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Chapter Nine: The Defeated – The President and the Protestors

Special Collections and Archives

Chapter Nine: The Defeated – The President and the Protestors

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Special Collections and Archives

Chapter Nine: The Defeated – The President and the Protestors

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Return to the Charles A. Thomas Papers (KSU May 4 Collection)


Blood of Isaac
an e-book by Charles A. Thomas



Chapter Nine: The Defeated; The Protestors.


            President Nixon did not like reading the morning papers; they just upset him.   By now he just had his staff prepare “digests” of what the press had said, and they knew how to make the news palatable to him.   On the morning of May 5, 1970, the advantages of this arrangement must have seemed especially obvious, in terms of sparing the president’s sleep-starved nerves.   He probably did not need to contemplate front page story the Times ran on KentState over a three-column-spread of one of the most famous news photos of all time: a teenaged girl, arms akimbo, face twisted in a scream, as she knelt over Jeff Miller’s fresh corpse.   The girl was not, as many did and still do assume, Allison Krause (who lay dying a few yards away), nor any KentState student, or a student from any college.   A fourteen-year-old runaway who had just been drifting through Kent, her helpless, agonized gesture nonetheless summed up what had happened there – and on that particular morning, name still unknown, she was the most famous woman on Earth.   And few editors, however conservative their bent, could resist running that picture, which was to win the Pulitzer Prize.

            Neither would the accompanying text have calmed the president’s breast.   It quoted General del Corso to the effect that his men had fired because a sniper had fired on them.    But as John Kifner went on to write,


                        This reporter, who was with the group of students, did not see any indication of sniper fire, nor was the sound of any gunfire audible before the              Guard volley.   Students, conceding that rocks had been thrown, heatedly denied that there was any sniper.[1]


            An Ohio paper quoted one of the Guardsman to an effect of discrediting the Guard’s second alibi, that they had been surrounded by a bloodthirsty mob.   “A Guardsman on the firing line Monday at KentState said today he didn’t fire on demonstrators because ‘I didn’t really feel my life was in danger.”   He added


                        There is a lot of disgust among the troops that Rhodes sent us in.   It wasn’t necessary.   It was a waste of time, effort, and, as it turned out, lives…

            The Guardsman asked not to be identified in print.[2]


            Nor was KentState page one news only in America.   The LondonEvening News led the world press by devoting its front page to a photo blow-up of the Guard line firing, with an inset photo of a dead student, under the banner headline: “They Day They Shot to Kill.”   Predicting the event would cause an international upheaval, it quoted “a prominent Briton” as saying, “The young have been given the golden thing they have been waiting for since Paris 1968.”[3]

            To add insult to journalistic injury, a telegram arrived at the White House from the American Civil Liberties Union, announcing its intention to conduct its own investigation of the Ohio murders “to dispel the discrediting doubts occasioned by the government’s investigation of itself.”[4]

            Insulated though he was, the shock waves were powerful enough for him to feel in the Oval Office.   “Reaction very tough to the four killed at KentState yesterday,” Haldeman noted glumly, “All our people trying to figure how best to handle -- & whether P. can perform any useful role.”  As he saw it, the only thing that might buffer the shock was word of some dazzling success at arms in Cambodia.   “If not, we’re in for a bundle of trouble.”   One thing was sure: the trip West and South was off, especially the climax of Nixon speaking at Stone Mountain.  “Cancelled trip plans for the rest of the week & will go to CD [Camp David].   Everyone relieved he’s not going to Atlanta.”[5]   The decision was perhaps underlined by a call from White House archbishop Billy Graham: “felt shld cancel Stone Mtn    he had Black Panther threat.”[6]

            But the trip and the speech were too important to cancel completely.   Vice President Spiro Agnew would go instead.   “Agnew say nothing at all re student unrest in Atlanta    do speech of reconciliation.”   But the speech was far more than that; it was nothing less than an announcement of the realignment of national power:


                        Agnew has to go to Atlanta

                        NE is thru, NW in trouble, W ok

                        but other hope long haul is the South

                        sell one-nation strategy

                        welcome So. Back into country -- [7]


            Meanwhile, the President could try to dismiss the press; they were the Enemy, anyway.   Congress would be no trouble.   They would make speeches, which would earn the Members and Senators favor or reprisal.   Senator William Saxbe (R., Ohio) – former ONG officer and future Attorney General – led for the right with his party’s version of the confrontation: “[H]ere were 30 guardsmen surrounded by over a thousand rioters.”


                        I suppose that these four people will go down in history as martyrs, and perhaps they should.   But martyrs to what?   Martyrs to the very force                  ignorance or violence that we form governments to try to get away from.[8]


That established the rhetorical line the Republicans and southern Democrats would never veer from: it was the students’ fault for getting killed.   What did they expect? Jeffrey Cohelan (D., California) agreed ironically on the House floor, those “who would dare to protest… who would dare to confront an armed establishment?”[9]   Saxbe would be rewarded for affirming official murder with the highest law enforcement position in the land; Cohelan would be defeated for re-election that fall and would never hold office again.   The students were unpopular with the voters and those who wanted to continue holding elective office forgot that at their peril – so Congress would be no trouble.

            Perhaps the last place the president expected to find opposition was within his own cabinet, particularly after the cavalier way he had ignored its two most powerful officers in making the Cambodian decision.   And who in the cabinet would be less likely to speak out for the antiwar movement that the Secretary of the Interior, Alaskan developer J. Walter (Wally) Hickel.   Hickel’s record as a despoiler of wilderness was secure enough to make his appointment a deliberate affront to the environmental movement.   But unlike his president, Hickel was a genuine extravert who enjoyed people and listened to them when they talked.   He had listened to the college students who had invaded Interior over the winter holidays and on the first Earth Day in April – and he had become convinced that his generation had better listen to them.

            When Hickel convened his regular 8:30 a.m. staff meeting at Interior on May 5th,  the usual light banter was entirely absent and his aides found it impossible to concentrate on the agenda.   Finally Mitch Melich said what was on everyone’s mind:


I had a phone call from my daughter at the University of Utah last night.   She said the students out there are desperate.   They’re lost and angry.   She’s afraid her campus will explode like Kent State.   Could we ask Mike Levett how       he assesses the situation?


            Levett reviewed the latest intelligence from Academe.   Interior’s painfully-crafted program of student outreach was in ruins, laid waste by the administration’s loss of what pitiful quantum of credibility it had enjoyed.   In the air of crisis, everyone in the room spoke freely for once, even in the presence of Lawrence Dunn, Assistant Secretary for Administration, who “sat like a stone statue, saying nothing but taking it all in.   Dunn had come to his position in Interior from the White House staff.”[10]   After the meeting Hickel cancelled the rest of his appointments and spent the rest of the day trying to see the President, or at least John Ehrlichman.   He was told that he couldn’t see the President and that Ehrlichman was out of town (he wasn’t).   He finally sat down to draft a letter to Nixon, but he couldn’t get the wording right.   He circulated copies among his staff for suggestions.   They couldn’t think of words to do justice to the depth of the crisis either.

            In the dark first hours of May 6th, Hickel sat up in bed and told his startled wife that he knew what the letter had to say: that the lesson of the American Revolution, fomented by young men like Thomas Jefferson, was that all governments must perish unless they remained flexible enough to listen to those still young enough to have ideals.   He charged into his office the next morning and dictated the letter, circulated the draft for – this time, a brief – round of comments, then signed it.   His aide Dave Parker hand-delivered it to the White House twenty minutes later.   Haldeman called me back about eleven-thirty or twelve and said, ‘I have the letter, but it’s already on the AP wire.”   Hickel realized that one of the drafts he had circulated the previous day must have been leaked to the press.   He had some presentiment, but no idea, of how Nixon would react, but hoped that he would be able to explain – demonstrating that he might have agree to serve in this administration without any perception of the real Richard Nixon at all.[11]


            Hickel’s plea for the young dissenters fell on particularly hostile ears that morning.   Since the news from Ohio had come in, the president had been in a “dejected and lachrymose state, downing scotches with the reproachful refrain, ‘Everyone misunderstands me’” – and then rallying to fire off new orders to attack his Enemies.    Sometime on the 6th, he had a “secret unlogged meeting with Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker,” [12]  who at that point had been denying for several years that he had treated Nixon in the 1950s for psychiatric problems[13] (he claimed he had just been an internist then).  

Just before Hickel called the White House, John Ehrlichman had gotten six Kent State students in to see the president, after they had driven all night from Ohio.   Upbeat as ever, Haldeman decided that “The Kent State 6 were a good group and meeting went very well.”   Ehrlichman remembered it differently:


They were mostly tongue-tied before the President.   During one full hour, the communication hardly went beyond halting, embarrassing exchanges.   The students, despite their obvious agitation, remained frozen in the presence of the chief executive.   Nixon himself found the session trying and unproductive, a test of patience rather than a valuable encounter[14]


            The meeting could have hardly helped the president prepare for a crisis which gave every indication of getting out of hand.   “As day went on, concern from outside re campus crisis built rapidly.   [Nixon] Obviously realizes – but won’t admit it – his ‘bums’ remark very harmful.”   Instead of planning for the trip West and South, the staff orchestrated a gamut of defensive measures: a meeting with selected university presidents the next day, a press conference Friday evening, and a meeting with the nation’s governors on Monday.   That afternoon Nixon convened a war council with his real cabinet, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Kissinger, in the Executive Office Building.   Its theme: “Very aware that the goal of the Left is to panic us – so we must not fall into their trap.”


