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Pacifism


평화주의 (平和主義)

250,000 Marchers in Biggest Protest

Scattered Clashes With Militants Fail to Ruin Capital Demonstration

Los Angeles Times

November 16, 1969

 

The Los Angeles Times published this article about a huge peace march on November 15, 1969, protesting American involvement in the Vietnam War (1959-1975). The demonstration in Washington, D.C., was organized by a coalition of antiwar groups called the New Mobilization Committee, and drew protesters from many segments of American society. This account reflects some of the conventions and biases of the era in which it was written.

 

Washington?A river of humanity at least a quarter of a million strong came from every part of the country Saturday to pray near the Capitol, march down Pennsylvania Ave. and sing and stand for peace at the foot of the Washington Monument.

It was the biggest antiwar demonstration in the nation's history and the largest gathering of dissenters Washington has ever seen.

Despite yet another attempt in darkness by ultra militants to taint the day in sporadic incidents around the downtown area, the dominant symbol was a woolen hat for warmth, not the hard motorcycle helmet for protection.

In the most serious incident, police used tear gas in dispersing about 6,000 militants who provoked a confrontation at the Justice Department. They ignored the antiviolence pleas of the New Mobilization's own marshals who impressed authorities these last three days with their efforts to keep the demonstration peaceful.

Outdoes Civil Rights March

Clearly, the outpouring was larger than the 1963 civil rights march in the capital, when 200,000 protesters marched on this city.

President Nixon remained secluded in a cordoned off White House. He met with top advisers to discuss Vietnam. The scene around the executive mansion for nine blocks was eerie?empty streets?patrolled by policemen.

In the end, the massive demonstration surrounded and overshadowed all the speakers. Perhaps everything pro and con already had been said about Vietnam. Unlike 1963, there was no equivalent of a Dr. Martin Luther King rising up to announce "I have a dream," electrifying the crowd.

Finally, it was music, not words, which roused the throngs jamming the grounds of the Washington Monument. With the late afternoon sun shining weakly on his half-bald head, Pete Seeger sang: "All we're saying is, give peace a chance." The crowd took up his song, sending it rolling out over the Potomac. The endless rows stood?the young girls with blonde straight hair, the young students with beards, glasses and still unlined countenances. They rocked back and forth, fingers forming a V, repeating the song. Then came a great cry: "Peace now!"

The attempt by the ultramilitants to capture the day?and nationwide attention?was well advertised. Jerry Rubin, one of seven defendants on trial in Chicago on charges of conspiring to incite rioting at the 1968 Democratic convention, glanced scornfully around at the peaceful crowd at the monument.

"They're so cute and polite and respectable," he sneered. Then he waved to the section where many members of the New Mobilization Committee?sponsors of the three days of protests?were seated. "I don't like the idea of so many Democratic politicians on the platform. It's like peace is respectable."

Two Urge Second Protest

Another of the defendants, David Dellinger, the New York antiwar activist, urged a march on the Justice Department to protest the trial. So did Abbie Hoffman, who is also a defendant.

Militants repeatedly urged the throng to ignore the New Mobe's marshals. About 6,000 militants took to the streets after the march, roughly 2% of those who came to Washington to demonstrate for peace.

But for the second night in a row tear gas clouded some streets in a small section of the city. Windows were broken. Bricks and stones were hurled at policemen.

At the corner of 14th and F Sts.?in the heart of downtown?a bearded man wearing the armband of a marshal pleaded with a group of youths to disperse.

"If you believe in what we came here for," he shouted again and again, "go that way," pointing in the opposite direction from where a group of policemen were standing. One youth accepted the plea. The others headed toward the police.

For a time, extra reinforcements including some national guardsmen?who routinely augment Washington's police force during major events?were brought to the White House.

Refuse to Move

The first trouble occurred at the Justice Department just before darkness. The crowd, which had a permit to stage a peaceful march around the building, congregated in front of it instead. Demonstrators shook their fists and chanted, "Stop the trial!" Stop the trial!" referring to the Chicago conspiracy trial. Police sought to move them on, but they refused, slamming the knockers on the building's huge doors.

Members of the Washington police civil disturbance unit fired tear gas into the crowd. Some tear gas grenades were hurled back at the officers. An American Flag was ripped from the Justice Department's flagstaff and replaced with a Viet Cong standard, which police quickly removed.

A Justice Department official said the decision to use gas was made by the police.

