News & Politics

Titov, Washington Square, and Hiroshima


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August 10, 1961, Vol. VI, No. 42

The Bell Tolled…For Hiroshima

By Peter Gessner

While Major Titov was circling the globe last Sunday, nucleii of folk-singers, students and Sunday visitors gathered in Washington Square to arouse enthusiasm against nuclear war.

Folk-singers played, anti-war leaflets were distributed, homemade placards appeared; Sunday tourists gaped and milled curiously about, a few moving in to argue vehemently with the protestors, but most going on about their business.

The demonstration, in honor of the 200,000 victims of Hiroshima, was organized by the Conference of Greater New York Peace Groups and the Judson Memorial Church at the suggestion of Pete Seeger. Judson workers distributed cards throughout the park announcing that a three o’clock bell from Judson Church on Washington Square South would be the signal for one minute of commemorative silence.

Toward three, the variegated crowd around the fountain area grew to several hundred, swelled by young people coming from an earlier demonstration in Union Square. When the bell sounded from the south side of the park, it could not carry over the restless hum and strum of talking and singing near the fountain. In the rest of the park, most of the Sunday sitters remained rooted to their benches and only a few people rose, some moving toward the congested area…

Next to a crowd enclosing two boys heatedly arguing about Castro. a young leaflet girl was fending off a heckler. “How old were you when they bombed Pearl Harbor?” the man in a white Eisenhower golf cap wanted to know. “I just want the chance to grow up and live,” the girl retorted. The man then took a few steps forward and knocked the stack of leaflets from her hand. “Go back to kindergarten,” he yelled, and walked away.

One young man distributing leaflets said he had experienced more apathy than open hostility. He conceded that the response was not as enthusiastic as last year’s demonstration. “I think it’s this whole Berlin business,” he said. “People aren’t as willing to listen any more.”

Although there were some verbal conflicts between demonstrators and onlookers, there were no reported disturbances. Within an hour, the park had quieted down, people returned to their benches and news reports on Titov’s orbital achievement.

[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.]


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