop the war and let peace reign.

When they refuse to leave, telling authorities they intend to stay there until the troops come home, they’re taken away by force in handcuffs.

This was how Scott Camil spent last weekend.

Camil, 64, is a lifelong activist who’s seen his share of battlefields, demonstrations and prison cells.

But to him, letting the government know how he feels is the most important responsibility an American can have.

Raised in South Florida in a poor household, Camil was brought up with the mindset that he would join the armed forces once he graduated from high school.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1969.

He looked forward to fighting for democracy in Vietnam.

He soon learned that war is never romantic.

“As soon as you see your friends being killed and wounded, the reality of war grabs your attention,” he said. “In reality, you’re no longer fighting for politics; you’re fighting for each other.”

After two tours of duty, Camil returned to Florida and enrolled at UF, where he earned his degree in philosophy.

It was in Gainesville that he developed his identity as a political activist and organizer.

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He said his professors helped him realize what  he’d been fighting for in Vietnam had been a lie.

“We were used,” he said. “We went there to defend democracy, but we were there to thwart democracy.”

He helped form Vietnam Veterans Against the War to help give a voice to those who’ve served in the anti-war movement.

In 1972, he and a group of others planned to protest against both the Democratic and Republican conventions to let their voices be heard, but they would never get that chance.

Before the Republican Convention in Miami took place, Camil and seven others, better known as the Gainesville Eight, were arrested for conspiracy to disrupt the Republican National Convention.

It turned out that Camil’s group had been infiltrated by government agitators, placed there to feed Camil false information and take down their plans from the inside-out.

The agents told Camil that the government planned to attack the protestors and say it was the protestors who started the violence afterward, so Camil drew up a defense plan for such a scenario.

Those plans were then used to charge the Gainesville Eight with conspiracy.

When the jury came back with a “not guilty” verdict, he and his fellow defendants hugged, cheered and cried in joy while the prosecution hung their heads.

Camil has never relented in his quest for peace and justice and continues to be an active demonstrator.

He was arrested March 20, along with more than 100 others, for protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is already planning future protests here in Gainesville.

For him, it’s the American thing to do.

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