Protest: The Banners of Dissent

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Pale Imitation. On the Eastern Seaboard, echoes of history mingled with the pressures of the present. More than 4,000 demonstrators mustered on the Boston Common before a draft-card burning at which 67 men ignited their cards with a candlestick once owned by William Ellery Channing, the 19th century Unitarian divine and Thoreauvian advocate of civil disobedience, who wrote: "Our first duties are not to our country. We belong first to God and next to our race." Yale Chaplain William Sloane Coffin, a longtime activist who has marched against Southern white racism as well as the war, conceded that many latter-day dissenters disown any religion but upheld their moral right to resist the draft laws.

In New York, where antidraft riots during the Civil War were the most savage in the nation's history, students attempted a replay at Brooklyn College. Leaders of the leftist Students for a Democratic Society and the Communist-lining W.E.B. Du Bois clubs drummed up 1,000 screaming students (total enrollment: 25,000) to protest not only the presence on campus of two Navy recruiting officers but also the refusal of the college administration to allow a rival group to set up a non-recruiting table across from the Navy desk. Soon student fists and police clubs were flailing, and ten students were hustled into a paddy wagon. When the flak had cleared, the Navy recruiters went to work and signed up ten prospective Officer Candidate School members—more than they normally net at other schools in the New York area.

Antiwar v. Anti-U.S. Apart from the sporadic violence that marked the week of protest, the most striking thing about it was the diversity of the groups involved. At California's Claremont Colleges, marchers hiked seriously, silently and serenely through suburban streets, and listened intently to speakers' sober dissection of U.S. foreign policy.

Most other dissenting groups eschewed that style. All told, more than 100 separate organizations took part in the Washington spectacular, while more than 70 others—some of them numbering fewer than a dozen members—were involved across the nation.

With the President's popularity unprecedentedly low, a horde of fragmentary fringe groups emerged from the woodwork like teredos. The political spectrum is broad, if predominantly on the carmine side of the rainbow, covering Trotskyites and Maoists. New Politics and Black Power radicals, Moscow-oriented Communists and the Socialist Workers Party, to nonideological mothers, bishops, pacifists and hippies. "The only thing we agree on is that we are against the Viet Nam war," says a New York Upper East Side Leninist. "The rest of the time we're at each other's throats. It's like a scenario."

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