Protest: The Banners of Dissent

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The Pentagon is the most formidable redoubt in official Washington. Squat and solid as a feudal fortress, it hunkers in a remote reclaimed Virginia swamp that used to be called Hell's Bottom, across the Potomac River from the spires, colonnades and domes of the federal city. Through its two tiers of subbasements and five aboveground stories, windowless corridors weave like badger warrens. The bastion of America's military establishment not only houses the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a mint of high brass, but is also a beehive of bureaucracy where some 10,800 civilians shuffle routinely through the daily load of paperwork. It is actually five giant buildings, concentrically interconnected and braced one upon another.

Against that physically and functionally immovable object last week surged a self-proclaimed irresistible force of 35,000 ranting, chanting protesters who are immutably opposed to the U.S. commitment in Viet Nam. By the time the demonstration had ended, more than 200 irresistibles had been arrested, 13 more had been injured, and the Pentagon had remained immobile. Within the tide of dissenters swarmed all the elements of American dissent in 1967: hard-eyed revolutionaries and skylarking hippies; ersatz motorcycle gangs and all-too-real college professors; housewives, ministers and authors; Black Nationalists in African garb—but no real African nationalists; nonviolent pacifists and nonpacific advocates of violence—some of them anti-anti-warriors and American Nazis spoiling for a fight.

Acid & Acrimony. The demonstration began under a crystalline noonday sky at the Lincoln Memorial. It took on special impact by climaxing a week of antiwar protest across the nation. Beneath the marbled gaze of Lincoln's statue, red and blue Viet Cong flags mingled with signs affirming that "Che Guevara Lives," posters proclaiming "Dump Johnson" and asking "Where Is Oswald When We Need Him?" The meeting had hardly begun before three Nazis were arrested for jumping a British trade-union orator who criticized U.S. involvement in Viet Nam.

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