Protesters march in Seattle's first major demonstration against the war in Vietnam on October 16, 1965.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 5/22/2003
  • Essay 4179
On October 16, 1965, between 350 and 400 citizens marched in downtown Seattle to protest the escalating U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. This first major local demonstration against the war was organized by Seattle Committee to End the War in Vietnam (SCEWV) and the University of Washington chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Demonstrators marched under police escort down 4th Avenue from the Federal Courthouse at Spring Street to a noon rally at Westlake Mall, where scuffles broke out with hostile spectators.

Police herded the marchers into two lanes of 4th Avenue, while passing motorists shouted insults and spit on the protesters. Numerous undercover agents were observed photographing the march along its route. At Westlake Center, a hostile crowd surrounded the protesters and drowned out speakers by singing the "Mickey Mouse Club" anthem. A man who identified himself as "Joe Freedom" doused UW professor Paul Brass with red paint. He turned out to be a disgruntled student of Brass's. Some protesters and spectators scuffled briefly as the rally broke up.

The day before the Seattle protest, some 10,000 protesters marched from Berkeley to neighboring Oakland, California, but local police turned them back. Protesters returned on October 16 and were attacked by members of the Hell's Angels motorcycle club. Participants in a large demonstration in New York City were attacked by spectators the same day, but 700 marched in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park without violence.

Sources: Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995) p. 45-46; The Seattle Times, October 17, 1965.

Related Topics:   Firsts | Government & Politics | War & Peace

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