tv Mayday 1971 Anti- Vietnam War Protests CSPAN May 4, 2021 6:46pm-7:48pm EDT
tens of thousands of anti vietnam war protesters converge on washington d.c. in may of 1971. more than 7000 of them were arrested in a single day. next, we look back 50 years at the forces that collided on the capitol streets that spring with investigative journalist lawrence roberts. he's the author of may day 1971. a white house at war. this was a joint production of american history tv on c-span's
washington journal. >> [inaudible] the whole world is watching. chanting. >> this was the spring offensive, mobilization of masses of people at a given time and place attracts worldwide news coverage at attention. when the protest organizer and inciter and promoter, it is a vital and necessary tactic. on april 24th, 1971 the national peace action coalition supported by welfare rights groups labor unions and others, held a massive demonstration in washington d.c.. 175,000 people from all walks of life, was differing ideologies and purposes march from the white house to the capital. washington has grown accustomed
to this voicing dissent, we this was an organized demonstration with parade permits, marshals and responsible leadership. the demonstrators came and their positions on the war, racial discrimination and other political issues were made known. throughout the rally, officers of the metropolitan police were directed to maintain a low visibility profile. their role was as always, to protect the constitutional rights of citizens. intervening only for emergency situations. there were few laws broken and few arrests. most who came in the name of peace return to their homes and jobs or schools. but some who came to break the peace, state on in west potomac park. for them the april 24th rally with an opportunity to advance their own well-defined aim and
to shut down the federal government. we there is spawn from coast to coast with universities and communities across this country. >> these violence prone members decided that the style, discipline and tactics of peaceful assembly or no's longer acceptable. >> good morning and welcome back to the washington journal, you are looking at the vietnam memorial here in the nation's capital. this morning in our last hour of the washington journal had a joint conversation with the american history tv on c-span 3 we are focusing on the may day 1971 anti-vietnam war protest joining us this morning is lawrence roberts, author of a book on those events. mr. roberts thank you very much for being with us we appreciate it. >> thank you for having me i'm looking forward to it. >> let us begin with what is
going on with the vietnam war in 1971. >> let me paint a picture of exactly what happened 50 years ago this morning. it was also sunday morning they second, and president richard nixon and his aides had ordered hundreds of d.c. police riot squad to clear out a park down by the potomac river, in which tens of thousands of mostly young people had been camping in preparation for what was going to be the most audacious protest and the anti war movement against the vietnam war. people had come from all over the country to camp in west potomac park, or to get ready for this traffic blockade of washington d.c. which was sort of a last ditch effort after six years of the movement to
force the government to pull all of the u.s. troops out of vietnam. the >> why did they come? what was happening with the war that they decided they needed to descend on washington? >> the war had been going on for six years, in an intense way. and there had been anti war movement it had started almost at the same time as awarded. it was by people who had believe that the war was ethically wrong or was unwinnable. we are was draining the resources of the country that should have been put towards domestic problems and they had been millions of people on the streets over those six years, picketing, parading and marching and petitioning and working on political campaigns. still the war was going on. the war had been started primarily by president lyndon johnson back in 1965. the true u.s. involvement.
and then johnson was in some ways, he was run out of the white house by the growing anti war sentiment in the country. then richard nixon was elected in 1968, one of the reasons he was elected was his promise to end the war. rather than ending the war he was expanding it geographically. in they've gone over the border 1970 to cambodia, and in 1971 troops were sent mostly south vietnamese troops with u.s. support into laos. that had triggered another the movement which was in the spring of 1971. so we had dozens of anti war groups and it all came together in this chaotic choreography, starting in mid april of 1971 and going through mid may.