P realizes he’s up against a real tough one.   K wants to just let the students go for a couple of weeks, then move in & clobber them.  E wants to communicate – esp. symbolically.   All agreed to the plan – but K very concerned that we not appear to give in in any way.   Thinks P can really clobber them if we just wait for Cambodian success.   I disagree – because then there’ll be a new excuse.[15]


            Haldeman knew that the Hickel letter had been leaked to the press (how is a matter of some interest, but there is no documentation on it); it is unrecorded whether he told Nixon.   At any rate, few in the White House could have been prepared for the play it was given in the morning editions of May 7th.  The Times proclaimed in multiple headlines: “Hickel, In Note to Nixon, Charges Administration Is Failing Youth; Protests Close Over 80 Colleges” – beneath that, “Agnew Criticized” and “Discontent Is Spreading in Ranks of Government.”   Hickel called the White House again to try to explain.   Ehrlichman reassured him: “The President understands.   Don’t worry, Wally.”

            But meanwhile White House apparatchik John Whitaker had called Pat Ryan, an aide of Hickel’s, demanding, “You find the son-of-a-bitch who leaked that letter and fire him!”   Ryan replied, “You find the son-of-a-bitch who wouldn’t let Hickel see the President and fire him!”   Meanwhile, sinister changes at Interior warned of the depth of the president’s understanding:  “In the Interior Department’s seventh floor press office, orders were circulated – at Herb Klein’s direction – that any queries about the letter, or even Hickel, were to be ignored or referred to Ron Zeigler’s presidential press office.”[16]

            Back at the White House, Nixon was beside himself.   He brooded on Hickel’s treachery the more he thought of it.   “This led to a rising ‘anti-Cabinet’ feeling as he thought more about it.   Went back to deep resentment that none called him after speech & none rose to his defense on this deal.   So he struck back by ordering the tennis court removed immediately.”[17]   (Haldeman explains in a note in his published Diaries explaining that Nixon didn’t play tennis but had let cabinet officers use the White House courts.   Now he would rip them out to spite them.   He also added the curt order: “no more Cab. use of C.D. [Camp David].”[18]

            While the president was railing at his chief of staff about the tennis courts, Ehrlichman was receiving the grimmest news yet from Kent State.   The FBI had been conducting interviews with the Guardsmen, including those who had shot individual soldiers, and their forthright admission of what they had done squarely raised the possibility that there would have to be a federal grand jury impaneled to investigate violation of the students’ civil rights under 18 USC 242.[19]   This came from the head of the Civil Rights Division, Jerris Leonard, and he was no flaming liberal; during this same period, he was developing legal theories to prosecute reporters who wrote stories based on leaks by government officials.[20]  

            Leonard tasked the FBI with probing the killing by “Unknown Subjects, Ohio National Guard” of Allison Krause [et. al], Victims, Summary Punishment, CIVIL RIGHTS.”   His request for a investigation of the ROTC fire ran a page and a half; that of the murders, six.   (Clearly, in terms of what had been demanded by the Internal Security memo of the 4th, he had his priorities reversed).   “[B]ecause of the widespread public concern and the request of the President to be kept currently informed,” he wanted interim results by Tuesday, May 12th, “and periodically thereafter.[21]   

            No one knew better than Nixon the attorney that a federal grand jury investigation could lead anywhere, including back to him.   Now the Kent State matter was really getting out of hand.   There was an urgent need to get it away from the question of who killed whom and back on the track outlined by Internal Security: discovering a “radical conspiracy” behind the ROTC fire – and, not so incidentally, finding “radicals” in the KSU student body and on the faculty.   Ehrlichman called the FBI immediately “concerning the Kent situation.   He said that he now has to get something to show what was being done and have it by early afternoon tomorrow, May 8, 1970, because they were pushing for it.”[22]

            What happened next demonstrates the difficulty in establishing the CIA’s role in any of these events.   The man dispatched to Kent to take over the investigation on the 7th was known to the world as the number three man in the FBI, and Hoover’s designated heir apparent: William Cornelius Sullivan.    But he was widely suspected within the Bureau of being a CIA “mole.”   He had been Assistant Director for Intelligence since 1961 and the agency representative on the U.S. Intelligence Board.   More significantly, he was the chief of the three FBI representatives on the HONETOL apparat.   (HONETOL was a combination of HO[OVER] and ANATOL[Y] Golitsyn, a Soviet defector, the acronym designating the witchhunt for double agents conducted by CI chief James Angelton.)   Sullivan provided Angleton with the foot soldiers – bugging and tapping specialists, foot and mobile surveillance – to shadow suspected traitors (all of whom turned out to be innocent.)   In the process, he became a zealous convert to Angleton’s “sick-think” world view.[23]

            Angleton had also been converted to a pet CIA project: getting rid of J. Edgar Hoover, who was fighting a rearguard action against the use of spies against American citizens.   (In the process, Sullivan recruited Tom Huston, Nixon’s in-house CI master, for the same effort[24] -- although Nixon always remained too intimidated by Hoover’s legendary files on everyone to make the final move.)   Hoover was scarcely a champion of civil liberties.   But in his zeal to protect the Bureau’s image and legend, he foresaw that extreme violations of American rights such as the CIA and the White House were espousing would backfire before long and tarnish the reputation of all involved.   He opted out of the secret war, and in the spring of 1970, cut the CIA off from all Bureau cooperation.

            Sullivan fought him doggedly, if behind his back.   “A few months after Hoover outlawed the use of ‘illegal’ investigative techniques, I began to receive complaints from the rest of the intelligence community.”[25]    One senior FBI official suspected Sullivan of plotting to “undermine Hoover’s position with the President and succeed to the position of Director himself”[26] – others, of wanting to turn the Bureau into the domestic fact-gathering arm of the CIA,[27] subordinate by reason of its collective intellectual inferiority and bureaucratic timidity.   This project was so central to the Agency’s agenda – and to the president’s, to the extent that Nixon wanted the CIA to function as his personal enforcement arm – that it is difficult to see how Sullivan could have been diverted from Washington at a moment like this, unless the Agency’s role in the events in Ohio had been much more decisive than has always been believed.


            At 11:12 a.m., the White House hosted eight university presidents in a meeting that lasted for an hour and a half.   When they emerged, the academicians indicated to reporters that they had extracted a pledge from the President to halt incendiary attacks on students by “administration officials” (i.e., the Vice President).   They said that the president had agreed that Agnew’s callous remarks a few hours after the murders had finally gone too far.[28]   They failed to even mention the most remarkable aspect of the conference: an early but fairly complete explication of Nixon’s personal theory of campus unrest, into which he would retreat more and more stubbornly as the summer wore on and which would be uncritically assimilated by many opinion makers.   He claimed that this theory had been inspired by what the Kent State students had told him the day before (despite Ehrlichman’s recollection that the students had said scarcely anything).   He claimed that Cambodia had not been the trigger of the crisis at Kent: “The students said that the issue of Black Power had actually started the demonstration at Kent State, although Cambodia and Vietnam were soon added as issues.”   (This appears to have been a garbled reference to the BUS rally, which had actually occurred hours after the noon protest on May 1st.   “He stated that it would be a mistake to consider that solving the war problem would solve the campus problem, and that we must get to the more fundamental roots of campus turmoil.”[29]

            That afternoon he took Haldeman on a tour of the south grounds, ostensibly to emphasize his new obsession with tearing out the tennis courts.   Actually, he seemed to want his sense of depression with “life in general.”   Everyone expected him to do something about the national crisis and he asserted he was “basically helpless to deal with it.”   He was hamstrung by the media, “as they build up everything to look as bad as possible.”   He claimed that, at the late morning meeting, “the Univ. presidents were all scared to death – feel that this now includes the non-radical students.”[30]   (Haldeman presumed, and Nixon’s later expansion on this themes would bear him out, that they had been “scared” by the radical students and that was why they had not rallied behind the Cambodian invasion.)

            There is no objective indication that the college presidents had said anything of the sort.

            Thence he flew up to Camp David to immerse himself in briefing books, prepping for the press conference scheduled for the following evening – an encounter which he already dreaded, as events would prove, with little to no cause.


            That afternoon in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Republican Governors’ Conference cancelled out.   Only four of the 29 invitees had shown up.   The president’s critics among them, from the shrinking moderate wing of the party, might have used the occasion to blast the policies of an administration which was jeopardizing their re-election chances.   But they were too busy conferring about the civil wars in their states.   Even the president’s partisans declined to support his recent actions, since “the Republicans’ chances of victory in November’s Congressional elections have been drastically curtailed.”   But all fifty governors, regardless of party, had been invited to the White House to discuss the national crisis as of 1:30 p.m. on Monday, “and a spot check indicated that nearly all of them were planning to attend.”[31]


            With the president on retreat again, the men in the Oval Office were left to struggle with preparations for the great antiwar rally scheduled for Saturday.   There were those who wanted to defuse it.   Some of the younger staff members were detailed to go out and talk to the protestors “and a telephone center would be set up to take calls from student groups arranging for them to meet with administration spokesmen.”[32]   The prevailing impression retained by those who were then present is that it was Ehrlichman and his younger assistants like Egil Krogh who were behind these efforts.

