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The 1967 Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam: Confrontation at the Pentagon

An eye-witness report from 50 years ago

We were incensed with rage and hated him, and began to yell at him. Then some people in the back began throwing food (“dead fish and tomatoes” according to the media). They threw not indiscriminately at the troops, but accurately at him. Here was a real potential riot. The other MPs knew it and all raised their gun buts over our heads to bring them down on us if we made a move. However, everyone in front began yelling at the throwers to stop. The chant “Peace! Peace!” rang out again, and the throwing stopped. It is a credit to the troops that when someone came and told the man to leave, al the MPS smiled and looked as relieved and genuinely glad as we did. Throughout the whole tense situation, never was a fist raised against any of the troops. We had not acted like “a riotous rabble, storming the Pentagon” as one Washington paper described us.

I now knew for sure that I was participating in a group which I could agree with in conscience. We all resolved to stay put. We didn’t have to for very long.

By then the MP behind me, to keep up with the progressing line, had to put his toes under me. I, in turn, had to lean up against his legs, which he allowed me to do.

I had given the girl with me my leather jacket for protection, and just had a sweater on. She said that she was coming if I got arrested. Right about then, the other Wesleyan freshman with us was snatched through the line and carried off, as he had gone limp. They were hitting him. I knew I was next.

A marshal put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re under arrest,” as he yanked me across the line. Those around me held firmly onto my ankles and another marshal hit out hard at my ankles with a billy club, as if I were holding on with my feet and could let go.

Once I was through the line, they picked me up and carried me toward the paddy wagon. Each time I went by a marshal, I was hit out at, and I caught several sharp knocks on the ribs. When I had been carried a hundred feet of so, or about a third of the way to the wagon, a marshal asked me threateningly if I was going to walk the rest of the way. As I was beginning to hurt pretty badly, I said I thought I would. I walked to the wagon, my arm gripped by a marshal.

When the rear door of the van was opened a man’s feet came flailing out of it. The non-cooperator inside was trying to keep them from opening the door. I got in and he kept kicking at the door. A marshal smashed on the man’s ankles with a club and slammed it.

The next time the door was opened, the girl was standing at it wearing my suede jacket. After being pulled through the line, she had come to the truck voluntarily and had not been hit. However, as soon as she appeared, the man in the paddy wagon with me, thinking she was a boy, yelled, “Go limp!” which she did. She was a small, lightly built girl of 16 and one of the marshals could have picked her up with one arm and set her inside. Instead the two marshals beside her began to strike at her viciously with their clubs!

Knowing who she was, I rushed with the other man in the truck to the door and we snatched her up and in, getting struck again. She was shaken I guess but unhurt. This totally uncalled-for brutality, I’m afraid, exemplifies the methods employed by the federal marshals on the mall — the same type of men whose performances at civil rights actions in the South have already been demonstrated. Here, however, they managed to escape any publicity.

story | by Dr. Radut