Tow Truck Driver Strikes & Kills Anti-War Activist In East Village

Merle Ratner, 67, was the Co-Coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign. She was killed at around 7 p.m. on Feb. 5, when she was struck by a tow truck turning off Ave. C and onto E. 10th St. A police investigation is ongoing.

| 11 Feb 2024 | 03:50

A renowned anti-war activist was killed in the East Village on Feb. 5, when a tow truck driver struck her while turning onto E. 10th St., off Avenue C.

Merle Ratner, 67, was using the crosswalk when she was struck from the rear and slammed into the street. EMS pronounced her dead upon arrival. Police said that the driver remained on scene. The NYPD Highway District’s Collision Investigation Squad is investigating the incident.

She leaves behind a husband of 40 years, Ngô Thanh Nhàn. Born in the Bronx in 1956 and raised by Jewish labor activists, she was well-known for having begun a lifelong protest against the Vietnam War–and its aftereffects–starting at the young age of 13.

Ratner was most notably the Co-Coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, an activist group that focuses on “achieving justice for the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange.” Agent Orange, a defoliant and herbicide, was used as a chemical weapon by the United States during the Vietnam War. According to the Campaign, 3 million Vietnamese people suffer from its lingering effects today, and have not been able to receive even the limited redress that affected U.S. veterans have fought to acquire.

Indeed, the Campaign notes that U.S. veterans make up a sizable chunk of its coalition, as “in addition to the millions of Vietnamese still affected by this deadly poison, tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers are also affected.” These include long-term maladies such as birth defects and cancer attributions, which have persisted throughout multiple generations of both Vietnamese and American people.

In a 2017 interview conducted by the New-York Historical Society as part of an oral history on the Vietnam War, Ratner said that her life as an activist was “rewarding.”

“It’s a hard life, and you don’t make a lot of money, I’ll tell you that. We are definitely struggling financially. But you also don’t have to do things, or you make a decision not to do things that you don’t feel comfortable with, that violate your principles, and I’m proud of that,” she noted.

”I intend to spend the rest of my life doing it,” she added.