Ask me anything... within reason
People sometimes think I’m joking when I say I marched against the Vietnam War during the 60’s. But it’s true! And today is the 40th anniversary of my first antiwar protest. On October 15, 1969, a national Moratorium was declared, the first of many such actions.
By the standards of previous anti-war demonstrations, the event was a clear success, with millions participating throughout the world. Boston was the site of the largest turnout; about 100,000 attended a speech by anti-war Senator George McGovern. Bill Clinton, while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, organized and participated in the demonstration in England; this later became an issue in his Presidential campaign.
I went to one at the Monument at 237th Street in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, NYC. I was in 6th grade; we all wore black armbands to school. (No, that isn’t me in the pic above, but you get the idea.) We were let out of school early, to attend the protest, if we had a note from home. Of course, our parents were all big liberals, happy to give permission. New York was antiwar territory; even our Republican Senator, Charles Goodell, opposed Nixon.
So early in the afternoon, we marched to the Monument with our armbands and signs. I don’t remember what we chanted. Probably, “Out now!” Or, “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” I was too young to have chanted, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”
But over the years, my repertoire grew to include, “Ho Chi Minh! Madam Binh! The NLF is gonna win!” And who can forget this one: “An Loc! Quang Tri! All Vietnam will soon be free!” In 1972, the war was winding down but the protests heated up; I attended a huge rally in Bryant Park addressed by John and Yoko, along with future Sen. John Kerry. Three years later, the war finally ended, and I took part in a huge celebration in Central Park, on May 11, 1975, featuring performances from Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Paul Simon, Patti Smith and others. The rally was titled after an Ochs song, “The War Is Over.”