Leaning out a window to peer at the demonstrators five floors below, Dep. Atty. Gen. Richard G. Kleindienst said, "Those are the same tactics they used in Chicago." Glancing out at the crowd which was burning a small American Flag, Atty. Gen. John N. Mitchell said that predictions of trouble by militants had proven accurate.

Windows Broken

A wall of gas drove the demonstrators away from the Internal Revenue Service building where they had regathered. They split into small groups, racing down some streets breaking windows in 30 businesses. Throughout the early evening hours there were a series of running confrontations with the police?who often used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

By late Saturday, 83 persons had been arrested, mostly for disorderly conduct in the vicinity of the Justice Department.

Mayor Walter Washington of the District of Columbia said only a "small band" caused the trouble. He said at 10:30 the city was calm again.

But shortly before midnight about 120 police swept through Dupont Circle and fired gas grenades into the park, a common hippie gathering ground.

They arrested a score of demonstrators on charges of disorderly conduct. A spokesman for the mayor said a gathering of about 450 persons constituted an unlawful assembly.

The arrests were in sharp contrast to the prevalent mood of the day.

The 40-hour march against death ended at 8:30 a.m. after more than 40,000 persons had marched the four miles from Arlington National Cemetery past the White House and placed the names of dead soldiers they wore into coffins at the Capitol.

Second March Starts

At 10:15 a.m. a mass march down Pennsylvania Ave. to the Washington Monument began. The walkers were overwhelmingly white, mostly students. They were good-natured and easily controlled by the New Mobe's marshals.

One long-haired girl called the spirit "communal." A marshal joked, "Keep those postcards coming."

Those not in their 20s were in the minority. Mrs. Norman Peyton of New York expressed their viewpoint.

"I feel Nixon is trying to get out, but he is being pressured by Saigon and the military. I got very tired sitting in a living room," she said. "I was tired of reading the decent editorials. I had to do it (march)."

Mrs. Peyton turned to a friend, also in her 50s. "We just wanted people to know there are some matrons. It's a first experience for us."

A nurse from Ohio, who would not give her name but was in her early 20s, said:

"When you look around and see these people, infants to grandparents, it's not just a bunch of radicals. We came through a snowstorm to come here. All along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we saw the same kids. Everybody kept everybody else going."

Old Army jackets, heavy coats, windbreakers were the usual garb. But interspersed also were a few mink coats.

The wide river of humanity was an impressive sight as the protesters moved in a steady stream?20 across?down Pennsylvania Ave. to the monument.

The only demonstration of nearly comparable size occurred during a massive march in 1967 from New York's Central Park to the United Nations.

Washington's Police Chief Jerry V. Wilson flew over the city in a helicopter, estimated the crowd at 250,000 and called his evaluation modest.

Fred Halstead, chief of the marshals assigned by the New Mobilization Committee, estimated its size at 300,000.

The Mobe, a coalition of some 100 antiwar groups, sponsored the three days of demonstrations here demanding immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Vietnam.

There were the usual Viet Cong flags, but these were in the minority; the day really belonged to the flagless young.

After meeting with his aides on Vietnam and other matters, President Nixon watched part of the Ohio State-Purdue football game, officials said. Some of the speeches at the Washington Monument were audible in the empty streets in front of the White House, but there was no indication whether Mr. Nixon heard them.

Along the line of march, which stretched from the Capitol down Pennsylvania Ave. to within a block of the White House and along 15th St. to the Washington Monument, protesters repeatedly chanted:

"One-two-three-four?Tricky Dick, stop the war."

Picture of King

One demonstrator carried a huge picture of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, with the inscription "Nonviolence Our Most Potent Weapon." Another sign read, "Make Pizza Not War."

Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy (D-Minn.) addressed the marchers as they left the Capitol. He told the protesters they carried "a clear message of moral and intellectual concern to the White House."

Republican Sen. Charles E. Goodell of New York and Democratic Sen. George S. McGovern of South Dakota spoke at the monument.

"There are those who say we must not dishonor the 45,000 Americans who have died in Vietnam," Goodell said. "We say, let us not dishonor 5,000 more Americans by making them die in Vietnam next year."

Said McGovern: "We meet to affirm the claims of conscience and life over the bondage of fear and hate. There is in our hearts a special sorrow for those who die in battle, for those who are scarred and wounded, for those who are held prisoners. But in a larger sense, we are all prisoners of war. And we long to be free."

Source: Los Angeles Times, November 16, 1969.

 



 
 
 

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