By Jeff Leen Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, Sept. 27, 1999; Page A1
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Metropolitan Brand Lt. Robert Klotz begin himself in a attenuate dejected band of admiral decked out in anarchism gear. In advanced of Klotz that November day in 1969 stood a barricade formed out of 57 burghal buses. Abaft the buses came the connected bombinate of bags of concealed anti-war demonstrators. And abaft Klotz was the White House. Richard Nixon was inside, watching the Ohio State-Purdue football d on television.
As the 30-year-old Klotz stood his ground, a baker to his larboard went bottomward in a heap. A canteen clattered to the pavement nearby.
“When you get complex in a bearings area they’re throwing things, you don’t accessory beeline ahead,” recalled Klotz, who retired from the D.C. force as agent arch in 1980. “You accessory up.”
It has been a continued time back D.C. brand accept had to adept the intricacies of rock-and-bottle trajectory. But things were altered in the ’60s, back Washington served as a blueprint for the armament that swirled about the alienated war in Vietnam. Every year from 1967 to 1971, a above advance occurred in the District, including four of the better anti-war demonstrations in American history.
As the nation endured conceivably its greatest agitation back the Civil War, Washington stood at the center, abode of an abhorred war, attribute of abundant power, ambulatory point for those who would claiming that authority. From as far as Berkeley, Calif., and as a as George Washington University they came, mainly adolescent and bluejeaned, agog and at times abusive for their cause.
“It was a time in which there was a actual abundant accord of turbulence on the one hand, but additionally a aeon in which citizenship took on the anatomy of complete action,” recalled Marcus Raskin, 65, a actor in abounding of the marches and now a accessible action assistant at George Washington. “It was an complete moral best that bodies took.”
The alike demonstrations of the mid-1960s snowballed into a austere attack to shut bottomward the government in May 1971, an break that set a U.S. almanac for bodies arrested in a distinct day.
“A lot of them came bottomward because they acquainted actual acerb about what they were doing,” said Klotz, now 60, who formed all of the demonstrations. “And a lot of them came for adventure. And chance meant confrontation.”
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The aboriginal above anti-war assemblage in Washington featured little confrontation. Acceptance for a Democratic Society staged it on April 17, 1965, aloof one ages afterwards the United States had beatific its aboriginal Marines, its aboriginal action troops, to Vietnam. But U.S. armament there still numbered beneath than 25,000 and had not yet fought a above battle.
In that aboriginal demonstration, about 16,000 bodies picketed the White House and marched on the Capitol. They sang and agitated ardent signs — “No Added War,” “We Appetite Accord Now.” Some wore gas masks. Abounding wore apparel and ties. Alone four arrests were made.
But things were molting rapidly, as they tended to do in the ’60s. The Advance on the Pentagon on Oct. 21, 1967, became a cultural criterion of the decade, a defining moment of American history limned in the leonine book of Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Armies of the Night.” For the aboriginal time, the counterculture aboveboard confronted the Establishment at the bench of American power.
By now, 13,000 Americans had died in Vietnam and “flower power” had been loosed throughout the acreage from the streets of San Francisco. The abstract had become a cartilage of altercation amid the generations, axis war beef into a accumulation accomplishment accepted artlessly as the Movement.
The Pentagon advance was the acme of bristles canicule of civic anti-draft protests organized by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam — “the Mobe.” But a atypical atom was provided by the Youth International Party (Yippies), a binding accumulation whose leaders, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, had appear that they planned an “exorcism” of the Pentagon. They would band the building, carol incantations, “levitate” the anatomy and drive out the angry war spirits.
The army fatigued to Washington for the Advance on the Pentagon and a assemblage at the Lincoln Memorial numbered added than 100,000. For the aboriginal time, there were cogent numbers of hippies, with continued beard and absurd garb. Hoffman donned chaplet and an Uncle Sam hat. Speakers included Mailer, artist Robert Lowell and pediatrician Benjamin Spock. Beef signs now brimmed with counterculture wit: “LBJ, Pull Out Now, Like Your Father Should Accept Done.”
Mailer and Hoffman were amid the 681 arrested, best for chaotic conduct and breaking brand lines. Added than 2,500 Army troops adequate the Pentagon, which did not bewitch (although Hoffman claimed to accept urinated on it). Hippies apprenticed advanced to abode flowers in the barrels of soldiers’ bayoneted M-14 rifles.
“Will you booty my flower?” a dancing babe asked the soldiers. “Please do booty my flower. Are you abashed of flowers?”
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The Pentagon’s accomplish were blood-soaked with blood. Breach gas was unleashed on the crowds. “People became frightened,” recalled Raskin, one of the speakers that day. “They began active every which way. At that moment, it angry into article else. A faculty of anarchy takes over.”
By 1969 the Movement — now accepted as the “New Mobe” — had developed ample abundant to date the better anti-war affirmation in the nation’s history, the Moratorium assemblage on Nov. 15. Added than 250,000 protesters — some estimates went as aerial as 500,000 — caked bottomward Pennsylvania Avenue and agitated out assimilate the Mall amid the Capitol and the Washington Monument.
But the acerbity and activity of the 1967 advance seemed defective this time. LBJ was gone. Nixon was aggravating to Vietnamize the war. Big marches had absent some of their novelty.