            In retrospect Henry Kissinger tried to claim he was a part of this outreach.   After all, he allowed, the student were just misguided, naïve idealists whose perceptions had been warped by permissive “skeptics, relativists, and psychiatrists….  they were rudderless in a world from which they demanded certainty without sacrifice.   My generation had failed them by encouraging self-indulgence and neglecting to provide roots.”[33]   The two ranking members of the team have dismissed this as entirely spurious:


Ehrlichman urged that we make whatever gestures of communication were possible.   Kissinger, however, took a particularly hard line on the demonstrators…  He felt strongly that I should not appear flexible until after the Cambodian operation was successfully completed.   As he put it, we had to make it clear that our foreign policy was not made in the streets.[34]


“Henry Kissinger took a very hard line,” Spiro Agnew agreed, “saying that if we backed off, the Soviets would decide they could control our policies by influencing public opinion in the United States.”[35]

            Unfortunately for the president’s peace of mind on the evening of the 7th, particularly if he had decided to watch talk television, Spiro had more to say, specifically on The David Frost Show.


DAVID FROST:  What if it is discovered there was no shot fired at them by a sniper and they just opened fire without a warning shot or anything?   Not having been fired at in any way; in that sense, what is the word for that, murder?

SPIRO AGNEW:  Yes, but not first degree… when there is no premeditation but simply an over-response in the heat of anger that results in a killing, it’s murder.   It’s not premeditated but it’s murder and certainly can’t be condoned.[36]


Murder.   There was doubtless no word the president loathed more to hear, particularly in this context.   In the second degree, it was enough of a shock.   But he had been asked to keep constantly informed of the progress of the FBI investigation at Kent State and by the evening of the 7th, the FBI knew that there could well have been premeditation.     And Nixon the attorney knew full well there was no statute of limitations on murder – for those who committed it or for their accessories.



            On the morning of May 8th, the enemy began appearing on the field.   They were greeted with a sneer by Hackworth’s “pasty-faced” desk general as they filed past the White House fence, “waving their Viet Cong flags and shouting their slogans and obscenities…   the scene was a combination of demonic ceremony, class picnic, collective tantrum, and mating ritual…  They were a herd.”[37]   But he stayed inside the fence.

            Some of those also inside it thought that it might not be enough.   When Wall Hickel arrived, still looking for a chance to explain his letter, he had to use the side door; the main entrance had been sealed to prevent the “mob” from pouring in.   (The only person he could find who would speak to him was Herb Klein, who recalled, “[I] said there was little he could say in clarification which would help.   He had jumped from the team.”)[38]   Nor was barricading the doors deemed enough protection.   D.C. transit buses were being parked in two giant, concentric rings around the White House grounds.   As Klein explained it,


If a mob got out of hand, it would be difficult for it to scale a wall of buses and march intact toward the diplomatic entrance to the White House.   If some made it over the bus wall       in numbers, they could be met by National Guardsmen who had been brought into the White House and bivouacked in our halls and offices.[39]


            According to the newly-appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the bus wall also buffered the executive mansion from a more programmed threat:


And they ordered this same group that was at Kent to come to Washington to have a student killed on the White House grounds, charging the White House from Lafayette Park.   So what we did was to take practically every bus in Washington and put them down on Pennsylvania Avenue… bumper to bumper.   We had two rows of them… so that you couldn’t run between the bumpers.

                        I’m not sure what [group] it was, but you could look it up.[40]



            But could this invading army have anything like the Teutonic fury and the sophisticated planning and organization that the president’s men expected of it?  

            The antiwar movement, or at least its prime mover the New Mobe, had shut down its Washington office on April 19, 1970, the same day the president was getting his panic briefing from Admiral McCain, for lack of money and support.   As noted above, the antiwar movement had flickered back to life with the leak about the South Vietnamese invading Cambodia, then spread like a grass fire as soon as the Americans had joined in.   But the leadership had had nothing to do with this resurrection, which was as spontaneous as if the grass fire had been started by lightning.   They were taken as much by surprise by the national student strike, as by its quantum jump after Kent  State


There were major campus demonstrations at the rate of more than a hundred a day, students at a total of at least 350 institutions went out on strike, and 536 schools were shut down completely for some period of time, 51 of them for the entire year.   More than half the colleges and universities in the country (1350) were ultimately touched by protest demonstrations, involving nearly 60 per cent of the student population – some 4,350,00people – in every kind of institution and in every state in the Union.   Violent demonstrations occurred on at least 73 campuses (that was only 4 per cent of all institutions but included roughly a third of the country’s largest and most prestigious schools) and at 26 schools the demonstrations were serious, prolonged, and marked by brutal clashes between students and     police…  The nation witnessed the spectacle of the government forced to occupy its own campuses with military troops.[41]


            The overnight recruitment of this mass army necessarily adulterated its quality.   The most of the new adherents had taken no previous part in demonstrations.   “Their roots in the antiwar movement were shallow and easily severed.”[42]   The older students from the professional[43] and business[44] colleges did not respond to the flamboyant when not incendiary exhortations of a Jerry Rubin or an Abby Hoffman.   The veterans of the antiwar movement, although young themselves, had been annealed through the six-year struggle to the point of – inevitably, some felt – “an endorsement of Marxist-Leninism.”[45]   Once holding the same belief as the fledglings, that the war had been an aberration in a fundamentally just society, they by now realized that Vietnam was the logical consequence of American capitalism.   As cofounder of the Moratorium Sam Brown experienced it,


I remember attending a march in 1965 at which both Norman Thomas and Carl Oglesby spoke.   Thomas spoke in terms of moral outrage, about rescuing the national soul.   As the son of a religious, Midwestern family, I could identify with his ministerial pleas. Oglesby talked about U.S. imperialism with language that set my teeth on edge.   Within a year, I read Oglesby’s speech in essay form and found myself agreeing with it.   Within two years, I found it hard to restrain myself from using his language.   I had come to believe it but feared it would be offensive to potential supporters.[46]


These leaders now had five days to bring their new followers through the same kind of perceptual evolution, or find some language that would bridge the gap.

            Even more fundamentally divisive was the natural affinity of those who were challenging the military-industrial colossus with the political left.   Given America’s natural tendencies toward fascism, that left had always been small, insular, beleaguered, and periodically decimated by political purges such as the Palmer Raids at the end of the First World War and the McCarthy terror of the early 1950s.   Its survivors had been retreated from the center of the political stage to fight among themselves as factions too small to have played basketball against each other, and vituperative tracts in periodicals with non-existent circulations.   The war in Vietnam gave them “the first issue with a potentially mass appeal since the 1930s.   Every aging group fully intended to capture the opposition to the war, so that victory of the antiwar movement would also mean the triumph of their own.”[47]

“There was an innumerable number of groups, each of which thought, ‘This is our opportunity.   If we can take charge of this thing, we’re really going to make it.”[48]

            Of these discordant groups, none was more adept at setting the others’ collective teeth on edge than the Trotskyists, or Trotsyites, or just “the Trots,” represented in the march on Washington by the Socialist Workers’ Party.   “The Trotskyists were certain they knew how to organize an end to the war and drove many of their allies half-crazy with their takeover attempts.”[49]   One of the FBI’s major “dirty tricks” campaigns against the antiwar movement involved “exploiting the ‘hostility’ among the SDS and other New Left groups toward the SWP”[50] naturally engendered by the Trots’ abrasive approach to communal action.   The Bureau allocated so many resources to this that


in 1975 when a federal district judge ordered the FBI to keep its informers away from the national convention of the SWP, the government appealed the matter all the way to the Supreme Court.   The FBI explained that its informants were such senior officials that if they did not attend the convention their identities would immediately become obvious.[51]


            Whatever their motives, the Trots were clearly counter-producing by Wednesday the 6th, as the march organizers began sparring with the Justice Department over the logistics of the Saturday rally.    Justice had been suspiciously willing to waive the usual fifteen days’ notice required for a parade permit (lack of which had landed Dr. Spock and his clerical colleagues in jail a few days before).   Now William Ruckelshaus (fresh from his aborted mission to New Haven with John Dean) informed them they would have to use the Washington Monument grounds for the rally.   Lafayette Park would be closed to them.   The protestors had hoped to gather in the Park, right across from the White House, because the whole point of the march was to confront Richard Nixon.  

            The only other spot on the president’s doorstep was “H” Street, on the north side of the White House.   Co-marshals Brad Lyttle and (SWP’s) Fred Halstead objected that, confined in an urban canyon like that, the demonstrators would be unable to hear the speakers.   Ron Young realized it was a cul-de-sac as well as a canyon.   After nightfall – when embarrassing pictures were less likely to be taken – the police would be able to trap the protestors on H Street and attack them (much as they had the students against the Library at Kent).   But, he observed philosophically, “If they gas us and beat us, then it will be their demonstration, their violence.”[52]

            David Dellinger had insisted since arriving in town that this march must be a final triumph of civil disobedience.   Now Halstead and Lyttle used the obvious fact of the trap on H Street to argue against it.


