Vietnam War Protesters Get an Earful
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October 21, 1965, Vol. XI, No. 1
Peaceful Protesters Parade Against War
By Paul Cowan
Between 15,000 and 20,000 people marched along Fifth Avenue in a parade protesting America's involvement in Vietnam last Saturday. Though Sunday's press accounts of the march emphasized details of violence and bizarre, youthful protest, it was for the most part an orderly affair. Floats and huge signs were displayed only after long intervals of plainly dressed people, many of them adults, walking quietly in orderly rows along the street. Many of the spectators who stood behind the police barricades to watch the march remained silent. Of those who openly displayed feelings about one-third cheered.
Many opponents of the march held up signs like "traitors should be shot" or "Bomb Hanoi"; others hollered imprecations like "you aren't fit to walk these streets" or "you should be killed."
Some marchers retaliated with imprecations of their own, others tried to engage their opponents in conversation, most remained silent. At a few points along the parade route there was open violence -- eggs were hurled, there were fist fights, or attacks with red paint.
After the march there was a rally in the middle of 69th Street between Lexington and Park. The first two speakers, I.F. Stone and A.J. Muste, were rendered nearly inaudible. The wires of an emergency sound system had somehow been cut and there was a constant clamor of boos coming from a cluster of about 50 young men, many of whom wore Buckley for Mayor buttons.
In his talk Stone emphasized his feeling that despite its present "stupid propaganda" the Johnson Administration would need the support of people who now question the war when the time for withdrawal inevitably comes. He reminded his audience of past injunctions by Generals MacArthur and Taylor against the use of American forces on the Asian mainland, and of President Eisenhower's warnings against the power of the "military industrial complex."
In the midst of Stone's talk the police began to silence the hecklers and the sound system went back on. But between a long address on the relation of Puerto Rican Independence to the war in Vietnam and a series of folk songs, most of the audience began to drift away.
Dave Delinger, editor of the Liberation magazine, who had chaired the meetings of the groups involved in the march, appraised the afternoon in a brief speech. "The turn-out this afternoon shows that the State Department is wrong when it claims that only an infinitesimal fraction of the American public opposes the war," he said.
"One of the questions the press and other interested people keep asking us is whether this sort of protest is dominated by Communists. Let me say, after weeks of attending meetings and trying to arrange this parade, that no one group or person could possibly control all the different sorts of people and ideas that have been involved."
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956. Go here to see this article as it originally appeared in print.]
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