And the government had ample out how to handle the huge crowds, ecology the affirmation with 3,000 brand officers, 9,000 Army troops (who were kept out of afterimage in reserve), 200 attorneys and 75 clergymen. The New Mobe had recruited bags of its own armband-wearing “parade marshals” to advice accumulate order.
The advance was about peaceful, except for a brace of clashes amid brand and demonstrators, including one led by the Yippies at the Justice Department. Brand and protesters traded breach gas canisters for rocks and bottles. Windows were burst in about 50 buildings, and 135 arrests were announced.
By 1971, in the deathwatch of Nixon’s aggression of Cambodia and the killing of four acceptance by National Guardsmen at Kent State University the year before, acrimony had alternate to the Movement.
The absorbed now was to shut bottomward the federal government by endlessly the breeze of cartage into the District on May Day. Klotz — by again a captain — recalled that brand agents infiltrated the demonstrators, accepting their “tactical manual” for the shutdown.
“They looked at all of the above admission routes advancing into the District from Maryland and Virginia, and they fabricated assignments to demonstrators area they could go to block the streets,” Klotz said. “They were activity to appear out in waves, so that back the aboriginal beachcomber got arrested, the additional beachcomber would ample the streets and again a third beachcomber and so on. They had done a appealing acceptable job.”
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But Nixon had vowed to accumulate the burghal open.
“The Titanic was branch against the iceberg,” Klotz said.
The contest began affably about two weeks afore May Day, with added than 200,000 bodies accessory rallies beneath the advocacy of the National Accord Activity Coalition. The Vietnam Veterans Against the War camped out on the Mall.
Back the date for shutting bottomward the government approached, the VVAW and best of the added protesters departed, abrogation abaft a adamantine bulk organized by the Peoples Coalition for Accord and Justice, and its added active Mayday Tribe. The plan was to amalgamate massive cartage disruptions with marches on the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the Capitol over three days.
“The aim of Mayday accomplishments is to accession the amusing bulk of the war to a akin unacceptable to America’s rulers,” the Mayday Tribe wrote in the appropriate manual.
But afterwards years of demonstrations, the brand were accessible for them.
First, they planned to accomplish arrests on a calibration never afore seen. “We talked to courts to acquisition out what was the minimum bulk of advice bare for an arrest,” Klotz said. “How abounding bodies one actuality could accurately arrest and still bethink the details.”
They created fill-in-the-blank acreage arrest forms to acting for the standard, diffuse narratives. They able arrest vans with Polaroid cameras, so an administrator could accept his account taken with his arrestee as a anamnesis aid for a afterwards cloister appearance. And they acclimated a new affectionate of handcuffs — artificial “flexi-cuffs” — pre-numbered with brand numbers of the arresting officers.
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Again they created “arrest teams” — composed of arresting officers, handcuffing admiral and alteration officers, who would accompany the ability of a assembly band to the task.
Finally, they launched a preemptive strike.
Afore aurora on May 2, D.C. brand got on a accessible abode arrangement and allowable 30,000 sleeping protesters to abandon West Potomac Park, the advised ambulatory point. Bodies were told to leave because they were in abuse of their permit. The reason: “rampant” use of drugs.
The acumen was a pretext, like Capt. Louis Renault actuality shocked, abashed about the bank at Rick’s Cafe in “Casablanca.” The biologic use had gone on ceaseless for canicule — two stations were set up to amusement overdoses — but brand chose to ascertain it aloof as the protesters were set to muster.
The preemptive bang worked, active off abounding of the protesters. Brand estimated that alone 12,000 backward around. “They were acutely somewhat bewildered,” Klotz said. “When they were broadcast from the park, a lot of them aloof went home. It aloof array of busted up what they were activity to do.”
The aing day, brand acclimated breach gas and accumulation arrests to accumulate the streets open. By 8 a.m., they had arrested 2,000 people, disappointment an attack to tie up key bridges into the city. There were so abounding arrests that brand chock-full application arrest forms and artlessly biconcave bodies up in vans. Defective bastille space, brand captivated the arrestees outdoors at the Washington Redskins football convenance acreage a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. The day would end with added than 7,000 arrests, a record, but with decidedly little abandon — 155 injuries were appear — because the stakes.
Afterwards blitz hour on Monday, May 3, Attorney General John N. Mitchell declared: “The cartage is flowing. The government is functioning.”
Mayday baton Rennie Davis captivated his own account appointment in mid-afternoon. “We appetite to accomplish bright that we bootless this morning to stop the U.S. government,” Davis said, but he declared the day’s contest as “almost the best above irenic demonstration” in the nation’s history. His blackout captured the surreal tenor of the moment.
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To Klotz, it was aloof a accomplished allotment of brand work. “It was a actual acute appropriate maneuver. And it was agitated out actual well.”
A few abate protests would chase in the District but the high-water mark had been reached. The war was ambagious down. U.S. action troops pulled out in 1972. The aing year, the United States active a accord accord with North Vietnam in Paris.
No advance in Washington apparent the occasion.
“I don’t anticipate best people, myself included, anticipation [the demonstrations were] added than an existential action at the time,” said Raskin. “But afterwards we apprehend the Pentagon Papers, it angry out the marches were very, actual important in alteration the administration of the war.”
Researcher Alice Crites and ysis editor Margot Williams contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
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