"March on the Pentagon" Reunion

After suffering through the media surrounding the Woodstock and "Summer of Love" reunions, I never wanted to hear about another '60s re-play again. However, a gathering of a decidedly non-commercial sort takes place on October 25 in Washington, D.C., when anti-war activist Mike Garrison leads a reunion of the 1967 March on the Pentagon. To help publicize the event, Garrison has reprinted the "Pentagon Special Issue" of the Washington Free Press, originally published immediately after the March. At the time, the Free Press was D.C.'s pre-eminent underground newspaper and whether you're out to rekindle memories, or simply looking to get a handle on what the '60s were really about, it's a priceless artifact. The March itself is widely credited as definitively placing the anti-Vietnam War movement at the forefront of public consciousness, as well as being the first step in advancing the movement itself from mere protest to active resistance. As the Free Press makes clear however, the 30,000 that showed up for the protest were hardly a cohesive body. Forces ranged from the "Revolutionary Contingent" (of which Garrison was a member) who were determined to storm the walls of the Pentagon and force a dramatic confrontation with soldiers and police, to Allen Ginsberg and the Yippies, who preferred theater over street-fighting, and hoped to levitate the Pentagon and "exorcise and cast out the evil" through Buddhist prayer. Caught in the middle were the elements of the law-abiding and "respectable" Left, who come in for much mockery on the part of the Free Press writers, including one character-defining account of author Norman Mailer seizing the microphone and addressing the crowd: "I'm not here because I like you. It's because I detest that war in Vietnam. It was engineered by a pissing phony, who is my alter ego. I'm the dwarf alter ego of LBJ. I'm as full of shit as he is.""You're a freak," came a voice from the audience."Fuck you," said Mailer.Interspersed with these bon mots are dozens of striking photos -- mostly of club-wielding soldiers wading into the protesters' ranks -- as well as eyewitness accounts of one of the day's most controversial events, the defection of two men from the army to the mass of protesters. To this day, government officials deny such an event ever took place. Conversely, the movement took it as an article of faith, and proof that they going in the right direction. The Free Press gives us several participants who saw one soldier throw down his rifle and helmet and melt into the crowd, and a second do the same, only to be tackled and arrested by military police before he could reach a line of cheering protesters. Columnist Thorne Dreyer sets the stage as the moon rose on the opposing forces:"We began to talk to the troops on the mikes. We said we're on the same side. It's those generals, those officers that make you come out here and stand in the cold and beat on us, when that's not what you really want to do. Look, they're fucking with your lives just like they fuck with ours. It's not you we're against; it's those generals, those guys in the Pentagon who keep making wars. Look at us. We've got food. Grass -- we'd love to turn you on. We're digging each other. And we're doing something we believe in. Won't you join us?"This is journalism of passionate engagement, not passive observation. As with much of that era's underground press, it's overheated, blatantly biased, and often politically irresponsible. Lord knows we could use more just like it today. Reprints of The Washington Free Press Pentagon Special are available for $5 from Mike Garrison, 571 Winlock-Vader Road, Winlock, WA 98596. A Web site dedicated to the upcoming 30-year anniversary of the March and plans for the reunion is at: http://pages.prodigy.net/newhope2k/peace.htm

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