that was a series of dead demonstrations that were designed to bolster public support for the anti-war movement. and the finale of this protest was to be this most audacious one which was the blockade of the streets and the bridges of washington. and that is why these folks were camp in the west potomac park getting ready for this protest. they have had a permit to do it. but the nixon administration was increasingly worried about the effect of all these protests, so they secretly revoked the permit on saturday and sunday morning 50 years ago, they sent in the police to clear at the park and that was in the hopes that most of the people who had come to the sea for this blockade. so they would disperse and go home in there would be no protest monday morning but that is not what happened. >> i want to show our viewers
the how you react to present nixon on april 7th in 1971. on his address the on ending war. so let's listen. >> i think the hardest thing that a president has to do is to present posthumously the nation's highest honor. the medal of honor. two mothers and fathers or windows of men who have lost their lives with a bye in the process of saving lives of others. we had an awards ceremony in the east room of the white house just a few weeks ago. at that ceremony, i remember one of the recipients, mrs. carl taylor from pennsylvania. her husband was a marine sergeant. carl taylor. he charged and enemy machine
gun single-handedly and knocked it off. he lost his life, but in the process the lives of several wounded marines in the range of that machine, were saved. after i presented her the metal i shook hands with their two children. carl junior he was eight years old. and kevin who was for. as i was a moat about to move to the next recipient kevin suddenly stood at attention. and saluted. i found it rather difficult to get my thoughts together for the next presentation. my fellow americans, i want to end this war in a way that is worthy of the sacrifice of karl
taylor. we and i think he would want me to do it in a way that would increase the chances that kevin and karl, and all those children around the world a both here in around the world, could grow in the world were none of them would have to die. we >> lawrence roberts, president nixon's words here, what affected they have in the following days that lead up to may second 1971? >> nixon was in a precarious position at this point, in the april of 1971. as i had mentioned earlier, he had sent forces into laos, and that had triggered a lot of anti war sentiment. he was getting ready to run for reelection in 1972, and the polls at this point had him at the lowest approval rating
probably because of the laos invasion of his first term. and he actually mused at the time that he might not even get the nomination of his party to run again for reelection. so he was very determined to make sure that the coming string of anti war demonstrations, which of course they knew about, did not lose public opinion. so the speech was viewed as very important. he spent days working on it. it was an effective speech. afterwards, if you spent some time listening to the tapes and the nixon tapes in the white house which i did for my book, you can hear their delight or the delight of the president and his chief of staff as the polls showed a little bump in his approval. in nixon's approval. and also of his handling of the war. he tried to seize the high
ground in the sense before these protests were going to begin. one of the things they were worried about in particular was that for the first time the protests were going to include a substantial number of vietnam veterans against the war who were coming back from the fighting to say that they disagreed with u.s. policy and thought that the war should just be ended unconditionally. nixon was saying in his speech that he showed that you showed the tape of that he wanted to wind down the war, but he did not want to give an end date. he did not want to give a firm date for the withdrawal of troops despite the pressure from those who believe the war was wrong. so the speech was intended to sort of bolster his support before the protests, and it initially succeeded. >> tell us more about who attended these protests, these made a 1971 anti vietnam protests. >> the may day protest as i said was a finale of a string of protests a protest to seventh ration that began in
mid april. the first people in town where the vietnam veterans against the war. there were more than 1000 of them who marched on arlington cemetery, they kept on the national mall right near the capitol. and at the end of their protest was to return their medal medals and ribbons by hurling them over the fence. they were followed by a huge coalition of groups and everybody from church groups and unions all the way to the most radical groups. they all came together for this enormous march. it was the largest march that d.c. had seen up into that point. probably 400,000 people marched down pennsylvania avenue avenue to the capital. and that was on may 4th 1971. following that there was a series of smaller demographic demonstrations leading up to the may day protests, which was meant to be a three-day
blockade of the city. that was to force more attention on to their cause. and the folks who came to town for that, came from all over the country and from other countries to. there were at least from all 50 states they were represented. people came in from a lot of volkswagon buses, and volkswagon beetles which was the counterculture and vehicle at the time. they were all parked along the river. and it included people who felt that the marching and the parading and the petitioning wasn't enough. and that what was needed was more forceful act. and they believed that this was the time for massive disobedience as a way to put their bodies on the line out of the belief that the war was really wrong way. why was a called made a? >> it was originally scheduled for actual meeting, may 1st but then they decided that it made
more sense to have the blockade at rush hour, the first russia which is monday, may 3rd. >> and who were the leaders? who organized this? >> the main leaders of the may day protest were's a guy named rene davis, who is a longtime icon of the new left. he had helped form the largest group of the left in the sixties which was called students for a democratic society. he was one of the founders of that and he later became one of the chicago seven. your viewers may remember that trial that was based on demonstrations that happened outside the democratic national convention in 1968. rene came to believe that what was needed was a much more intense kind of a protest to call more attention to the
cause. one of his prime cofounders in the may day idea was david dillinger who was a 55 year old, long time pacifist who had worked on the anti nuclear bomb movement. he had been a resist or of the draft during world war ii, and he was sort of an apostle of nonviolence. this idea force without violence, you can have massive al disobedience without any kind of a violent edge to it, and that that was a way to push the powers that be in the direction that he wanted them to go. >> we're talking about the may day protest the, single largest mass arrest in american history. more than ten times as many protesters were arrested during may day than during the berkeley free speech citizens in 1964. we want you to join the conversation. if you live in eastern and central part of the country.