A… combination of Trotskyites (Socialist Workers’ Party) and some pacifists argued on the one hand that angry protestors would not hold to a nonviolent discipline and, on the other hand, that the mood of the government and the police was such that some of the protestors (usually referred to as women and children) would be killed.[53]


            Halstead and Lyttle claimed to have inside information “from officials in the mayor’s office and other sources” that the government planned to “trap the crowd between a double horseshoe of police and troops”[54] on H Street and magnify the example made in Ohio.   Even if the demonstrators remained non-violent, “A student organizer who asked not to be identified said, ‘There are always crazies.   We don’t even know sometimes who they are.   The question is not whether they will be there but whether we can contain them.”[55]

            The air of doom was hardly lightened when Mobe attorney Phil Hirschkopf brought author Norman Mailer to one of the meetings.   Still shaken by Kent State, the World War II combat veteran assured the marshals they were just providing Nixon and Mitchell with an excuse to amplify on the horror of Monday noon on a mass scale, and advised them to forget the whole thing and go home.   But the activists sensed what some literary critics had also concluded, that Mailer’s rebel spirit had cooled with success and age.   “The revolution – the march on the Pentagon, the bloody riots in the Chicago streets carried on by students who had been influenced by his writing – had come too late for him.”[56]

            But his message had underpinned the urgings of the Trots and pacifists to keep the proceedings safe and innocuous – as Dellinger noted in disgust, an empty ritual of “folk songs, anti-war speeches, and tight marshaling.”   He told his colleagues that, like Mailer, they were suffering from a “failure of nerve.”  This did not make the proceedings more harmonious:


It hardened their resistance to civil disobedience.   From that point on, one important Mobe leader, neither a Trotskyist nor a pacifist, felt compelled to prove his opposition to civil disobedience was based on overwhelming political evidence, not on a failure of nerve…

I was told by the cochairmen of the marshals, one a member of the Socialist Workers Party, one a pacifist, that if I advocated civil disobedience, the microphone would be cut off until they could gain control and denounce the call.[57]


            By Friday afternoon, the opposing positions had hardened to the point of ossification.   The crowning act of paranoia by the White House, the circling double wall of buses, only reconfirmed the paranoia of Dellinger’s opponents.


[T]he Trots were opposed to the sit-in.   The White House was already encircled with buses.   If we circled it with people, they said, there could be provocateurs who would set the buses on fire and blame it on us.   So the marshals (who had been trained by Bradfore Lyttle and the Socialist Workers Party’s Fred Halstead) labeled CD as violent.   They violence-baited it.[58]


            Dellinger walked out.   He pled prior speaking commitments, but it is as possible that he had decided there was no further point in staying.   His absence removed the prime advocate of civil disobedience.   Now two of Halstead’s marshals, Carl Zietlow and Bob Levering, claimed that they “could not in good conscience proceed” if the crowd on H Street numbered over 20,000.   If the police fired tear gas in such a confined space, so many people would be killed in the stampede that a fatal volley would be superfluous.[59]

            Now, almost as if the authorities somehow knew the Dellinger faction had been neutralized, Hirschkopf called and told them that Justice had relented: the demonstration could be held on the Ellipse, the grassy mall right in front of the White House.   Was it a trap?   Or was it a ploy to throw what was left of the planning into complete chaos?   If the latter, it worked.   Dazed by lack of sleep, bludgeoned by hundreds of hours of angry, jargon-numbed debate, the protest leadership had to reallocate all their resources at the last minute: microphones and sound systems, press releases and first aid stations, police liaison and portable toilets --    A debacle on the morrow was practically insured, and would not disappoint.


            Meanwhile, to the north, the regime unveiled another, more direct tactic against antiwar demonstrators than infiltration and bureaucratic sabotage: direct physical attack.   There had been harbingers of this approach all week in New York City.   The day after the Kent State murders, a construction worker, or “hard hat,” at a City College of New York building site grabbed a student “apparently bound for a rally,” shouting, “’I was in Vietnam and I love to kill gooks.’   The other hardhats on the project joined in pummeling the student, who astonished them by reaching into a book bag, pulling out a large conch shell, and hitting an antagonist hard enough with it to gash his forehead.”[60]   The next day seven hundred medical students gathering at Battery Park and carrying signs reading “Peace” and “Nixon and Agnew Are Sick Men” were assaulted by “a number of workers from a nearby unfinished building.”[61]   The police made no attempt to arrest or interfere with the assailants in either case.    On Thursday more numerous attackers charged into a larger group of high school and college students, this time at Broad and Wall Streets in the heart of the downtown financial district.   “No arrests were made.”[62]

            Late on the 7th and through the early hours of Friday the 8th, the New York Police Department received calls from persons warning that construction workers were planning to attack student demonstrators the next day.   The most explicit of these warnings came from one of the hardhats themselves, who said that on the 7th a group of steelworkers had left their job site on the Bowery and had marched to Wall Street to beat up antiwar demonstrators.   “Then they came back and said that everyone had to go out Friday – all the workers from the World Trade Center, the U.S. Steel Building, and 2 Manhattan Plaza – and break some heads.”   They added that they would receive bonuses from their employers if they did.   Harriet Eisman, special assistant to Congressman Allard Lowenstein, received a similar tip: “the workers were briefed by the shop stewards at the jobs to go and knock the heads of the kids who were protesting the Nixon-Kent thing.[63]   The Mayor’s office had received similar warnings and forwarded them to the Police Department.   The police ignored them.  

            At around 7:30 a.m. on the 8th, students from New York University, Hunter College, and area high schools began to collect at Broad and Wall Streets to listen to speakers on withdrawing U.S. troops from Southeast Asia, release of political prisoners in America, and an end to the militarization of the American campus.   As the morning wore on – a light rain yielding to muggy warmth – around a thousand people wound up sitting on the pavement.   When attorney Charles Appel told the crowd, “You brought down one President and you’ll bring down another,” he was answered by a hellish anvil chorus, “the hollow clamor of a thousand men beating the naked girders of a 30-story building with hats, hammers, and heavy pieces of steel,” chanting “Lindsay is a queer!”[64]  – their response to Mayor John Lindsay’s order that the city’s flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of the KentState dead.

            As if signaled by Appel’s statement, men dressed as construction workers converged on the intersection from all four directions, swiftly but with precision, behind standard-bearers waving American flags.   As they brushed the unresisting police cordon aside, a mob of onlookers filled in behind them, chanting, “All the way, USA!” and “Love it or leave it!”   The hardhats fell to striking the seated demonstrators with their fists, heavy metal tools, and their work boots.   The victims who could escape sought refuge in the crowd of Wall Street employees by then emerging from their glass towers on their lunch hour, who thereby became additional victims.   Although their leaders would insist they gathered at random and spontaneously, they all wore the same brown coveralls – a color which reminded some witnesses of the shirts wore by government thugs of an earlier era:


[Y]oung Americans in blue jeans, particularly males with long hair, became the objects of hatred as senseless as that directed at those in 1938 Germany whose yellow stars marked them for violence…

When an elderly woman, near the steps of a church, shouted at a worker who was kicking a young man on the ground to stop, she was knocked to the ground and spat on by several men…  a typist on her way to lunch was struck on the head and fell bleeding to the pavement.   Her blue jeans and cotton blouse, like a yellow star, marked her for assault.[65]




Exchange Place
, Robert A. Bernhard, a partner at Lehman Brothers, tried to protect a youth from assault by a worker.   The worker grabbed Mr. Bernhard and pushed him against a telephone pole.

A man who came to the aid of Mr. Bernhard was himself attacked by a worker and struck with a pair of pliers.   Bleeding from a head wound, the man was taken to Beekman-DowntownHospital.

Near City Hall, a Wall Street lawyer, Michael Belknap, a Democratic candidate for the State Senate, was beaten and kicked by a group of construction workers yelling, ‘Kill the Commie bastards!’   He was treated at Beekman-DowntownHospital with his right eye completely closed, a large welt on his head, and five bootmarks on his back.

                        Mr. Belknap said the police had stood by and made no attempt to stop the assault.[66]


            According to other witnesses, the police did not just stand by, but actually yelled encouragement to the attackers.[67]   Their cordon on the steps of the FederalHallNational Monument – placed there to keep the antiwar protests out of the building – allowed itself to be pushed aside by the hardhats, who then planted flags on the statue of George Washington.   The hardhats then led the mob to City Hall, where they intimidated an “unidentified mailman” into raising a flag from half-staff.   “The crowd cheered wildly… accompanied by chants of ‘Lindsay’s a Red.’”   Sid Davidoff, a mayoral aide, stalked out onto the roof and lowered it again.   (Lindsay himself had prudently elected to be absent that day.)


The mob reacted in a fury.   Workers vaulted the police barricades, surged across the tops of parked cars, and past a half a dozen mounted policemen.   Fists flailing, they stormed through the policemen guarding the barred front doors.

                        Uncertain whether they could contain the mob, the police asked city officials to raise the flag…

                        As the flag went up, the workers started singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’     A construction worker yelled to the police: ‘Get your helmets off.’

