December 8, 2017

STRANGE BUT TRUE: Hunger Strike on 43rd Street

International affairs collide with Tudor City in late November, 1963, when a Vietnamese exile parks his car in the 43rd Street cul-de-sac opposite the U.N. and begins a three-week-long "peace vigil." The man, Vo Thanh Minh, is a 57-year-old Vietnamese law professor who is intent on the reunification of his country, split into two rival states since the 1950s.

Minh's car, a battered, unheated Simca, becomes his home for the next three weeks. In early December, he begins a hunger strike "to bring peace to Vietnam." A sign on the car window states that his only needs are fresh air, drinking water, and a parking space. He soon receives (and ignores) two parking tickets. Locals offer a mixed reception, some bring him water and hot tea, while others think he's "dangerous" and call the cops.

On December 13, Minh is arrested for parking in a restricted area, and after failing to post a $20 bail, remanded to Brooklyn City Prison. His car is towed away.
Above, a nationally syndicated wire photo of Minh in his Simca.
Clad in a black tunic and cap, Minh is removed from his car and arrested.
Photo looks east toward the U.N. from the 43rd Street dead end.

Minh is eventually released, and next turns up in a Brooklyn church, where he resumes his fasting. In 1965, he travels to Cambodia with a Unitarian minister on a private peace mission, then drops out of sight. Back in America, protests against the Vietnam War escalate as the decade unwinds.

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