Politicians and columnists often busied themselves over the last ten years by analyzing the latest Washington demonstrations, reviewing past demonstrations, making comparisons and evaluations. The general conclusion seemed to be that a few demonstrations were positive,
constructive, good, and productive; that others were negative, destructive, bad, and -- worst of all -- counterproductive. The only objective standard for these distinctions was whether or not there was violence.
There were at least six major Washington marches against the war in Vietnam, each under somewhat different leadership, each with different immediate objectives, each reflecting a different mood.
The first major demonstration took place on October 21, 1967. It was largely spontaneous and unplanned, led or at least spoken for by clergymen and writers. Some fifty thousand persons participated, most of them young and, according to newspaper reports, nearly all of them white. More than one hundred and fifty were seized by police. Among those arrested were a number of adults, including the well-known author Norman Mailer and David Dellinger, chairman of the Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. The principal target of the march was the Pentagon. Most of the marchers viewed their protest as a symbolic confrontation with the Pentagon. But some small groups tried to rush an entrance there and were repulsed by military police using rifle butts.
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara spent most of the day at the Pentagon. President Johnson reportedly worked in the White House.
The second major protest took place on November 15, 1969. Estimates of the number of marchers ranged from two hundred and fifty thousand to well over three hundred thousand. Most were young.