Today marks the 45th anniversary of the nationwide Moratorium march on Washington. It’s always a good idea to remember one of the largest anti-war protests in US history.
Upwards of 500,000 people gathered in Washington DC in opposition to the ongoing war in Vietnam. Nationwide, the BBC reported, “The Peace Moratorium is believed to have been the largest demonstration in US history with an estimated two million people involved.”
That figure was almost certainly quite higher. But not up for debate was the event’s significance in the anti-war movement as middle class and middle-aged voters turned out in large numbers for the first time.
About 45,000 US soldiers would die by in Vietnam by the end of 1969. Vietnam would suffer more than 1.1 million war-related deaths between 1965 and 1975, the period in which the US was directly involved.
The first nationwide Moratorium was followed on Saturday, November 15, 1969, by a second massive Moratorium march in Washington, D.C., which attracted over 500,000 demonstrators against the war, including many performers and activists. This massive Saturday march and rally was preceded by the March against Death, which began on Thursday evening and continued throughout that night and all the next day. Over 40,000 people gathered to parade silently down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. Hour after hour, they walked in single file, each bearing a placard with the name of a dead American soldier or a destroyed Vietnamese village. The marchers finished in front of the Capitol building, where the placards were placed in coffins. The vast majority of demonstrators during these days were peaceful; however, late on Friday, conflict broke out at DuPont Circle, and the police sprayed the crowd with tear gas. The people of Washington, D.C., generously opened schools, seminaries, and other places of shelter to the thousands of students and others who converged for this purpose. A daytime march before the White House was lined by parked tour buses and uniformed police officers, some flashing peace symbols on the inside of their jackets in a show of support for the crowd.
On Moratorium Day, half a million demonstrators gathered across from the White House for a rally where they were led by Pete Seeger in singing John Lennon’s new song “Give Peace A Chance” for ten minutes or more. His voice above the crowd, Seeger interspersed phrases like, “Are you listening, Nixon?”, “Are you listening, Agnew?”, “Are you listening, Pentagon?” between the choruses of protesters singing, “All we are saying … is give peace a chance”.
Today’s Pic du Jour, the 306th straight, was taken in the Tu Le Valley in Vietnam’s northern highlands in October 2010.