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The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam was a large demonstration against the United States involvement in the Vietnam War that took place across the United States on October 15, 1969. The Moratorium developed from Jerome Grossman's April 20 1969 call for a general strike if the war had not concluded by October. David Hawk and Sam Brown, who had previously worked on the unsuccessful 1968 presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy, changed the concept to a less radical moratorium and began to organize the event as the Vietnam Moratorium Committee with David Mixner, Marge Sklenkar, John Gage, and others.
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.
The first nationwide Moratorium was followed a month later, on November 15, 1969, by a massive Moratorium march on Washington, D.C. which attracted over 500,000 demonstrators against the war, including many performers and activists on stage at a rally across from the White House. Most demonstrators were peaceful, however a late day conflict broke out at DuPont Circle, and the police sprayed the crowd with tear gas. Over 40,000 people gathered to parade silently down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, where protestors walked single file all evening, each calling out the name of a dead soldier as he or she reached the sidewalk directly in front of the White House. 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 uniformed police officers, some flashing peace symbols on the inside of their jackets in a show of support for the crowd.
President Richard Nixon said about the march, "Now, I understand that there has been, and continues to be, opposition to the war in Vietnam on the campuses and also in the nation. As far as this kind of activity is concerned, we expect it, however under no circumstances will I be affected whatever by it."
At the Moratorium, a quarter of a million demonstrators were led by Pete Seeger in singing John Lennon's new song "Give Peace A Chance."
... success of the November 1969 Moratorium in the United States, a series of citizen groups opposed to the war in Vietnam decided to band together to put on a Moratorium in Australia. Late in 1969 they formed the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign or VMC, which had its own executive, a permanent secretary and a number of affiliated organizations. The group that claims credit for mooting the idea is the Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament (or CICD), a pacifist organization formed out of the Melbourne Peace Congress of 1959. The VMC and CICD certainly shared a number of members, among them Jim Cairns, who was made Chairman, and John Lloyd, secretary of both organizations. The VMC was, however, a much more representative body, including a wide variety of pre-existing Australian groups: Church groups, Trade Unions, radical and moderate student organizations, pacifist groups and anti-war groups. The VMC inherited the CICD's interstate connections with the Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament (its NSW equivalent), the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam (SA) and the Queensland Peace Council for International Co-Operation and Disarmament, giving it a truly national character. The structure of the Moratorium, in Victoria at least, was conflicted - the VMC executive vied for control with the Richmond Town Hall mass public meetings, which could involve up to 600 members and usually went late into the evening, full of arguments over slogans and policies.
Work began quickly to organize the Moratorium. The original date was set for April 1970, but changed soon after to May 8th, 9th and 10th, to coincide with protests in the USA, just days after the killings of four students at Kent State. The demonstration in Melbourne, led by member of Parliament Jim Cairns, had over 100,000 people taking to the streets in Melbourne alone. Across Australia, it was estimated that 200,000 people were involved.
A second Moratorium, attracting smaller crowds, was held in September 1970, and a third in June 1971. The name 'Moratorium' went on to be applied to an Aboriginal rights campaign (the 'Black Moratorium'), and marches for Vietnam went on under the Moratorium sunburst until 1975 in Melbourne.
One insider's view: Marching Nowhere by Ken Hurwitz (ISBN 0-393-07462-5).
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