The March on the Pentagon: An Oral History

October 20, 2017, The New York Times.

Tens of thousands of protesters began arriving in Washington on Friday morning, some from as far away as California. Across the river at the Pentagon, the Army began activating its own forces in preparation for Saturday’s march.

Noam Chomsky: The Pentagon demonstration was preceded [on Friday] by a smaller one at the Justice Department, where participants pledged to support resistance to the war, and a collection of returned draft cards was turned in to the department. I had brought them from Boston, where they had been returned in a moving ceremony at the Arlington Street Church.


NC: I was with a group of somewhat older people, suits and ties. While gathering near the Pentagon, facing a line of soldiers, we took turns with the mike.


NC: I happened to be speaking when the soldiers suddenly put on gas masks and started advancing forward to clear the crowd. Everyone sat down. Not knowing what to do, I kept talking — to the strangest-looking audience I’ve ever faced. Marshals took or dragged everyone to waiting vans. My audience of gas masks passed by me and I kept talking to a wall of the Pentagon, which I’m sure was most responsive. Until my turn came.


NC: Most of those arrested were young, uncertain, tense. The emotional pitch was high [in the jail in Occoquan]. There were some calls for actions that could have caused major problems. Mailer intervened quietly, decisively, with a touch of low-keyed and effective mockery, helping to restore a mood of serious dedication and to avert self-destructive militancy, an intervention of no small significance.