1965 — The nation-wide Vietnam Day demonstrations on October 15, 1965 were the largest mass protests in U.S. history
The October marches
On October 15 and 16, 1965, The Vietnam Day Committee (VDC) organized an anti-war protest that saw over 5,000 people, mainly students, march from the UC Berkeley campus to the Oakland border. The march was scheduled to proceed to the Oakland Induction Center, but the organizers had no permit to enter Oakland, and the crowd was stopped at the Oakland border by four hundred Oakland Police. The next day, October 16, another march was held along a different route, but was also stopped at the Berkeley/Oakland border.
The VDC was founded by Jerry Rubin, of "don't trust anyone over thirty" fame, and Professor Stephen Smale, of UC Berkeley's Mathematics Department. Prior to the October marches, the VDC had put on May "teach-ins" on the UC Berkeley campus that were said to have attracted upwards of 35,000 students, who heard in detail about the U.S. government's plans for a war in Southeast Asia to "stop the spread of international communism."
Berkeley's teach-in created the momentum for the October march and was just one of many such teach-ins at U.S. colleges and universities held in the Spring and Summer of 1965. The spreading fire of student protest that the FSM at Berkeley had ignited the year before had reached as far as universities such as the University of Michigan and New York's Columbia University, to name two.
The November march
A third march was held by the VDC on November 21, 1965. This time The Berkeley VDC had obtained the necessary permits and was successful in crossing into Oakland and reaching it's rallying point in Defremery Park. The crowd of 10,000 to 15,000 was even bigger than that of October 16. All the photographs shown below were taken on October 15 and 16. I did not photograph the November march.
The VDC's big plans fizzle, but the anti-Vietnam War movement it started continues to grow
The Berkeley VDC and other VDC anti-war groups across the country came up with the concept of the "International Days of Protest," of which the teach-in and the marches were to be a part. The "Days of Protest" idea was designed to encourage anti-war protests around the globe. The somewhat grandiose emphasis on coordinated international protest was successful on a small scale, but it weakened the effectiveness of the VDC in organizing U.S. protests.
The VDC did not attempt to create a national anti-war organization. Rather, they were bent on organizing large mass demonstrations that would draw thousands and garner maximum publicity. I don't doubt that founder Jerry Rubin contributed to this policy, since sensationalism and drama were his stock and trade. The VDC's big US demonstrations did little to educate the American public, which, at the time, overwhelmingly supported the war The VDC dissolved within three years, giving way to local groups organizing their own anti-Vietnam War campaigns.
VDC volunteers canvass Oakland to try to generate community support for the October 15 march.
Early on October 15, 1965, Vietnam Day marchers gather in the dark at UC Berkeley.
March leader Jack Weinberg on the sound truck that led the march to the Oakland border. His dramatic "sit in" in the police car on Sproul Plaza sparked the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in 1964.
The marchers reach Stuart and Shattuck Streets in Berkeley.
Oakland police are there to stop the October 15 march at the Oakland border on Telegraph Avenue
March leader Jack Weinberg made the wise decision to turn the October 15 march around and back into Berkeley.
Peace, joy and love were in the air when the march began again the next day, on October 16. This time the route was along Adeline Street. This photo was taken as the marchers approached Ashby Avenue in Berkeley..
Who doesn't love a parade?
Oakland police stand ready at the Berkeley-Oakland border on October 16
The October 16 standoff at the Berkeley-Oakland border. The marchers still have no permit to march in Oakland. Poor planning by the VDC, or a deliberate tactic?
The crowd at the Berkeley-Oakland border was huge and peaceful and made its point without attempting to enter Oakland without a permit.
"We shall not, we shall not be moved, just like the tree that's standing by the water, we shall not be moved"
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Here comes the cleanup crew
Cleanup is a chore, but necessary