                        Grinning sheepishly, about seven of the 15 police who were on the City Hall steps Removed their helmets.[68]


            Even before taking City Hall, the hardhats had stormed TrinityCollege, which had been turned into an aid station for the victims of previous attacks.   They ripped down the Red Cross flag on its gates and tried to tear down the flag of the Episcopal Church.   “This is senseless,” the rector observed, “I suppose they thought it was the Viet Cong flag.”   Although the official police estimate was of nineteen persons injured that day, forty to sixty were treated at the Church alone.   A third strike force, no less well organized, targeted PaceCollege.   This was either a blindly lucky stroke or the hardhats had access to very good intelligence: Pace was the national clearing house for information on the student strike.   On their way to the roof to tear down a peace flag flying there, they ranged through the building wrecking property with crow bars and clubs.   Shortly afterward, with police still standing by, they returned to renew the attack.

            Riding in from the airport that evening, Abbie Hoffman got a “grim” briefing on the situation:


That afternoon truckloads of hard hats carrying meathooks had descended on a demonstration at nearby

Foley Square
.   Swinging madly, the vigilantes had torn into the students.   Using walkie-talkie communication, one band raided the campus, destroyed equipment, and beat up strike coordinators.[69]


The “walkie-talkies” were just one sign that the hardhat attack was under tactical control by men who have never been identified.   Even from his thirty-second floor office overlooking Wall Street,  stock broker Edward Shuffo could see two men “in gray suits and gray hats” who were stage-managing the mass battery through his binoculars.   “These guys were directing the construction workers with hand signals.”   On the street, a non-participating construction worker told City Hall, “I turned around and happened to see men in business suits with color patches in their lapels – the color was the same on both men, and they were shouting orders to the workers.”[70]   That summer, Scanlan’s magazine would reproduce a memo from the desk of Vice President Spiro Agnew identifying these hardhat-riot organizers as operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency[71] – a revelation for which the administration would drive the magazine out of business.

            At that time – years before the first Watergate revelations about the Nixon penchant for commiting felonies in the pursuit of political power – Americans tended to discount any suggestion that a President of the United States would use private armies of thugs to attack peace demonstrators.   Not until a decade later did former antiwar protestors suing the government for violations of their civil rights force the release of an increment of White House tapes which caught Nixon and Haldeman doing exactly that:


HALDEMAN:  …they’re going to stir up some of this Vietcong flag business as Colson’s gonna do it through hard hats and Legionnaires.   What Colson’s gonna do on it, and what I suggested he do, and I think that they can get… away with this, do it with the teamsters.   Just ask them to dig up…  their eight thugs.

                        PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

                        HALDEMAN:  Just call… what’s his name.

                        PRESIDENT:  Fitzsimmons.[72]

                        HALDEMAN:  Is trying to get – play our game anyway, is just, just tell Fitzsimmons –

                        PRESIDENT:  -- they’ve got the guys who’ll go in and knock their heads off.

            HALDEMAN:  Sure.   Murderers.   Guys that really, you know, that’s what they really do.   Like the steelworkers have and – except we can’t deal with the steelworkers at the moment.

                        PRESIDENT:  No.

            HALDEMAN:   …they’re the regular strikebuster types and all that… and then they’re going to beat the [obscenity] out of some of these people.   And… hope they really hurt ‘em.   You know, I mean, go in with some real – and smash some noses [tape noise] some pretty good fights.[73]



Given this mindset, it is scarcely astonishing that this “law and order” president never uttered a single word acknowledging that “Bloody Friday” had ever happened, let alone one of condemnation – or that the Mitchell Justice Department never even acknowledge this wholesale and most fundamental kind of violation of civil rights.     The organizer of the attacks, Peter J. Brennan (president of the Building and Construction Trades Council) paused long enough to assert that none of his members had participated, and then launched into exculpatory praise for what they had done.   “Any child,” he proclaimed, who desecrated the American flag or threw bricks should be warned by what had happened in Manhattan that “violence by them can bring violence by our people or others disagreeing with them.”   As for the “unknowns” who had done the punishing, “Perhaps a few ruffians opened the door to some sanity.”[74]

In such absence of any consequences, his membership thronged the streets of Manhattan daily in the weeks that followed, with ever larger marches in support of Nixon and the war, and preying on “hippies” – although now, threatened with widespread public outrage and threatened lawsuits, the police made some effort to keep the parties separated.    Their blood-curdling vilification of John Lindsay ended any hopes the mayor had of getting the Democratic nomination in 1972.   Some of those they frightened the most were the conservative leaders of the business and financial community whose offices lined those streets, who saw “disconcerting similarities between the fury of the workers and the Nazis during the last days of the WeimarRepublic.”[75]   Ironworker Charles Rivers drew the same analogy on behalf of union men revolted by the spectacle: “I didn’t see Americans in action.   I saw the black shirts and brown shirts of Hitler’s Germany.”[76]   Or, as one “small, middle-aged woman” in one of the crowds summed it up as she watched one of the marches:   “The new Nazis: They’re here.”[77]

            Two weeks later, Brennan and other heads of construction and longshoremen’s unions were invited to the White House, although Ziegler told the press that it was the visitors’ idea.   “Later, a reporter asked Ronald Ziegler how the hard hats could get in to see the president so easily, when not even Congressmen could get past the East Gate.   Ziegler replied only that it was ‘kind of a loaded question.’”[78]   The gathering was devoted exclusively to mutual protestations of support and common patriotism.   Nixon assured his guests that the invasion of Cambodia had been to protect “our boys.”   One of Brennan’s aides who had lost a son in Vietnam said, “Mr. President, if someone would have had the courage to go into Cambodia sooner, they might have captured the bullet that took my son’s life.”   “The President was visibly moved by this statement.”[79]

            Brennan pinned an American flag medal on the president’s lapel and presented him with a hard hat labeled “Commander in Chief” (also presenting Abrams with one bearing four stars).   “The President did not pose for pictures wearing the hard hat that had been presented to him.”[80]   But he did, after a discreet interval, appoint Brennan U.S. Secretary of Labor.

            Brennan and his street gangs were only the point troops of George Meany’s vast union empire, the AFL-CIO.   Meany promptly verified this by omitting to condemn the attacks on May 8th.   This surprised no one acquainted with the ossification and corruption of the American labor movement.   “Understandably, Meany shows no more shock over violence by union members than he does over violence to Asian peasants,” the leading Catholic periodical said, “As a product of the swamp of the New York building trades, he is not about to put down the unions that have always been his power base.”[81]    The majority of  the country’s union workers had developed bourgeois life styles and aspirations, and viewed Nixon as their champion against the threatening aspirations of minorities.  

            By 1970, the only American labor leader who could be accused of anything like democratic ideals was the United Automobile Workers’ Walter Reuther.   He could be expected to mobilize his membership against Nixon and the war in the fall elections – and lead a devastating strike against General Motors, a prime war contractor.[82]   He had broken with Meany four years before over the war as well as fundamental labor issues, amid accusations – particularly by his firebrand brother Victor – that the AFL’s overseas outreach programs were mere fronts for the Central Intelligence Agency.[83]

            Walter had seen the carnage at KentState on the evening news on the 4th; “Reuther flew into a rage, left the dinner table and called Victor.”   The brothers spent the next two days drafting and redrafting a telegram to Nixon deploring “the needless and inexcusable use of military force at home.”[84]   The text was released on the 7th.   “At no time in the history of our free society,” it read in part, “have so many troops been sent to so many campuses to suppress the voice of protest by so many young Americans.”[85]   He flew into another fury when he heard of the brutality of the hardhats on May 8th.   But he would not have time to comment on this.   He was on his way to the site of his major life’s project, the new labor political/economic education center that the UAW was building at BlackLake.   His plane was late getting into the Detroit airport and didn’t take off again with him and his party until    The weather was not optimal, “but both pilots and passengers had made the flight together safely many times before when the conditions had been far worse.”[86]

            At , pilot George Evans radioed ahead, “I’ve got the airport in sight.”   At , the plane crashed into a stand of trees and burned, killing everyone aboard.   There would be no one to take Reuther’s place.   Now Meany and Brennan, war hawks and Nixon loyalists, stood alone at the pinnacle of American labor.   And that meant that the protestors, including the ones gathering on the Ellipse in Washington, also stood alone.   If KentState had not told them what to expect, and they heard about the lesson of Bloody Friday too late, there would be few to mourn them.  


            As the last-minutes squabbles of the peace march organizers subsided on the night of May 8th – 9th, Sid Peck suggested a dramatic caste to the next day’s demonstration:


I said we should send [Nixon] a message that would really express what was happening… a delegation of caskets…  We would all go from the Ellipse to the White House and we would be led by the dead…  the dead could speak for themselves.   As we delivered the dead we would put Nixon under house arrest…  Then we would encircle the whole White           House area with a sit-in.[87]


They would stay seated until the governors flew in for their conference on Monday.   “They would have to fly in by helicopter.   And people would see the White House would be under political – not military, political – siege.”[88]  

            The caskets were to be a horribly appropriate means of expression, although not in the way Peck intended.   The marchers would be presiding over the funeral of their own movement in the morning, and over that of the whole phenomenon of mass protest in America.