to a two seven four eight eight zero zero zero. for pacific. seven for eight zero zero zero one. if you are in washington, for those made eight please dial in at 2:02 seven four eight eight zero zero two. if you were a police working to arrest folks then, we want to hear your story as well. lawrence roberts, you did attend, why we there? >> i was a 19 year old college student at the time and i had participated in some of the anti-war marches, as many of my peers did at that time. like many of the folks who came down to d.c. for may day, i also believe that it was time for a more forceful kind of a demonstration. i guess i was part of it. >> what was it like? >> it was it an extremely chaotic day. i saw on monday, may 3rd at
rush hour, starting probably about 5:30 in the morning, at the folks who came down for may day came out into the streets. everyone was assigned a small group of protesters they divided into small groups called in affinity groups, in each one was given a place to go. a bridge, a traffic intersection, a traffic circle, in order to block traffic, just to be ready for when police came. so, during the morning, it was getting to be done, you saw clumps of folks walking all over the city into their assigned areas. then almost immediately, you started hearing sirens, and then tear gas yuck, right around later on in the morning,
the mass arrests began. >> your description of the planning in the predawn events of that day when you were just talking about, this is from washington d.c. police department film on the may day protests. it's called the whole world is watching. >> monday's tactics call for massive civil disobedience at 21 selected targets. targets were broken into two areas, traffic circles and bridges. may day leaders felt that if these were blocked during early morning rush hour, government business would be stopped. i >> we are going to see to it that the thousands of government workers, who have a right to go to work peacefully are not affected by those few militants who in the name of demonstrating for peaceable abroad presume that they have the right to break the piece at home.
i [noise] >> predawn washington was quiet. i >> will start working, on the back very shortly. >> keeping the bridges clear of demonstrators was assigned to federal troops, allowing more policeman to be assigned to strategic demonstration targets. at 4:30 am, in bound commuter traffic on washington bridges was heavy but flowing normally as federal employees sought to avoid rush hour disruptions. ♪ ♪ ♪ [noise] >> then at 6 am, police protesters, and commuters
converged. 1000 demonstrators blocked the pond circle. 1000 swarmed onto washington circle. over 1000 more hit georgetown. some saw in busy intersections, taunting police. some threw trash or slashed tires. others eight push cars into the street alarming innocent bystanders on. i thank >> lawrence roberts, you wrote a book about that day. what did you learn about what that was like for the protesters? that interaction with the police? a >> i think what you're watching before was essentially the police version of what happened that day. they released that fell not long after the protest, which let's face it it's essentially
a propaganda film. but it doesn't say is that the tactics that the government and the police used in the nixon administration used turned out to be entirely unconstitutional to suppress the demonstration. and in the end, the federal courts throughout virtually every single arrest that was made not just that day but the subsequent two days after, that 12,000 people and all were taken into custody, were kept in detention without charges. the police said launch particularly on the first day a dragnet, where they arrested people that had been sitting in the streets but anyone who looked like they might have been a protester. if they had long hair and were wearing hippie style clothing. so thousands of people who were swept up by the first day, hadn't been breaking any rules or laws at all. that kind of a complete sort of
throwing out by the courts the rejection of all the tactics that were used, a violation of civil duties and fourth amendment rights, is not addressed at all in the police version of events. but in my book i try to show a 360-degree view of that day. i tried to show the white house point of view of what was going on inside the police department, inside the justice department, as well as inside the demonstrations. it was fascinating to me, and it was a history that i felt needed to be revived because it really was almost a forgotten moment, when you had all these forces of the sixties in early seventies in america, the ones that characterized this tumultuous decade, all clashing
in washington at the same time. as i note in the book, a lot of nixon's reaction to may day and the decision to bend or break constitutional rules was really sowing the seeds of ultimately the demise of the administration, and the watergate scandal essentially began on may day. >> let's go to john in new york, john you are in washington that day. >> yes i had organized group from indianapolis as we all went to the intersection that we had been assigned and were very quickly arrested. we were detained, we were taken to the coliseum, but we were never actually charged with anything. we were held for 24 hours or longer, until we were finally
