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THE RECORD TURNS 100: Washington Demonstrations Begin as Nixon Vacations in Maryland - April 27, 19

This week in The Record history...

On April 17, 2013

 

In celebration of 100 years of service to Buffalo State, The Record will re-print
one former article in each of its 10 issues this semester, chronicling the paper's
rich history since its establishment in 1913. This week, we feature an article that
appeared in Vol. 73, Issue No. 51, published on Wednesday, April 27, 1971.
 
The Vietnam War met its fair share of opposition through the late 1960s
and early 70s, sparking demonstrations across the nation. Resistance was
especially prevalent at college campuses, leading to thousands of arrest and, in
cases like the Kent State Riot in 1971, death. Forty-two years ago, The Record
dispatched a reporter, James Sloan, to Washington to provide coverage of the
demonstrations held at the nation's capitol in April of 1971. The story titled,
"Washington Demonstrations Begin as Nixon Vacations in Maryland," is the first
in a series of reports filed by Sloan detailing his first-hand accounts of the week
of historic protests.
 
--
 
The main feeling that I get from Washington is one of complete inadequacy.
 
There is so very much going on, and it is impossible for one person to even
begin to see and record it. As I sit here writing this, about 150 Quakers have
been arrested in front of the White House, and the remaining 75 have crossed
Pennsylvania Ave. to the park, where they will continue their vigil for seven more
hours, until midnight. Nixon, of course, is vacationing at Camp David, Maryland.
 
Across the street is the biggest, whitest building I have ever seen. They must
have just painted it. There are about 100 cops in front of it, with about 1,000
people across the street just watching.
 
On our side of Pennsylvania Ave. is an amazing assortment of individuals: old,
young, Black, White, Quakers, Asian, etc. They all seem to have really come
together.
 
I hope that people keep in mind that whatever is read in the RECORD from
Washington will not begin to approach what has happened, what is about to
happen, and what it all means.
 
About the only thing that can be said for the solidarity of the people, all the
people, is that one doesn't have to speak to relate to one's feelings.
 
There are probably a lot of agents here, though. It seems that every time I start
to write, someone suddenly stands behind me. I solved that problem by sitting
directly in front of a monument.
 
Definitely the biggest thing that has occurred so far has been the Vietnam
Veterans protest of the war, called Dewey Canyon 111. 'Vietnam Veterans'
is misleading, however, since there were participating veterans from Korea,
WWI, and WWII. Dewey Canyon was the army code name for some Laotian
misadventure a few years ago, at the time when we 'definitely' didn't have any
troops there.
 
Dewey Canyon 111 began on Monday, April 19 and lasted until Friday, April 23.
Many of the vets remained, however, for the May 1 festivities.
 
Prof. Sidney Peck, a national coordinator for the PCPJ (Peoples Coalition for
Peace and Justice), summed up the result of Dewey Canyon 111 by saying "it
touched the conscience of America."
 
On Monday, about 1,500 vets marched to Arlington National Cemetery for a
memorial service. After the service day, along with a delegation of Gold Star
Mothers, a few wives, and others were refused entry to the cemetery. They
wished to place two wreaths, commemorating American and Vietnamese war
dead.
 
On Tuesday, they were admitted. The official explanation for their being refused
the previous day was a face saving, "We didn't know you wanted to get in."
 
Meanwhile, Chief Justice Berge has signed a court order banning them from
sleeping at the mall. On Wednesday, the rest of the Court affirmed Berger's 'no
sleeping' injunction, and the vets were advised that they could stay legally simply
by staying awake. They voted, however, to go to sleep in direct opposition to
the order, which prompted the Washington Star to write a headline, Viet Vets
Overturn Supreme Court.'
 
That night, the vets were visited by sixteen congressmen and senators, including
Dellums, Abzug, Kennedy, Javits, Edwards of California, and Chisholm.
 
These people expressed complete support for the vets and their protest, and
offered sleeping accommodations for them in their own offices.
 
Earlier, Rep. Mike Harrington (D-Cal.) gave a dinner for the vets from his district
and Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Cal.) instructed his staff to extend all privileges to the
veterans.
 
Congress is not without its bastards, however, as Senator Myers of Indiana said
the veterans appearances were a "disgrace to the uniform," had capitol police
remove a delegation from his office.
 
Otherwise, support for the vets was overwhelming. One person donated 500
pounds of spaghetti, many came with money, and many others brough food.
 
Most of these people were middle-aged inhabitants from Washington.
 
VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) in Boston, Mass., gave a check for $75 for the
bail fund for them. One middle-aged man came up and said "I don't agree with
your politics, but here's a sleeping bag anyway. You might get cold."
 
On Thursday, 107 vets were arrested for singing on the steps of the Supreme
Court building. One of the Metropolitan police remarked that "what's a cop got
against a man in uniform? You tell me! We don't want to arrest these boys.
 
They're vets just like us. Now don't go telling Jerry that!"
 
The Jerry he referred to was Chief of Police Jerry Wilson, and he was talking
about an arrested vet with the same last name as his.
 
They were later to be acquitted, however, in possibly a rare moment of
awareness by the Nixon administration.
 
On Friday, the last day of the Dewey Canyon 111, the vets marched up to the
Capitol building. Jack Smith, an ex-marine from Connecticut, read a declaration
which said, "We now strip ourselves of those medals of courage and heroism...
those citations for gallantry and exemplary service... We cast away as symbols
of shame, dishonor and inhumanity."
 
Upon its completion, an estimated 2,000 veterans tossed their medals, many of
them purple hearts, over the fence erected to protect the Capitol building.
 
One elderly man, a veteran of WWI, said he was completely in support of the
protestors, and he threw this medals over the fence. Congressman Dellums
threw over his own citation from the Korean War.
 
Since I have mentioned other local politicians, it is only fair that I record the
response of another New York politician.
 
In talking to a veteran, an ex-war correspondent, I learned that when the vets
were in the capitol seeking out politicians, James Buckley, Senator from New
York, could not be located.

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