Giocondo, Michael

Title

Giocondo, Michael

Description

During the Vietnam War era, Michael Giocondo participated in the "Camden 28" raid on draft board headquarters.

Biographical Text

While living in a rowhouse apartment at 229 Cooper Street, Michael Giocondo joined others in the Catholic Left in an act of civil disobedience against the Vietnam War. The "Camden 28," as they came to be known, were caught in the act of breaking into the draft board office in the federal building at Fourth and Market Streets to destroy and steal draft records. Their action and subsequent trial made national news and inspired a documentary film.

Giocondo, a Franciscan friar who had been teaching English in Costa Rica, came to Camden in the early 1970s to work with a parish in the city's Puerto Rican community. He left the Franciscan order, but stayed in Camden and founded El Centro, a social service agency, and trained to be a substance abuse counselor.

The 1971 break-in at the draft office in Camden was one among many similar actions across the United States that aimed to disrupt the draft and question the justice and morality of the Vietnam War. Giocondo played a fateful role in the local break-in when he invited a friend, Robert Hardy, to join the planning group. In addition to aiding the planning, Hardy became an informant for the FBI, leading to the arrests and charges against 28 people allegedly involved.

Seventeen of the defendants, including Giocondo, went to trial at the Camden federal building in 1973. Testimony called the Vietnam War into question, and the defendants argued that the federal government had over-reached with its informant's active role in staging the break-in. The judge instructed the jury that acquittals could be granted on the basis of governmental over-reach, and the jury concurred by finding all of the defendants not guilty. The New York Times described the verdict as "the first total legal victory for the antiwar movement in five years of such draft-record incidents." Following the trial, charges were dropped against the remaining members of the Camden 28.

Giocondo left Camden after the trial and later worked as a journalist covering the labor movement in New York and Chicago. He returned to the city for a reunion with the Camden 28 filmed for the documentary The Camden 28 (2007). He retired to Florida, where he died in 2014. The rowhouse where he lived in the 1970s stood at the northwest corner of Third and Cooper, now a parking lot for Rutgers-Camden dormitories.

Time period on Cooper Street

Early 1970s

Location(s) - Cooper Street

229 Cooper Street (northwest corner, Third and Cooper)

Location(s) - Other

Federal Building, Fourth and Market Streets

Birth Date

c. 1929

Birthplace

Syracuse, New York

Death Date

2014, in Jacksonville, Florida

Sources

The Camden 28, dir. Anthony Giacchino. (Available to view on YouTube: click here.)

Camden 28 Documents: click here.

"Mike Giocondo, 85: Fighter for Justice at Home and Abroad." People's World, April 23, 2014.

News coverage of the Camden 28 in Camden and Philadelphia and the New York Times.

Research by

Charlene Mires

Posted by

Charlene Mires
Send corrections to cmires@camden.rutgers.edu

Collection

Citation

“Giocondo, Michael,” Learning From Cooper Street, accessed October 1, 2022, https://omeka.camden.rutgers.edu/items/show/59.

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