all released. >> john, what made you come to washington? >> the war i. vietnam was not hidden as effectively as later wars were. we knew what was going on, it happened every day. this was after kent state and jackson state. this was after a -- which meant the invasion in the extension of the war in the cambodia. -- change the color of the corpse. is there weren't so many americans die but, there were still tens of thousands of vietnamese dying, and vietnamization failed with the effort to invade laos, but still people were dying and the war was going on and on. people were very frustrated at that point that traditional means of protest would not be sufficient. >> after you got arrested, john,
what was your thinking? >> well, as i was saying it was very odd, we were bundled off on buses to the coliseum, but we're never actually charged, unless he went through another line voluntarily. my feeling, obviously we had not stopped the government which was the rhetoric at the time, but we had used nonviolence to show the people were very serious about this. i had started out in the civil rights movement in mississippi, in the summer project, so i was very familiar with both in theory and practice of nine violent action. i think it was a great manifestation of that the peoples seriousness. there was some craziness that took place a gather later in the day after the initial round of arrests, but on the whole,
it was a very well disciplined way of showing your conviction that life should not be going on as normal while the war was going on. >> john, do you think you and others were successful that day? >> yes and no. we were successful in giving a different kind of emphasis. i think larry's right and not the veteran starting out and then the mass protests that happen on saturday all had expressed the strong sentiment in the country and it helped to intensify that sentiment. i think we got some counter reaction of course among because it all of these create some havoc negativity, but it was such an overwhelming manifestation of peoples seriousness that it led to people going on and working locally and pushing for
congress to stop funding the war, and ultimately that is would contributed most to ending the war. >> all right, lawrence roberts. >> right i think that is right. most people came out of this extreme conviction that it was time to do something to end the war. i think that the response of the nixon administration was informed a lot by what had happened in the previous weeks of these 1971 protests. i mentioned that the speech that nixon gave an april 7th had given him a bump in approval, and approval of his handling of the war, but as soon as these protests started, especially with the vietnam veterans, the white house was getting alarmed because they noticed that public opinion was going in the other direction. they were worried that a really successful shutdown of the city
by protesters would put even more pressure on them. it would make them look weak. so nixon and his men started holding these secret war councils to try to figure out how to undermine the made a protest. as i mentioned, one of the things that they did was revoke this capping permit and bust up the campground where everyone had spent the weekend. nixon also, over the initial objections of the pentagon, called in 10,000 active duty military to washington. the pentagon wanted him to properly invoke the insurrection act. we seen some echo of this during the trump administration but the president ordered that the troops be brought down in a public proclamation because he did not really want to show what he was doing behind the scenes. and then they infiltrated many of the groups that were
planning the protests. there were wiretaps, they were undercover agents. i told a story of one undercover agent in the book who was embedded with the vietnam veterans. a lot what of things of things that and engine break-ins, and a lot of things that later on were employed against nixon's political enemies or political opponent in the 1972 election. that is of course what's got his operatives caught at watergate. >> we were talking about the may day 1971 anti-vietnam war protests. today our camera is at the vietnam memorial here at the national mall in washington d.c.. we have cameras looking out along the wall of vietnam memorial, with a view of the washington monument in the background. you talked about the camping out, so where did that take place in relation to the wall
and where were these law enforcement? where was the extra law enforcement put in washington d.c.? >> the campground was not far from where the vietnam war memorial is. essentially it was in this area of the west potomac park between jefferson and lincoln memorials on some playing feels another parkland along the river's edge. you could see the washington monument in the distance. so it was very much a feeling of being near the heart of washington. when the police deployed and the military deployed on the morning of may 3rd. rush hour. they were sent all over the city. now you may have noticed in the film that the police produced to show it a great job they were doing, they had a picture of this manual, this manual that was in a way secretive.
