On This Day

Vietnam moratorium demonstration, Vietnam moratorium march, vietnam march washington
Associated Press
The Vietnam moratorium protest in
Washington, D.C.

On This Day: Vietnam Moratorium Demonstration Staged

November 15, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Nov. 15, 1969, a quarter of a million protesters staged a peaceful demonstration in Washington, D.C., against the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam Moratorium Demonstrations

The Vietnam Moratorium Committee staged its first demonstration on Oct. 15, 1969, holding antiwar events in many cities across the United States that drew an estimated 2 million people.

A month later, the committee staged a second demonstration, this time concentrated primarily in Washington, D.C. As many as half a million people gathered in the Washington National Mall, which was believed to have been the largest antiwar protest in U.S. history.

The rally featured speeches by antiwar politicians, including Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Charles Goodell, the only Republican to take part. It also included performances by Peter, Paul, and Mary, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger, who led the crowd in the singing of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”

Though a small section of the crowd began protesting violently near the end of the demonstration, the day was mainly peaceful; “The predominant event of the day was that of a great and peaceful army of dissent moving through the city,” said The New York Times.

President Richard Nixon, who had had promised in the 1968 campaign to begin a troop withdrawal but had yet to take action in his first 10 months, was unmoved by the demonstration. “As far as this kind of activity is concerned, we expect it, however under no circumstances will I be affected whatever by it,” he said.

The Anti-Vietnam War Movement

The anti-Vietnam War movement began in earnest in 1965, originating primarily in the form of college campus demonstrations and anti-draft protests. The movement grew strength in the ensuing years as the war raged on. Many demonstrations included clashes between protestors and authorities, most famously at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

Mark Barringer writes in “Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War,” “The antiwar movement became both more powerful and, at the same time, less cohesive between 1969 and 1973. Most Americans pragmatically opposed escalating the U.S. role in Vietnam … At the same time, most disapproved of the counterculture that had arisen alongside the antiwar movement. … A unique situation arose in which most Americans supported the cause but opposed the leaders, methods, and culture of protest.”

The antiwar movement continued to gain support in 1970, particularly after the invasion of Cambodia and the killing of four antiwar protestors at Kent State University. Antiwar sentiment became more mainstream and eventually pressured the Nixon administration into seeking peace. The United States ended its official involvement in the war in 1973.

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