Vietnam Demonstrations

Published: 1971
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
Washington, DC -- April 22, 1971 --- Senator J. William Fulbright, D-Arkansas (back to the camera), chariman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee faces a jammed committee room as his group takes testimony 4/22/1971 from John Kerry (behind microphone), one of the leaders of a week-long anti-war demonstration being conducted by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Kerry, a three-time decorated former Navy Lt./jg, made a moving plea to end the war, asking every American to consider who would be the last chosen "to die for a mistake." Many of Kerry's Vietnam veteran comrades are behind him listening to his plea. (UPI Photo)

"Crowd: 'Power to the people! Power to the people!'"

Announcer: Those are not the Bangladesh or the Vietcong. They're rebels of a different sorts: they're Americans, some old, but mostly young. They carry signs and shout slogans. They demonstrate against poverty, racial inequality, but mostly against the war in Indochina. They pop up in many cities, but mostly in Washington, D.C. They have been around for a few years, and 1971 was no exception.

The first major demonstration in the nation's capital in 1971 was organized by a group called Vietnam Veterans Against the War. They demonstrated with mock search-and-destroy missions on the Capital Mall, with guerilla theater and toy M16 rifles on the steps of the Capital. The men, some without limbs and being pushed in wheelchairs, ended their week's stay this way.

Unknown Speaker: "A World War II Army sergeant blew 'Taps' over the last ceremony of the veterans' protest against the war. As exercise-GIs unpinned their medals, former Sergeant Dale Olson blew 'Taps' for the son he lost in Vietnam and for all the people who have died in America's longest war. The ceremony had began with a short speech from one of the veterans."

Unknown Speaker: "We now strip ourselves of those medals for courage and heroism and dedicate ourselves now to the peace and brotherhood this nation once held as its heritage."

Announcer: And then the Purple Hearts, the Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, rained down on the broad plaza beneath the Capital Dome.

Unknown Speaker: "Sergeant Schmell died for these medals. Lieutenant Padaroff died, so I got a medal. Sergeant Johns died, so I got a medal. I got a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, eight Air Medals, National Defense and the rest of this garbage; it doesn't mean a thing!"

Announcer: An articulator spokesman for the group was former Navy Lieutenant John Carry. He spoke to a Senate hearing.

Lieutenant John Carry: "Each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hand of Vietnam, someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn't have to admit something that the entire world already knows. So that we cannot say that we've made a mistake. Someone has to die so that President Nixon won't be -- and these are his words -- 'the first President to lose a war.' And we are asking Americans to think about that, because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?"

Announcer: But the veterans' demonstration was only a prelude. The May Day demonstration brought people to Washington who said that because the Government had not stopped the war, they would stop the Government.

Unknown Speaker: "Attention! Attention! This is the Metropolitan Police Department. Be advised that the presence of this demonstration..."

Announcer: Washington braced itself. The May Day tribe's purpose was clear: block the streets, stop traffic, harass officials and maybe this way no one would get to work and the Government, for at least one day, would stop. Well, it didn't work.

Unknown Speaker: "Police Chief Jerry Wilson is moving up. There are several hundred policemen behind him standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a long, fairly straight line. Right here where about 45 demonstrators are sitting, waiting and hoping to be arrested, approximately 10 commercial television camera crews, innumerable microphones, and here's the first arrest. They're going very peacefully."

Unknown Speaker: "Sure am. Wouldn't argue with 'em. That's their job, right?"

Unknown Speaker: "And they're loading the demonstrators into a khaki bus."

Announcer: Eventually 12,000 persons were arrested, and everyone got to work a little late, but nonetheless they got there.