it was handed out by the protesters of may day, and it was reprinted in college newspapers and so the police had a sense of where a very good sense of where people would go and they deployed their forces accordingly. the 10,000 military who came to town but primarily by bridges and to guard the massive prisoners who the police took who took to a practice field outside robert robert f. kennedy memorial stadium. which had a chain link fence around it. you pack thousands of people in there. later on as john said people were trucked over to the washington coliseum. which was an inside arena. >> let's go to mike who is also protester that day. mike in wheeling west virginia thank you for calling in. >> what i would like to say
first of all, i was there, i went into the service in may sorry march 10th of 1965. i got out march 10th 1969. i was four years in the service. i was in southeast asia. and what i would like to say is all the soldier it was their right and i enlisted and i got my notice but i enlisted. and the soldiers had a right to do what they did. but what i would like to say is the reason i went there, was because of nixon. i could not vote until i was 21. fortunately i was three days before the election was up in 1968. and i was able to vote and i voted for nixon, because he promised us and he swore to the soldiers he was going to end the war and he killed another 30,000. that is why i went there. however i was in the back and i didn't get arrested, i was minding my own business. i was with the people that i
served with. but the main reason i went there is because nixon did not tell us the truth and the war was not a good war to start with. and that's how i feel about it. and most of the guys that i served with that when we got out of high school we didn't have a choice then. unless your parents had money to send you to college, which my folks didn't, so i enlisted. i serve my country and i'm proud of it, but i did protest because the war was not right. >> well your thoughts after listening to mike? >> there is so much disaffection within the military. i mean you know, hundreds of thousands of young men volunteer or were drafted to go to vietnam and i think it is safe to say that most of them felt that when they went they were doing something honorable. they were there to contain communism as they were told by the government. and once they got there they
fought bravely to keep themselves and their bodies alive themselves in their bodies alive, and that was just simply the way it went. after being there, many soldiers and folks who are there came to believe that what they had been told about the war was not right. that there was no love for the south vietnamese regime by its own people. and that it wasn't strictly a question of a communist takeover of vietnam. but you know to some extent an internal conflict between guerrillas who are pro communist and north vietnamese army versus the south vietnamese. and what's the purpose of the mission of the american military it was not clear. and that the war itself did not feel like it was winnable
without massive amount of destruction of north yet not. and most people were not willing to engage in it. >> paul was also a protester here in washington this day, so paul how old are you? >> i was only 21. exactly 21. >> how is your experience that day? >> well i had met the vietnam vets against war, and that got me on the common. about a month before i was with john kerry, bonnie rate and myself and my brother we do the protest for the vets, on the boston common. with those people got to go to washington, and we stay three days at the howard johnson hotel. we played at american university the night before. with ralph nader, and myself and my brother and then jay guile's played.