            The great demonstration began to disintegrate even before it reached Washington.   On the way from the most fertile recruiting grounds, the great cities and universities of the (now-doomed) Northeast, an unknown but substantial number of adherent were waylaid in New York City – not by hardhats, but by a convocation of the Movement for a New Congress at the Penn-Garden Hotel.   (The meeting even drew off students from the D.C. area schools.)   This movement reaffirmed its resolve to work through established (and thus, in the view of the activists, futile) channels: canvassing, lobbying, circulating petitions, etc.   It was the logical focal point of the Princeton Plan through which the collegiate elite undercut the protest movement.

            Of those who did make it to Washington, many never made it the length of the walk from Union Station to the Ellipse, stopping on Capitol Hill to lobby their members of Congress.   The latter – even those who had spoken in bold indignation after the KentState murders on Monday – now proved all too willing to stay in their offices and receive these constituents, rather than be identified at the rally.   Of a hundred U.S. Senators, only three – Jacob Javits, Charles Goodell, and Edward Brooke, all Republicans – showed their faces on the Mall.   Led by Allard Lowenstein (D., New York), only nine out of the four hundred-plus members of the House of Representatives joined them.   Typically of the anti-war Congressmen, Lowenstein may have felt he had nothing to lose, and he would be proven right.    Like every other Representative who defied Nixon on Cambodia and condemned him for KentState, Lowenstein was targeted for defeat in the fall elections.   The campaign against him and for a Republican mediocrity named Norman Lent was organized by “Nixon’s old hatchet man MurrayChotiner… using the smear tactics that had worked so effectively for Nixon in the 1940s.”[89]   During the campaign, Lowenstein’s visibly pregnant wife Jenny was spat upon, jostled, and pelted with tomatoes.  

            The New York Times commented that the young people who were diverted to their congressional offices were “probably more effective” than those who demonstrated.[90]   This qualifies as editorializing rather than reporting.   By now the Times, leading the print media as usual, was drawing ever more invidious comparisons between the “bad” demonstrators who had long hair and beards and messy clothes, and the “good” demonstrators, who “cut their hair, shaved their beards, and donned coats and ties.”[91]   Walter Cronkite carried the same message on the electronic media, reporting approvingly that evening on “the earnest, clean-shaven college students… carrying well-written resolutions and legal briefs in their hands” instead of protest signs.[92]

            The next echelon to desert the demonstration consisted of the blacks.   The designated spokesman of the Black Panther Party simply failed to show up on the speakers’ platform.   Along with John Froines, another black man claiming to speak for the Panthers, grabbed the microphone and tried to start a chant of “Fuck Nixon!”, which merely got the television cameras turned off.[93]

A self-identified “black militant” told a reporter he had been offered a place on the program and had turned it down:


We’re tired of addressing the student movement.   We’re tired of seeing the student movement look 2,000 miles away to Vietnam and not look 2,000 feet away in the United States.   There’s only one direction to take, and it’s not to wave peace signs when the National Guard is killing students.


The same reporter also encountered a young black man waving a Panther newspaper, shouting, “All power to the people – death to the fascist pigs.   It’s time to pick up a gun.”   His female companion sold party buttons on the hood of his car, but they were being passed up in favor of vendors with pretzels and orangeade.   He talked to three black youths sitting on a bench along

17th Street
with their backs to the rally, who had driven nine and a half hours from Providence to get to it.   “We come to white rallies to relax.   We go to black rallies to work,”[94] one of them told him.   A black student from North CarolinaA & TCollege summed it up by huffing, “A black kid got killed at Greensboro a year ago and nobody got upset.   Now some white kids get killed at KentState and everybody wants to march.”[95]   The only black who took an active part had himself tied to a thirteen-foot cross and hoisted above the crowd.   One of the youths bracing the cross explained, “He’s up there to show that Nixon is crucifying the American people.”[96]

            Halstead and Lyttle had been on the Ellipse since early morning struggling with the logistics arrangements, especially the dislocation caused by the last-minute change of venue.   By , eighty thousand people had assembled and there was still no sign of the other Mobe leaders, including the featured speakers.   As Jane Fonda’s ironic salute – “Greetings, fellow bums!” – rang out, the two men stalled frantically.   Hearing that legendary semanticist, philosopher, author, and activitist Noam Chomsky was in the crowd, Lyttle asked him to deliver the opening address.   “Oh, no,” Chomsky replied, “I wouldn’t want to upset the delicate balance of the coalition.”[97]

            But there was no shortage of speakers, and no one controlled access to the microphone.   Each orator held forth oblivious to the others and to any kind of unifying theme.   From within the crowd, a sea of middle class Americans who had brought picnic lunches and babies in strollers, the speeches had the distant yet intrusive sound of a television turned up too loud in another house.[98]   After struggling to bring order to the problem, Lyttle abruptly sat down with a few contemptuous words spat at the others on the platform, lowered his head into his hands, and began to weep over a decisive battle lost before it had begun.[99]

            The other Mobe leaders straggled in around , fresh from another futile debate on the program.   Dellinger tried to start a chant, “Spread the strike now!”, which died in the hot air unaccompanied.   Attempts to collect draft cards to burn or money to support the Panthers or draft resisters flickered and died.   The only animation was displayed by students across

Constitution Avenue
on the WashingtonMonument grounds, who brandished animal organs, dabbling themselves with the blood, and danced around chanting, “End the agony, end the pain, end the murders!   This is the blood of the victims of the war!”[100]   The very vastness and inertia of the crowd emphasized the futility of their antics.

            The attendant press, its members now burned out by the intensity of the preceding week, could perceive only the most superficial aspects of the event:


The apparent lethargy of the crowd, induced at least in part by the torpid platform oratory, led some reporters to think of Woodstock as they surveyed acre after acre of sprawled young bodies in various stages of undress under the first onslaught of the summer sun.   It was, in fact, a somber, serious, waiting crowd…   Unlike their counterparts of the previous November, they were prepared for more than collegiate chanting in the streets.[101]


            The hackneyed allusions to Woodstock and the “youth culture” by reporters completely misconstrued the mood of the crowd, the sense that there was something horribly wrong with their country.   Most had already decided to come before the news came out of Ohio on Monday the 4th.   But “the killings at KentState stripped the students of their feeling of safety.”[102]   As one student at the rally put it, “These people here understand that we are surrounded by fully armed troops, and that if we started anything we’d be destroyed.”[103]   They had come down to the Ellipse in spite of that, seeking guidance from men who, as it turned out, couldn’t even organize a speaking program.   As Abbie Hoffman saw it,


What promised to be the most explosive demonstration ever managed to turn into just another large protest outing.   Once again, it was the same old speakers warning Nixon about what was going to happen next time…  People… who failed to modify their program one iota during six years of protest…  Left wing moonies![104]


            Dellinger, the last speaker on the program, was called to the microphone straight from a last-minute, unresolved squabble about civil disobedience.


There was to be no coming together.   Advocates of civil disobedience vacillated because they were told that the marshals judged the mood of the crowd to be ‘ugly.’   The co-chairmen of the marshals reported that the marshals unanimously opposed civil disobedience and would actively resist it.   I knew that the report was exaggerated, that the     marshals themselves were divided, but I also knew that if competing groups of marshals             issued contradictory sets of advice from their bullhorns, they would cause great confusion.[105]


It turned out to be more like chaos.   The contradictory orders rang out anyway.   Stuart Meacham told the crowd to move to the western edge of the Ellipse for the climactic march up

17th Street
.   Minutes later Dellinger told the “pallbearers” to pick up the symbolic coffins and proceed to the  eastern side of the Ellipse and up
15th Street
.   When Dellinger’s contingent got as far as
H Street
, the marshals tried to bar their way.   About a thousand got around them and charged for the bus barricade to let the air out of the bus tires or climb over the buses themselves.   A few of them got as far as starting to rock one of the buses, trying to overturn it, only to be dispersed by a single policeman with a tear gas fogger.  

            Blocks away down

Pennsylvania Avenue
, another group of several hundred shied stones at the city-block mass of the Justice Department.   They too were dispersed by tear gas.   Meanwhile, all but forgotten, seven hundred followed the coffins, not to the White House, but off down
Constitution Avenue
and across MemorialBridge to ArlingtonCemetery.[106]   According to some press estimates, these various splinter groups totaled around two thousand active demonstrators.   The remaining ninety-eight thousand or so who had come to the Ellipse just before or at noon packed up their picnic baskets and went home, still wondering just what had happened.

            Deserted by his established colleagues, who were eager to get to their offices to make Sunday deadlines and thence home or to watering holes in Georgetown, John Morthland of Rolling Stone remained behind to chronicle the otherwise untold story of the Battle of the District of Columbia.   It raged all night around the bus barricade, assailed by ever smaller bands of attackers until – when the Army brushed aside the police and cleared the streets.   It was also fought from behind the barricades around GeorgeWashingtonUniversity, manned by a thousand diehards.   “Tear gas, in unbelievably huge quantities, was the main police weapon… 


The other heavy evening action came between the reflecting pond and the WashingtonMonument, which police gassed repeatedly, ‘provoked’ first by a nude swimmer in the pond, and later by vandalism against the Monument…

There were countless skirmishes and one mass bust (three busloads of demonstrators) around LafayettePark, near the Peace Corps offices, which had been liberated that afternoon by returned volunteers who now flew the Vietcong flag from their window.[107]


            As darkness engulfed the Mall, the activists scattered back to their homes to savor the bile of defeat and division.


