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Remembering the Pentagon March (1967)

Bill Ramsey sent this account of his participation in the Pentagon March after seeing the photos on this website.

Dear Jo:
Thanks for your pictures and narrative. This was my first demonstration of any kind. I was 19 and a sophomore at the very conservative High Point College in NC. I rode up to DC overnight on Friday night with a man I had met through work with VISTA. He had just turned in his draft card and marched with those who had done the same. He encouraged me to march with others, because he thought that the draft resisters' contingent would be laced with FBI informants and that I might have a file opened on me.
So a march among so many as the lone participant from High Point College. By happenstance I was among those who reached the steps of the Pentagon first, after the leaders had been arrested attempting to surround the Pentagon. On the steps I saw people attempt to crawl through the lines of solders, only be turned back when they were cut with bayonets. Others attempted to occupy space further up the steps to the side and they were clubbed as they refused to end their sit-in. Others placed flowers in the gun barrels.
After a while, I became frightened and climbed an embankment and began to hitch-hike on S I-95. A man picked me up and I asked how far south he was going. He said to Camp LaJeune and asked if I had been at the demonstration. Assuming he was a Marine, I nervously said yes. He said, "I was there too. We got to stop this war," and confirmed that he was a Marine with orders to Vietnam. He let me off on the toll road between Richmond and Petersburg as he headed on to Camp Lejeune.
I stuck out my thumb and was picked up by a VA State Patrolman. I attempted to remove the anti-war buttons from my coat, but missed one. He told me it was illegal to hitch-hike on the toll road and then noticed the remaining button. "So that's where you were," he said and began to lecture me about how wrong I was about the war and disloyal to be demonstrating against it. He drove me around on back country roads for about 30 minutes, stopped the car, and ordered me to get out the car. I looked around... there were only corn fields. I asked to tell me where I was and he refused. I got out of the car, and slammed the door in youthful anger. He jumped out of the car, and grabbed me by the collar and pulled out his club and backed me up on the front hood of the car. He said, "Go back and close the door softly." I did. Then he pulled off.
I walked for hours and finally reached Petersburg and got a room for $2.50. I slept a few hours and then hitch-hiked to High Point College. I was interviewed by the school paper, as the first student to participate in an anti-war march. My fraternity brothers, harassed me and eventually expelled me from the "brotherhood."
I many ways I never returned from the March on the Pentagon. I became a student anti-war activist throughout undergraduate and Duke Divinity School, gathering courage from others that I did not have that evening on the steps of the Pentagon. I became a draft resister and war tax resister. I worked for 21 years for the American Friends Service Committee, and now coordinate an independent association of human rights activists in St. Louis. Our office is the hub of the present anti-war movement.
Thanks for reminding me of all this and for taking the time to read it.

Bill Ramsey

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