pro cultural played outside of the embassy there. the next night we were on the big stage and we played that night, i have pictures of phil oakes he was my hero at the time, and the next day when they shut the power and the storm trooper started coming, we got to play again because i went to the promoter and said they are leaving one microphone on, and we are the acoustic group, so we played with one microphone. we played for about an hour while the fighting was going on and the protesting. we are finally forced off the stage, we threw our instruments to the people in the crowd, and we jumped into the crowd and we escaped. we flew to university of massachusetts, and they didn't know about the fighting. it wasn't on the news that the stormtroopers came, it wasn't on the news that everybody got beat up and got arrested. so when we got two university of massachusetts, we were just musicians we were reporters. and thank you for your book
lawrence, it's the first time i got to read about what happened, and i'm telling people about what happened and i'm still a musician and i'm still talking about the war. it was only because my friends got hurt and got killed and suffered there that i got involved with protesting it. and i protested for the whole time until that war ended, then i kept playing. i was a college performer and we played with richie havens many time. thanks for having me on. and thanks for writing the book. >> paul before you go, do you remember what was the rationale to half iraq concert during these protests? do you remember what you were told? >> well i wrote two songs, one song was called the unknown soldier, that with my brother we wrote another song about the massacre. and that's the song on the boston common, that got us there. >> and what do they say to you? if >> they finally heard a song
that was about the way they felt. this was not a song that was on the radio, and this wasn't a song that was a record, these were songs that we played and we enjoyed. >> we had to sing it. and we were trying to make a hit record, we never recorded the songs and we never tried to promote them. it was just the way we felt and i think they heard that. and it wasn't a lot of bands like giles who came along. aerosmith those type of bands they don't get involved with protests in boston. so we are one of the few groups in boston that said we have to stop this. >> paul can you sing for us at least tell us some of the lyrics of the songs? >> sure you're no soldier, you're a man like me, so why can't you look and why can't you see. and just walk away and remember this day for the rest of your life. and i have. >> lawrence roberts? >> fascinating. you know one thing that sometimes gets lost about these
protests. and you brought up greta, this notion that it was the you know the culture at the time it wasn't just radical prompt politics there was also the counterculture. it was sort of a cultural revolution going on in the late sixties and throughout the sixties and early seventies. so when renée davis decided to push for this idea of mass civil disobedience in d.c. as a way to try to attract more people, he set up a all day rock concert that would start on saturday may 1st, and go through sunday may 2nd. that was an order to set up for the may 3rd protest. so there were groups like linda ronstadt she was there, charlie mingles was there. and the opening group for the made a concert at the west potomac park was the beach boys and they were on sort of a
revival tour. they showed up and played and then bands played all through tonight. all afternoon on saturday, and all through the night. there were thousands or tens of thousands of people out there with their blankets and sleeping bags and lean to's. it was at 6 am on sunday morning that well one of the bands was still on, a ban called clyde jones. it was a good local bc rock band. the police suddenly swept into the park with their helmets and night sticks and said everybody has to leave here by noon. they gave them until noon to clear out. no doubt, the sort of cultural part of things and music was one of the reasons why people gathered, and so many people gathered in that park. the government had believed that, government informants who are embedded with anti war groups, at the behest of nixon and the justice department,
believed about four 5000 people would show up for may day, but instead there were nearly 50,000. that was part of what triggered this when i think is an overreaction. >> and neil was one of those 50,000. neil from round rock texas, we'll hold where you? >> i was 18 the time. >> why did you come to washington? >> basically, because i learned that the government had lied to the american people. lied about the basis for the war, and i was terribly angry about that. i educated myself and decided that i had to go. >> what was it like when you got here? now >> i stayed with friends in georgetown, and got assigned to dupont circle as a new yorker. and having been in on the
protests, i had the model that people would be warned that if you don't leave you will be arrested. and it was nothing like that. the police just swept in, and dragged yes up and quite it was before we knew it was going on. >> and when you were grabbed by the police, tell us about that. what did they do? where did they put you? >> well they initially put us in the prison yard. the d.c. prison. and it was a rather surreal evening. as the sun went down, they distributed blankets and rolling tobacco. so i'm looking around at all these long hairs in blankets, smoking what look like joints, and it portrayed one thing and
then i brought my eyes up and there were guard towers. people with shotguns and barbed wire. it was quite a shocker that way. the how did you, how are you released what were you told? >> we were told that we could post a ten dollar appearance fee and get a court case number that would let us out. >> did you return to court? >> this was when we were being held at the stadium. the issue there was there were many people in the crowd who couldn't be processed, because they had warrants out, so in an active solitary solidarity,
nobody wanted to be processed. but we learned that if you got a court number on a three by five card that was told to take it out. >> why what would happen? >> he walked down the hallway, show the guard that they are giving you this index card, and you are outdoors. >> then neil, did you return to court at a later date? >> no. funny the way it worked out. jeffrey miller have been dead for a year to the day, so i signed out as jeffrey miller and when the ac owe you subsequently received a judgment that would give us a payment for the illegal arrest,
i was not able to receive any that payment. i was not jeffrey miller, but it was a memorial to him. >> okay. lawrence roberts, filling the lines here from what you heard from neil. >> yes very interesting. your experience not much different from many thousands of others. i should say that when the police swept through the streets on that monday and arrested thousands of people, they filled every jail cell in the city. some gel souls that were supposed to hold a few people could hold a dozen. many people could not even sit down, but kept there for hours. many were kept and taken in the jail yard as you described, others others were taken to the overflow, this football practice field, and many ended up in this arena. and many people, thousands of people, maybe most of them were swept up while they were not
