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In 1961 president Kennedy decided to send American troops to Vietnam to stop the spread of Communism and to show the United States' strength of resolve. At the time he did not know the turmoil he would bring to his own country. The United States was split between those who believed it was our part to get involved in Vietnam and those who thought it was none of our business. As the war continued people's opinions intensified, especially student's. Youth protests during the 1960's changed the way many Americans viewed the Vietnam War. In the early 1960's protests first became a way of change for the civil rights movement.
Then as men started going off to war it became a way of displaying activism. Liberal cities with big universities were the first to experience the antiwar movement. The cities of Ann Arbor, Bloomington, Chicago, East Lansing, Lawrence, Madison, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis saw the movement in full effect (Anderson 4-5). Some people believed that the protesters were a disgrace for betraying their own country (Dudley 83). "Teach-ins" became a way of educating students about what was really happening in Vietnam. Speeches, songs, discussions, and seminars helped get the students involved at the "teach-ins".
After the first "teach in" occurred on March 24, 1965, at the University of Michigan, hundreds more started taking place within a few weeks. All the administration could do was to send for government officials called "truth teams". When that did not work, the government realized they should not reveal their policies to the public (Dougan and Weiss 87-88). The students from the University of California at Berkely felt like a minority when no one took them seriously at their campus demonstration in September 1965 because of their long hair and ragged clothes (Kent 74). Many youth joined organizations that were against the war. They would go to protests such as the one that took place on April 17, 1965. The 20,000 protesters that were present in Washington that day showed how the peace movement was growing. A few days later, thirty-three antiwar organizations came together to form the National Coordinating Committee To End the War in Vietnam.
Another group, Vietnam Day Committee, attempted to stop troop trains but were unsuccessful. Both groups joined together to lead demonstrations in ninety-three cities, in what was called the "International Days of Protest (Dougan and Weiss)." The "International Days of Protest" that took place on October 15 and 16 in 1965 included 100,000 activists that participated not only in the cities but on college campuses as well. The way of protest in each of these places varied. In Madison, eleven people were arrested when they tried to make a citizen's arrest on a commander of a local air force base by accusing him of "war crimes." At a University of Colorado football game, students flashed antiwar slogans to the fans at halftime. Students in Michigan held a 48 hour peace vigil and also picketed the local draft board. New York had a parade in which 20,000 people were involved in and a "speak out" that 300 people attended at New York's arms induction center (Anderson 141).
The Students for a Democratic Society was one of the best known and largest organizations. With Tom Hayden, from the University of Michigan, as their president and spokesman, many people who were activists in or out of the group were inspired. The members said that college students can change society by acting against racism, nuclear weapons, and other wrong doings (Dudley 118-19). The Students for a Democratic Society usually were a nonviolent group, until 1968 when the Weatherman Faction, a group of radicals, started a terrorist campaign against the United States government. In October they bombed a CIA building, an army recruiting office, and a couple of police stations (Hoskyns 189). That was not the only time activists and protests got violent.
A riot broke out in Chicago at the National Democratic Convention. The police and 7.5 thousand United States troops attacked the demonstrators (Hoskyns 189). In the following years the number of violent protests increased. Trying to escape the draft became an organized action (Hoskyns 187). At the Whitehall Street induction center in New York City, a crowd of 400 picketed. A man by the name of Christopher Kearns, along with some others burned their draft cards in a pot. A photograph happened to be taken of him doing this and was put in "Life" magazine.
The picture influenced many others to burn their draft cards, but also inspired legislation to make a new law. For destroying a draft card or Selective Service documents, it would cost someone a $10,000 fine and up to five years in prison (Anderson 139). In October of 1965, the most momentous strike of the year took place. David Miller, a 22 year old pacifist, broke the newly made law by burning his draft card, and was sent to prison. After that incident, numerous draft resistance groups popped up all over the United States with the attitude of "Not With My Life You Don't," which they would usually display on a button (Dougan and Weiss 88). Burning draft cards was not the only way thousands of youths escaped the draft. They also faked homosexuality, madness, injury, flunking mental tests, or by staying in school or getting married, others simply fled the country(Anderson 140).
On April 15, 1967, the activists wanted to make a point that protesters were not just radicals and political idealists but were ordinary men and women. There were 300,000 demonstrators made up of all different kinds of people from Quakers to students. Even mothers with their babies were in New York City for the biggest antiwar demonstration in American history. Two months later a committee organized a plan to end the war. All over the country students, ministers, housewives, and young professors talked to their neighbors about their outlook on the war. They also organized antiwar groups, passed out leaflets, and discussed and lectured about the war.
Over two months since the plan began, support for the war dropped 12% (Dougan and Weiss 88). Though the antiwar protesters changed the minds of prowar people, the draft did not stop and neither did the number of American deaths in Vietnam. Protest and education were not working, so antiwar activists decided to attack the main powers of the military at induction centers and the Pentagon. On October 17, 1967, ....
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