‘Coming back [to New York City],’ says Norma Becker, ‘I remember that it was such a letdown…  What happened in Washington on May 9 was not commensurate either to the             invasion of Cambodia or to KentState.   There was a deep and pervasive feeling of sellout.’  Mobilization leaders fell to their typewriters to assess the failings of their colleagues and apportion blame.[108]


            From now on, there would be little else for them to do.   Abbie Hoffman caustically told Dellinger, “That was great, what you said about not coming to an antiwar demonstration like you were going to a spring picnic, but you know damn well that’s all it was, a big picnic.[109]   In public, Dellinger tried to put the best face on what had happened, asserting that the rally was supposed to have been “an organizing conference.”   But he and his colleagues had to concede that they were “planning no further mass demonstrations in the foreseeable future.”[110]

            Having preserved a façade of unity long enough to make this joint statement, the Mobe leaders then fell upon each other with the fratricidal abandon in which the left specializes.   The advocates of civil disobedience, perhaps belaboring the obvious, accused the Trots, particularly the marshals, of gutting the entire effort, and being misguided at best and government agents at worst.   According to the Trots,


the New Mobe leadership, which had attempted to organize May 9 as a confrontationist trap for those who attended, viewed it as a disappointment; New Mobe leaders published vicious red-baiting attacks on the SMC, YSA, and Socialist Workers Party for the role of these organizations in marshaling the action and preventing the kind of         bloody police attack the New Mobe considered a ‘militant’ confrontation.[111]


            The two factions would never be able to even try to collaborate on anything again.   They actually proceeded to hold their own conventions shortly afterward to establish two separate antiwar movements.   They were dividing up depopulated territory.   Meanwhile many of the schools that had gone out on strike the preceding week had already reopened.   Strikers still held out on 158 campuses, predictably where administrators and local officials had responded to demonstrations with repression rather than cooptation.  But the national student strike was ebbing and nothing like it would ever be seen again.   As a matter of the inherent and exacting irony of history, governmental repression on the local and national level would redouble now that the revolt was over, led by a man whose Enemies never ceased to press him even after they had ceased to exist.















[1]   John Kifner, “4 KentState Students Killed by Troops,” New York Times, May 5, 1970, pp. 1 and 17.

[2]   James Herzog, “’Not in Danger,’ Guardsman Says,” Akron Beacon-Journal, May 5, 1970, p. 1A.   (Throughout the judicial proceedings over the next nine years, the “shooters” among the Guardsmen would repeat almost verbatim, whatever the occasion, the same ten words: “I fired because I believed my life was in danger.”)

[3]   George Melloan, “U.S. Actions in Asia Rouse Europe’s Left to Organize Protests,” Wall Street Journal,

May 6, 1970, p. 1.

[4]   Methodist Archives; Kent State Due Process in Law Fund; telegram, John de J. Pemberton to Richard Nixon, May 5, 1970.

[5]   Haldeman (J), May 5, 1970, p. 37.  

[6]   Haldeman (N), May 5, 1970, .

[7]  Ibid., 5/5/70.

[8]   Congressional Record, May 5, 1970, oo. S6600 et. seq.

[9]   Congressional Record, Nay 5, 1970, pp. H3862 et. seq.

[10]   Walter J. Hickel, Who Owns America?  (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.; Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971), p. 242.

[11]  Ibid., p. 246.   White House communications director Herbert Klein claimed that he was the one Hickel called, and the one who told Hickel that the press already had the letter.   “My brief investigation indicated that the leak had come from a member of his staff.”  Herbert Klein, Making It Perfectly Clear.   (Garden City; Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1980), p.303.   Haldeman does not mention Hickel calling on the 6th at all.

[12]   Jonathan Aitken, interview with Ray Price in September 1990 for Nixon: A Life  (Washington, D.C.; Regnery Publications, 1993), p. 404.   It should be noted that Aitken, a former Tory Defence Minister, was extremely sympathetic toward his subject.

[13]   Dr. Arnold Hutchsnecker, The Drive for Power  (New York; M. Evans & Company, 1974).   Jack Anderson was one of those who remained unconvinced by these denials.   Anthony Summers revisited this question in his 2000 book on Nixon,   He not only affirms the visit on the 6th and rebuts the doctor’s denials about psychiatric treatment, but adds that Hutchsnecker was called to Key Biscayne for an “emergency housecall” that weekend.   Anthony Summers with Robbyn Swan, The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon,  (New York; Viking, 2000), pp. 363-366, Notes on Chapter 27, pp. 522, Note 4.

[14]   John Ehrlichman interviewed by Herbert S. Parmet for Richard Nixon and His America.  (Boston; Little, Brown & Co., 1990), p. 6.

[15]   Haldeman (J), May 6, 1970, p. 39.   EMPHASIS ADDED,  This latter (offset) passage does not appear in the published Diaries.

[16]   Hickel, pp. 250-251.

[17]   Haldeman (J), May 7, 1970, p. 41.

[18]   Haldeman (N), May 7, 1970, “1305 EOB.”

[19]   220-CU-MF (Main File),

Box 1
, Office Files of the Chairman, Folder: “Confidential,” memorandum, Jerris Leonard to John Ehrlichman: “Re: KentStateUniversity,” May 1, 1970.   For summaries of the interviews with individual Guardsmen on May 7th, see Thomas, KENFOUR (http:// exhibits/4may95/kenfour3.htm).

[20]   Paul Hoffman, “New Threat to the Press,” The Nation, April 20, 1970, p. 454.

[21]   KSU Archives/May 4th Collection; Justice Department correspondence; Box 122, Folder 3, Leonard to Hoover, May 7, 1970.  EMPHASIS ADDED. 

[22]   FBI Report, 3, Section 1, memorandum, A. Rosen to C. M. DeLoach, May 7, 1970.

[23]   Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA’s Master Spy Hunter.  (New York; Simon & Schuster, 1991), pp. 246, 235, 157.

[25]   William C. Sullivan with Bill Brown, The Bureau: My Thirty Years in Hoover’s FBI.  (New York; W.W. Norton, 1979), p. 205.   EMPHASIS ADDED.

[26]   W. Mark Felt, The FBI Pyramid: From the Inside.   (New York; G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1979), pp. 112-113.

[27]   Mark Riebling, Wedge: The Secret War Between the FBI and the CIA.  (New York; Alfred Knopf, 1994), p. 279.   See also, Athan Theoharis and John Stuart Cox, The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition.  (Philadelphia; Temple University, 1988), p. 410.

[28]   Robert B.Semple, “Nixon Will Bar Hostile Comments on Students by Agnew and Others,” New York Times, May 8, 1970, pp. 1 and 17.

[29]   National Archives; Nixon Presidential Materials; memorandum for the President’s file from Edward L. Morgan; Subject: “Mid-day meeting in the President’s office with eight university presidents,” May 7, 1970.

[30]   Haldeman (J), May 7, 1970, p. 41.

[31]   R.W. Apple, “Republican Governors Call Off Conference Because of Unrest Among the Young,” New York Times, May 8, 1970, p. 17.

[32]   Jeb Stuart Magruder, An American Life: One Man’s Road to Watergate.  (New York; Atheneum, 1974), p. 123.

[33]   Henry Kissinger, The White House Years.  (Boston; Little, Brown, & Co., 1979), p. 510.

[34]   Richard Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon.  (New York; Grosset & Dunlap, 1978), p. 508.

[35]   Spiro Agnew, Go Quietly… Or Else.  (New York; William Morrow, 1980), p. 28.

[36]   Transcript of The David Frost Show, quoted in Davies, The Truth About Kent State, p. 3; also, “Agnew: Guard Overreacted,” New York Times, May 8, 1970, p. 17.

[37]   Alexander Haig with Charles McCurry, Inner Circles: How America Changed the World: A Memoir.  (New York; Warner Books, 1992), p. 238.

[38]   Herb Klein, Making It Perfectly Clear.   (Garden City; Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1980), p. 303.

[39]   Ibid., pp. 303 and 342.

[40]   Admiral Thomas Moorer, interviewed by Tom Wells for The War Within: America’s Battle Over Vietnam.   (Berkeley; University of California Press, 1994), pp. 431-432.

[41]   Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS  (New York; Vintage Books, 1974), pp. 636-637.

[42]   Frank J. Prial, “Students Step Up Protests on War,” New York Times, May 5, 1970, pp 1 and 19.

[43]   Lacey Forsburgh, “NYULawSchool Is Focusing On Unifying Nationwide Protest,” New York Times, May 7, 1970, p. 19.

[44]   “Education: Business students catch the campus fever,” Business Week, May 16, 1970, p. 22.

[45]   Seymour Martin Lipset, Rebellion in the University.  (New Brunswick, London; Transaction Publishers, 1971; 1993), p. 4.

[46]   Sam Brown, “The Defeat of the Antiwar Movement,” in AnthonyLake (ed.), The Vietnam Legacy: The War, American Society, and The Future of American Foreign Policy.  (New York; Council on Foreign Relations/New York University Press, 1976), p. 124.