violating any rules at all so there were no charges lodged against them. many of those folks when they asked their name subsequently by the police when they were processing folks in their as china create some kind of record that bees decor and arrest records, on the advice of themselves, and the advice of some lawyers who got in there, they were giving false names. so there are lot of people who gave their names, richard nixon or john mitchell, or in the case of meals case, someone who is maybe not around anymore. years and years later, the aclu and others had filed all the civil suits on behalf of the protesters violation the rights, and the courts ordered millions of dollars paid in compensation to these demonstrators. the aclu set out to try to find people who deserve these checks. some of the folks who were
arrested during those three days to cut checks for as much as 3200 dollars. others just got their ten dollar collateral back. but they couldn't find hundreds of these folks because they had been either been given false names or couldn't be located. >> james in, bakersfield, california, you are next. >> yes, good morning. i was ten years old at the time, and now i am a 30-year veteran. i always thought then and i still think today that the vietnam war was a noble effort against communism to contain and to defeat it, but it was not carried out very well. but the timeframe of may, i always thought from the history books as i understood it to corresponding with the communist revolution, and the may day celebrations that are carried out around the world for that. i noticed red cover of your
book and i saw the one protester in the police video carrying around a red flag. so that was my main question is i thought that was why may day was chosen, that timeframe. the other item i will say real quick i, you have a generation that was protesting against authority, but now of the on the other end of it, 50 years later, you have this generation who are now generally at the end of their professional lives. the kind of in power and they seem to be more pro-authority and pro centralized government. one of mr. robertson could comment on that also. thank you. >> interesting question thank you. international may day was international workers day. i don't know if it was invented by the communists but it was mentors international workers
day. there is no real direct connection between the may day protests and that other than may was looked upon as one of the best times. spring is the best time to carry out a protest like this for weather reasons and things like that, and also because as it was coming after this very controversial invasion of laos that nixon had put into place. i don't think there is a communist underpinning to all of this. as to your question as to what happens to people 50 years after their rebellious youth, i think every individual story is different. the baby boomer generation like any other splintered into a lot of other different things and people carry within them what they would call a volleys of the sixties. some people didn't change and
move towards a more conservative stance, but i think it's hard to generalize about people who were protesting back then. >> garrett, in providence, rhode island was one of those protesters. gareth, whole real? tell us your story. >> i guess i was 19 years old. i was not arrested. i was walking around the gw campus area where police had instructions to arrest anyone who did not have an i.d.. i was a former student and so was the person i was with, so i had my i.d. with me so i was not arrested. he did not and he was arrested. also i read lawrence is book and first of all, kudos. it is not only gives an excellent understanding of may day, but a excellent understanding of the anti war movement in general. i've a few questions for him. obviously you had in-depth interviews of a lot of it
people from the government side, like the chief of police in washington. i wonder, were they anxious to talk to you? reluctant to talk to you? how do they see it now, or they see it the way most of us see it as a police over action or do they still justify it in your mind? were there any people on what i am calling the government side who you would like to talk to but who weren't willing to talk to you? >> thank you garrett for the kind words. yes, i think your experience that they, have people sweeping through the george washington university and other university campuses arresting anyone without an i.d., that was certainly something that was common. in terms of people talking about that time, i think unfortunately many of the people who were central to the
decision-making back in the day, for example the deputy attorney general, richard cline -- he's not around anymore. jared wilson, police chief of washington was around and was very generous with his time in discussing with me all of the events of those days and what was behind is this decision to ultimately follow nixon's orders to do mass arrests. he maintained that he had done the job he was hired to do that day and despite the government lawsuits that were successful against the police and against the government, he didn't express regret as for doing what he thought he had to do to keep the city open that day. i think he was a man of integrity who was caught between a paranoid white house,
worried white house and his desire to keep the streets from becoming violent. >> leading up to that day, while folks are camping out in washington, d.c., what was the camping experience like? thousands of people in close proximity proximity to each other. we one of them? what was it like? >> no i was not in that camera that weekend in may. it was, from all accounts, it was like a festival. first of all, you had music that went on for hours and hours. it had the characteristics of some rock festivals of the sixties. people were playing games. they had frisbees, they had dogs, people brought flutes and guitars and replaying in their tents and lean twos. it was not an angry protest in
that sense it all. it was more of a sort of a festival, and people at the time, the technology for music was portable cassette players. they had been around for a few years so people would bring tapes and trade them and play various music of the sixties in their tents. that was sort of the atmosphere that was going on when sunday morning, suddenly they looked up in the midst of the dawn and saw hundreds of helmeted police coming towards them to push them out of the park. >> our guest, lawrence roberts noting that 50,000 came to d.c., 12,000 arrested, the largest master rests in american history. >> ruth and oxford, california, good morning to you. >> good morning.
