Vietnam War Protest, 1965
Miriam (Cohen) Glickman

[Miriam Glickman was a SNCC activist in Georgia and Mississippi from 1963-1965.]

In 1965, SNCC civil rights workers were growing increasingly concerned about the Vietnam War. Our country was getting into the war without Americans knowing about it. There were almost no newspaper reports or mentions of the war in the mass media. Our government had been unwilling to intervene on behalf of southern civil rights workers, yet was fighting against a third world people on the other side of the world.

Our experiences in the South had taught us to be skeptical of what our government said. President Kennedy used to calm people's concerns about what was going on in the civil rights struggle by saying, "We're watching the situation closely." Indeed, FBI agents were taking notes while civil rights workers were getting beaten up and arrested.

The first large demonstration against the Vietnam war was organized by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the Washington monument on April 17, l965. Reports said 15,000 to 25,000 people attended. SNCC leader, Bob Moses, was one of the speakers.

Still, most Americans were unaware of that our country was getting into a war. So Aug. 9, l965 we held the Assembly of Unrepresented People in Washington DC. About 400 people came to demonstrate and get arrested. We were group made up of current and former southen civil rights workers. We joined with Catholic pacifists from the Northeast who had been inspired by the life and work of Dorothea Day. Our goal was to get press coverage of our demonstration and arrests. We wanted to make the public aware of this war.

At our meeting place, the FBI was there to take each of our pictures. Bob Moses asked us line up to make their job easier, so we did that.

We started marching toward the Capital buildings. The police told us if we marched a street closer to the Capital they would have to arrest us. But we marched closer and they didn't. This was repeated for several streets. The police were clearly reluctant to arrest us. Finally as we approached the grounds of Congress and the Senate buildings, the police prevented us from getting closer. We sat down. We were arrested.

I'd heard of numerous incidents of police brutality, and seen friends come out of jail with swollen faces. This was my first time witnessing it. An officer took his billy club and struck a demonstrator who was sitting down.

I remember that in jail the silverware was initialed DCDC (Dept. of Corrections of the District of Columbia).

We were in jail a couple of days and everyone was eager to get out. Finally, over a period of many hours they began to release us. We observed that the young women who had boyfriends, especially if the boyfriend was in a leadership position, were among the first to get out.

In the short term we were successful. The Washington Post devoted two full pages to our protest and the war. In the long run of course we weren't. The war escalated and continued.

Copyright © Miriam (Cohen) Glickman, 8/28/04

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