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

An eye-witness report from 50 years ago

I made my plea and was convicted. However, the commissioner maliciously gave me a stiffer penalty than usual. The fine was the same because that was all the money I had. In addition I was given a 10-day suspended sentence, and was also told that I could “never again” participate in a “disruptive demonstration” of any sort in the area of Washington, DC, or I’d risk having the sentence imposed. [10/30/17 Note: a gratuitous and false threat by the magistrate, though I didn’t know it at the time, as there are statutes of limitation for such “crimes”]

I am still, as of this writing (it is five days since I was released from jail), not sure what was accomplished by the demonstration. I am sure that it cannot have been less effective than the peaceful demonstration in New York last April, which accomplished nothing. Now that the country has been confronted with a more forceful action, we hear statements like, “The October demonstration has damaged irreparably the efforts of those sincere people who participated in the April march.” But it is too often the same people and the same papers saying this that last spring were condemning the April march as unpatriotic.

I do know that I have gained a lot from my participation in Washington. I met people in jail who had been hit with tear gas and yet the Pentagon brass denies publicly that it was used. The papers were at such a loss over these contradictions that some have conjectured that it was the peace marchers who were responsible for its use, rather than believe that the government lied. I no longer have reason to doubt the government’s capacity to lie, as well as to release incomplete information about such touchy matters as the Vietnam War. Time Magazine, in their fine article on the march, reported that 15 demonstrators were wounded. The New York Times said 27. In all some 700 people were arrested, yet among the 100 in the cell I was in, there were 20 who needed medical treatment…one out of five! Some had bandages over their entire heads. One had a head wound from a billy club that had required seven stitches. Another had his arm twisted until the joint tore, so that he could not bend his arm. These facts and realizations dismay me more than the brutality itself, but I’m glad I have found out what really goes on.

I still wouldn’t call myself a subversive and I certainly advocate working for change within the system as much as possible. I am disturbed about a moral decay which is taking place in this country. An end to the Vietnam War is important, but I’m afraid that the war is only a symptom of this decay here at home. I plead for non-violence at all times, and I plead for dedicated action on every person’s part. The evidence is before us. My participation in the October demonstration in Washington was a strike against the prevalent apathy in the country.

I will continue to act as I did then for that reason.

DAVE LINDORFF, the author of this article, was 18 in 1967, and wrote this piece after participating in and getting arrested, beaten and jailed at the ’67 MOBE demonstration in Washington. A journalist for 45 years, both in the mainstream and alternative media, he co-founded in 2010 with collective members JOHN GRANT, LINN WASHINGTON, JR. and the late CHARLES M. YOUNG.

story | by Dr. Radut