i did go to the protests in washington, d.c., and i remember the beach boys, but i was not at that protest. after all the things that happened, including kent state shootings the year before and the subsequent national student strike, after all of that, mr. nixon said business as usual. and i felt so i dejected i guess, because it seemed like all this effort was put forth, but yet it wasn't getting through. >> i'm gonna stop at that point. lawrence roberts? >> one of the enduring questions of this time is too wet extent to the anti war movement, the vietnam and the
war movement stop the war, shorten the war, constrain the military? you in the war, and historians debate this, because it is hard to say what would have happened if there were no anti war movement. i think there's no question if you listen to the nixon tapes and if you look at the documents, if you study the johnson administration as well, there is no question the anti war movement, the domestic opposition to the war constrained the military from doing a more intense options, more serious invasions of north vietnam, of using more weapons of war, of even potentially easing tactical nuclear weapons, which was on the table at one point. there's no question that the domestic opposition to the got in the way that. there's no question that the anti-war movement was at least
partly if not largely responsible for lyndon johnson's decision not to seek another term in 1968. a during the period that we are talking about, the spring of 1971, that was the time when richard nixon and his national security adviser, henry kissinger decided to soften the terms in their secret talks with hanoi about how to end the war. up to that point the u.s. had insisted that no date for a pull out of u.s. troops could be set, and less north vietnamese troops would also pull out of south in the enamel the same time. they dropped that demand during this period. the juxtaposition makes me think that there's no question that the intensity of the anti war movement had something to do with that decision. so it is clearly all the marching, all the i protest the
at the world movement did, all the sentiment in the country, wasn't just people in the streets. the polls at that point were showing that most americans thought the war was wrong. a plurality of americans thought that if the cost of getting out of the war that the communists the communist would have a pardon government and a coalition government, that was something to do in order to end the war. >> what was the lasting impact do you think of may day, that weekend and that monday? >> i think it had a fundamental effect on politics and government. first of all, all of the lawsuits thing came out of may day that established the rights of descent both on the streets of d.c. and elsewhere as i think chilled the possibility of more kinds of illegal mass
arrests in the country. the cases that came out of the are still cited in legal manuals all over the country. politically, it had a huge effect on nixon in a sort of strange way in the sense that it stoked his dark side. it ended up producing all kinds of activities that turned against his political in 1972. the famous wiretapping that ended up leading to wire gate. >> the book is made a 1971, a white house at war, a revolt in the streets and the untold history of america's biggest mass arrest. lawrence roberts, thank you very much for the conversation this morning. we appreciate. >> thank you gratified having me. >> and throughout today's conversation about those may day protests, you've been seeing video of the protests. we want to think kirk parkinson, engineered c-span, who shot
some of what you see today and a lot of cities. it's a thank you to him. look at one of our cities tour visits. >> the history of gaming in nevada, you can say in a sense, begins primarily in reno. the northern part of the state was predominant to up to the 1950's. you have to remember las vegas wasn't incorporated until 1905.