Vietnam 1969: The Moratorium Movement!


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
October 9, 1969, Vol. XIV, No. 52

Plans Set For Viet Moratorium

Plans were revealed Friday for massive New York City participation in the nationwide Vietnam Moratorium on October 15 which will seek to “end business as usual” on that day and revive a broad based anti-war movement.

The students coordinating Moratorium work in the City announced at a press conference that activities already scheduled for the 15th include noon rallies on Park Avenue and Wall Street; a 4.30 rally in Bryant Park to be addressed by Gene McCarthy, John Lindsay, and Rev. William Sloane Coffin; memorial services and reading of the names of the war dead to be conducted in Penn Station, Grand Central, and in front of Trinity Church; door-to-door canvassing in neighborhoods by college students; hourly church bell ringings; and finally evening candlelight rallies in Washington Square Park and locations in each of the other boroughs.

In addition there will be organized activity by trade unions, business, medical, social service, and high school groups.

At the Friday conference, Adam Walinsky, former Kennedy speech writer and informal aide to the Moratorium Committee, revealed an impressive degree of establishment liberal support for the moratorium: endorsements from 10 local Congressmen, from Senator Charles Goodell, and from the statewide New Democratic Coalition. Present at the conference to speak out against the war and for the Moratorium were Paul O’Dwyer and Nassau County Executive Eugene H. Nickerson.

On the same day, City Councilmen Arthur Katzman, Lawrence Bernstein, Carol Greitzer, and Theordore Weiss submitted a resolution to the Council endorsing the October 15 movement and calling for American withdrawal from Viet Nam within one year. The resolution asked that all City employees be given an hour off to attend memorial services and that all citizens be encouraged to wear black armbands that day.

Walinsky characterized the Moratorium as “an attempt to begin again the long difficult process of political organization against the war.” He compared the Moratorium to the McCarthy-Kennedy movements of 1968. He said he expected that “within 12 days” the Nixon administration will announce another troop withdrawal, but that actions of that kind “are just doses of sugar candy, the time has come to get all the troops out.”

To that end the moratorium movement is scheduled to increase to two days’ length in November and one more day each month “until there is no longer an American military presence in South Vietnam,” according to the Committee.

O’Dwyer also compared the moratorium movement to the rise of protest in late 1967 and early 1968. “There has been a lull,” he said, “but now we can see that the Nixon Administration has become a captive of the Saigon government and the Pentagon.”

Marilyn Marcosson, a Hunter student and chief city coordinator of the Moratorium, said she believed the protest was particularly important because “it’s not just the same old liberal constituency again. We’re reaching a new group who had been for the war before but who now see how it’s affecting them.”

However, after the press conference, one of the student organizers said he wasn’t pleased with the way Walinsky had characterized the moratorium movement. He objected particularly to Walinsky’s let’s-work-within-the-system, clean-for-Gene rhetoric (through delivered in unmistakable Kennedy speech patterns).

The organizer claimed that most of the students working for the Moratorium were much further to the left than the McCarthy students of 1968, and emphasized that the Moratorium organizers had refused to condemn violence. He said he hoped that a broadly based moratorium movement might bring the McCarthy types back into active opposition to the war, and draw them further to the left than before.

But now, faced with the sudden overwhelming embrace of the Moratorium by establishment liberal and moderate politicians, he has begun to feel a little uneasy. “Now,” he admitted, “I don’t know who’s being co-opted, me or them.”

In the Village, a coalition of the Village Independent Democrats, several local peace groups, and churches has formed the Village Vietnam Moratorium Committee to organize for the “Fall Offensive” including the October Moratorium and the November “March Against Death” in Washington.

The Village Committee announced the following events in the Village area for October 15: leafleting in the morning at subway stops, and along 14th Street; a 10 a.m. teach-in at NYU’s Loeb Student Center; a noon rally at Washington Square Park; a marathon service at Judson Church beginning at 1 p.m.; leafleting in the afternoon at supermarkets by the Women’s Strike for Peace; a demonstration at the 14th Street Armory; and a march from Sheridan Square to Washington Square Park to be followed by a candlelight meeting there.

[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.]