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“Peace Now!” — Back Then

January’s Women’s March on Washington sent news commentators scurrying back to the Vietnam War era for numerical comparisons.

And “Democracy on Display” a couple of months ago in downtown Westport rekindled memories of the day a similar demonstration took place there.

It happened on October 15, 1969. Part of a national “Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam,” Westport’s protest was largely youth-driven.

Staples students streamed out of school. Led by Westport police, and joined by teachers and junior high students, more than 1,200 marched down North Avenue, turned right on Long Lots, then onto the Post Road all the way to the YMCA.

The cover of Staples’ 1970 yearbook included photos from that fall’s Moratorium march, in the form of a peace sign.

They wore black armbands and sported doves of peace. They carried American flags, and chanted “Hell no, we won’t go!” Counter-protesters drove alongside, cursing them. A few threw eggs.

Massing in front of the old Bedford building — the only part of the Y at that time — a crowd that swelled to 2,000 heard speakers, including Temple Israel’s Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein, denounce the war and demand peace.

The other day, a remarkable video of that Westport moratorium surfaced.

Guy Northrop — a Staples senior — shot 17 minutes of the march, with a Bauer Super 8 camera. Eleven minutes survive, and have been posted on YouTube.

The video — nearly 50 years old — shows with remarkable freshness the power of that protest. It also serves as a unique time capsule. Much of Westport has changed since then. But much has not.

As America prepares to celebrate Memorial Day, it’s important to remember that our democracy remains strong for 2 reasons.

We have a great military.

And the men and women in it sacrifice every day, so that we can speak our minds.

 

(Hat tip: Mary Palmieri Gai)

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