[47]   Thomas Powers, The War At Home: Vietnam and the American People, 1964-1968.  (Boston; G.K. Hall & Co., 1984), p. 77.

[48]   Douglas Dowd, in Wells, The War Within, p. 429.

[49]   Powers, p. 92.

[50]   James Kirkpatrick Davis, Spying on America: The FBI’s Domestic Counteintelligence Program.  (New York; Praeger, 1992), P. 137.

[51]   Halperin, et. al., The Lawless State, p. 123.   The question of course arises as to whether more of the “Trots” divisive behaviors were inherent in their doctrine or rooted in their personalities, or more in the calculated actions of government moles.   Ten years later, it could be lamented of the penetration of the antiwar movement, “we have almost certainly not discovered the full scope of it yet.”   Todd Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching.  (Berkeley; University of California, 1980), p. 170.

[52]   David E. Rosenbaum, “Justice Waives Permit Hurdle,” New York Times, May 7, 1970.

[53]   David Dellinger, More Power Than We Know: The People’s Movement Toward Democracy.  (Garden City; Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1975), p. 137.   By the election of 1980, this title had taken on a ghastly ring of self-mockery,

[54]   Halstead, p. 549; Brad Lyttle, May Ninth.  (New York; Lafayette Service Co., 1980), p. 10.

[55]   David E. Rosenbaum, “Government Will Permit a Peaceful Rally in Capital Tomorrow Near White House,” New York Times, May 8, 1970, p. 9.   EMPHASIS ADDED.

[56]  Carl Rollyson, The Lives of Norman Mailer.   (New York; Paragon House, 1991), p. 214.

[57]   Dellinger, pp. 137 and 141.

[58]   Nancy Zaroulis and Gerald Sullivan, Who Spoke Up? America’s Protest Against the War in Vietnam, 1963-1975.   (Garden City, N.Y.; Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1984), p. 324.

[59]   Halstead, p. 550.

[60]   Joseph Lelyveld, “Protests on Cambodia and KentState Are Joined by Many Schools,” New York Times, May 6, 1970, p. 20.

[61]   “Students Move Off Campus to Widen Protest Here,” New York Times, May 7, 1970, p. 19.

[62]   Linda Charlton, “City to Shut Schools Today to Honor Kent State Dead,” New York Times,  May 8, 1970, p. 16.

[63]   Homer Bigart, “War Foes Here Attacked by Construction Workers; Police Were Told of Plan,” New York Times, May 8, 1970, pp 1 and 10.

[64]    Duncan Spencer, “Hard Hats Discover Power,” Washington Star, May 17, 1970.

[65]   Peter Davies, “Blue Jeans and Yellow Stars,” Yale Daily News, May 4, 1978.

[66]   Bigart, p. 10.

[67]   George Lardner, Jr., “About 70 Students Injured,” Washington Post, May 10, 1970.

[68]   Bigart, p. 10.

[69]   Abbie Hoffman, Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture.  (New York; G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1980), p. 251.   Hoffman’s brother characterizes some of the invaders as “longshoremen… with baseball bats.”   Jack Hoffman and Daniel Simon, Run, Run, Run: The Lives of Abbie Hoffman.  (New York; G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1980), p. 153.

[70]   Bigart, p. 10.

[71]   Philip S. Foner, “’Bloody Friday’ – May 8, 1970,” Left Review, Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring 1980, p. 20.   For more detail on the administration’s successful campaign to destroy Scanlan’s, see netbook Mission Betrayed. ( Betrayed.htm.)

[72]   Frank Fitzsimmons, successor to James R. Hoffa as president of the Teamsters.   Mr. Nixon’s first public appearance after resigning in disgrace was in a golfing party which included Fitzsimmons and Anthony Provenzano, along with three other indicted/convicted Teamster officials.   Provenzano was believed by some observers to be implicated in Hoffa’s disappearance.   Robert Lindsay, “Nixon ‘Just Fine but Looking Tried, Golfs With Teamsters’ Fitzsimmons,” New York Times, October 10, 1970, pp. 1 and 10.

[73]   Seymour Hersh, “1971 Tape Links Nixon to Plan to Use ‘Thugs’,” New York Times, September 24, 1981, pp. 1 and (excerpts) 26.   EMPHASIS ADDED.   Earlier Hersh revealed Colson’s role in harassing black construction trades unions by using white union thugs.   “Colson Is Accused of Improper Use of His Influence,”  New York Times, July 1, 1973, pp. 1 and 22.

[74]   Edward Hudson, “Building Trades Set Rally Today,” New York Times, May 20, 1970, p. 24.

[75]   “Wall Street: Three Days That Shook the Establishment,” Business Week, May 16, 1970, p. 24.

[76]   Emanuel Perlmutter, “Heads of Buildings Trade Unions Here Says Response Favors Friday’s Action,” New York Times, May 12, 1970, p. 18.

[77]   Homer Bigart, “Thousands Assail Lindsay in 2nd Protest by Workers,” New York Times,  May 12, 1970, pp. 1 and 18.

[78]   David Spear, Presidents and the Press: The Nixon Legacy.   (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1984), p. 96.

[79]   National Archives/Nixon Materials; memorandum, Charles W. Colson for the President’s File, “Building and Construction Trades Meeting with the President,” May 26, 1970,

[80]   Robert B. Semple, Jr., “Nixon Meets Heads of 2 City Unions; Hails War Support,” New York Times, May 27, 1970, p. 1.

[81]   “Joe Hill,”  “Labor’s Split Political Personality,” Commonweal, August 7, 1970, p. 383.   However, four years later, Meany would come out against the war, claiming that Nixon and Kissinger had lied to him about it – particularly about Cambodia.  Archie Robinson, George Meany and His Times.  (New York; Simon and Schuster, 1981), pp. 371-2.

[82]   B.J. Widick, “Labor Speaks: The Suffering Majority,” The Nation, May 25, 1970, p. 616.

[83]   Joseph C. Goulden, Meany: The Unchallenged Strong Man of American Labor.  (New York; Atheneum), pp. 377-378.

[84]   Nelson Lichtenstein, The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor.  (New York; Basic Books), p. 437.

[85]    UAW Department of Public Affairs, “The Last Public Statement by Walter Reuther,” in Appendix of Halstead, p. 546.

[86]   Frank Cormier and William J. Eaton, Reuther.  (Englewood Cliffs; Prentice-Hall, 1970), p. 423.

[87]   Sid Peck interviewed in Zaroulis and Sullivan, Who Spoke Up?, pp. 323-324.

[88]   Sid Peck interview in Wells, p. 438.

[89]   William H. Chaffe, Never Stop Running: Allard Lowenstein and the Struggle to Save American Liberalism.  (New York: Basic Books, 1993), p. 343.

[90]   John W. Finney, “Most War Critics in Congress Shun Protest, Wary of Effects of Any Violence,” New York Times, May 19, 1970, p. 24.

[91]   Marjorie Hunter, “Students Tidy Up Image To Lobby in Washington,” New York Times, May 8, 1970, p. 17.

[92]   CBS Evening News, May 9, 1970; quoted in Daniel C. Hallin, The “Uncensored” War: The Media and Vietnam.   (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986).

[93]   Halstead, p. 552.

[94]   Thomas Johnson, “Role of Negroes in Rally Small,” New York Times, May 10, 1970, p. 25.

[95]   “The Rebellion on Campus,” Newsweek, May 18, 1970, p. 29. 

[96]   John Herbers, “Huge Rally in Capital Urges U.S. Pullout in Asia,” New York Times, May 10, 1970, p. 24.

[97]   Lyttle, p. 14.

[98]   Some of these observations are personal recollections.

[99]   Lyttle interviewed in Wells, p. 442.

[100]  Herbers, p. 24.

[101]   Zaroulis and Sullivan, p. 327.

[102]   Todd Gitlin, “Seizing History: What We Won and Lost at Home,” Mother Jones, November 1983; quoted in Sevy (ed.), The American Experience in Vietnam, p. 188.

[103]   “The Rebellion on Campus,” Newsweek, May 18, 1970, p. 29.

[104]   Hoffman, pp. 251-2.

[105]   Dellinger, p. 141.

[106]   James K. Batten and Saul Friedman, “Peaceful Yet Angry 60,000 Demonstrate in Washington,” Akron Beacon-Journal,  May 10, 1970, pp. 1A and 2A.

[107]   John Morthland, “Nixon in Public: He Was Mumbling At His Feet,” Rolling Stone, June 10, 1970; reprinted in The Age of Paranoia (by the editors of Rolling Stone), (New York: Pocket Books, 1972), pp. 314-315.

[108]   Zaroulis and Sullivan, p. 328.

[109]   Dellinger, p. 142.  EMPHASIS IN ORIGINAL.

[110]   Rosenbaum, “Antiwar Protestors,” p. 22.

[111]   Anonymous, “The Anti-War Movement,” pamphlet issued at Antioch College, November 30, 1970; reprinted in G. Louis Heath (ed.), Mutiny Does Not Happen Lightly: The Literature of the American Resistance to the Vietnam War.  (Metuchen, N.J.; Scarecrow Press, 1976), p. 281.