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Levitate the Pentagon (1967)Peace dove in Pentagon button

Browse photos of the 1967 Pentagon March.
Read other partipants' accounts of the Pentagon March.

On October 21, 1967, 70,000 demonstrators came to Washington, D.C. to "Confront the War Makers." This was the first of the biannual Anti-War demonstrations to fuse protest with the whimsicality of the counter culture and to take civil disobedience to new levels of confrontation. It would become the prototype for the demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago -- except that the latter was marred by extensive police violence.
Initiated and organized by "the Mobe" (the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam), a loose coalition of 150 groups, some of the events of the weekend were planned and some were not. They provided something for everyone, from committed pacifists to Vietcong sympathizers, united only by the common aim of ending the war.
David Dellinger, Mobe co-ordinator and radical pacifist, asked Jerry Rubin to be project director for the march. Rubin had run the Viet Nam Day teach-in at Berkeley on May 21-22, 1965 and other anti-war actions on the west coast since then. It was his idea to target the Pentagon, but it would not be the only place of protest that weekend.
The biggest rally was held at the Lincoln Monument on the D.C. Mall. During the afternoon, people lined the reflecting pool and listened to speeches. Dellinger said the time had come to go from protest to resistence. Dr. Benjamin Spock, world famous for his book on baby and child care, told the crowd that he felt betrayed by President Johnson. He had campaigned for LBJ in 1964 because he promised not to escalate the conflict in Vietnam. Four months after the election the President sent massive numbers of American troops into battle.Peace Torch button
The rally was also the final destination of the Peace Torch Marathon. On August 6, a torch was lighted in Hiroshima, where the first atom bomb had been dropped in 1945. It was flown to San Francisco and on August 27 began its journey to Washington, D.C.
On October 20, several hundred people marched to the Justice Department to turn in a thousand draft cards. They were solemnly handed to an Assistant Attorney General who initially refused to accept them. Left on a table by the delegation, eventually they were sent to local draft boards "for reappraisal."
Blacks were more numerous among the rally speakers than listeners because most of the latter went to a separate rally staged near Howard University a few miles away. Rally speakers (and march organizers) were noticeably older than those in the audience.
After the speeches, about 50,000 people set off for the Pentagon. It took them about an hour and a half to walk two miles across the Memorial Bridge and down a service road to the north parking lot where a second rally was scheduled.
At the other end a group of hippies was trying to exorcize the Pentagon. The brainchild of Abbie Hoffman, the plan was for people to sing and chant until it levitated and turned orange, driving out the evil spirits and ending the war in Viet Nam. The Pentagon didn't move. Pentagon Rising button
While a few dozen chanted, a few thousand marchers bypassed the parking lot for the Pentagon entrance. They were met by 2,500 federal troops and 200 U.S. marshals. The troops formed a human barricade protecting the Pentagon steps. Ropes also demarcated how close the demonstrators could get. U.S. Marshals arrested anyone who got past the lines of troops, or stepped over the ropes.
Those who wanted to commit civil disobedience repeatedly challenged the line. At one point a couple hundred young demonstrators charged up a vehicle ramp. They were surrounded and eventually removed. A few found an unguarded entrance used by the press and tried to invade the Pentagon. They were physically thrown out, leaving some bruised and bloody. As they bounced down the steps many more rushed up. They too were repulsed, with the help of rifle butts and a little teargas. The crowd around them sang "America the Beautiful."
When the permit expired at 7:00 p.m., a couple thousand demonstrators chose to spend the night. No one forced them to leave, though many did depart as the temperature turned cold. The rest lit bonfires made from picket signs and stayed up singing, talking, and confronting the soldiers. Some protestors tried to talk to the troops facing them with sheathed bayonets; some taunted them; some put flowers in their gun barrels; some just stood and stared.
When the sun rose, a few hundred people marched to the White House to wake up President Johnson with morning chants. Some were arrested for picking flowers in Lafayette Park. Most of those who spent the night at the Pentagon left on Sunday after a small afternoon demonstration. Right after midnight on Monday the couple hundred that remained at the Pentagon were arrested, for a total of 681 arrests for the weekend. One hundred were treated for injuries.
This demonstration was one of several parallel actions around the world. People in six European countries, Israel, Japan and Australia marched or picketed against the presence of U.S. troops in Viet Nam. Several U.S. cities and college towns also had small demonstrations and vigils. In the next year protest against the War would spread and intensify.

Other participants in the Pentagon March remember


Photos of the 1967 Pentagon March by Jo Freeman

Please click on thumbnails to view the complete image

Crowds gather at the Lincoln Memorial   The Peace Torch

Crowds gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial.



The Peace Torch Marathon arrives at the Mall.

Benjamin Spock is among the leaders of the March   Police examine posters

Dr. Benjamin Spock is in the front line of notables as it leaves the Lincoln Memorial.



The front line of the march along with the lead banner are swamped by the surrounding crowd.


On a service road to the Pentagon

The march line narrows to go down the service road in Virginia.

Close to the Pentagon

By the time it reaches the Pentagon, the line has thinned.

At night.   Bonfires

Waiting out the night.


Bonfires are lit to stay warm.

At night at the Pentagon   Confrontation

Defending the Pentagon


Confronting the War makers


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