The cover of Staples’ 1970 yearbook included photos from that fall’s Moratorium march, in the form of a peace sign.
Sparked by young people, Westport protested too.
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.
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 Iowa Senator Harold Hughes and Temple Israel’s Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein, denounce the war and demand peace.
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.
A remarkable video of that Westport moratorium captures the day.
Staples senior Guy Northrop shot 17 minutes of the march, with a Bauer Super 8 camera. Eleven minutes survive, and have been posted on YouTube.
The video 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.
A portion of the crowd -- primarily Staples students -- protesting the Viet Nam war in 1969. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)
For nearly 10 years, America’s all-volunteer military has fought 2 costly, controversial wars.
Protests have been muted. A few people stand on the Post Road bridge every Saturday morning. Someone writes an occasional letter to the editor.
At Staples, high school students — few of whom even think of serving — scarcely give Iraq and Afghanistan a passing thought.
How different things were in 1969. Vietnam was a quagmire — and Westport was up in arms, on both sides of the issue. Loud anti-war protests took place at Town Hall every Saturday. After 3 hours of raucous debate the RTM passed — 17-15 — a resolution asking immediate action to withdraw from Southeast Asia.
Many Staples students — though certainly not all — were fervently anti-war. On October 15, 1200 students — joined by some from the 3 junior highs — celebrated a national Moratorium Day.
They — actually “we,” because I was among them — marched from the Staples tennis courts, down North Avenue and Long Lots Road, all the way to the steps of the YMCA.
The long line of marchers headed downtown. The A&P was near what is now the firehouse; the Esso gas station is now a Phillips 66. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)
We carried American flags and wore buttons saying “Peace Now” and “Hell No, We Won’t Go.” Along the way, other students threw eggs at us.
At the Y, we listened to speeches (including one by Iowa Senator Harold Hughes). We waved our fingers in the peace sign. We looked around, and were stunned at our numbers.
A year earlier, we had helped drive Lyndon Johnson from the presidency — but our new president was Richard Nixon. Finally, in 1973, a peace treaty was signed. Two years later the last Americans were evacuated from the U.S. Embassy roof.
In 1969, Adrian Hlynka was a Staples student. A gifted photographer, he took dozens of shots on Moratorium Day. Here is what it looked like to protest a war, more than 4 decades ago.
A portion of the crowd in front of the Y. The Fine Arts Theater (now Restoration Hardware) was showing "Alice's Restaurant" and "Medium Cool." Police stood on the roof next door. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)
More of the enormous downtown crowd. The current Max's Art Supplies is on the extreme left; what is now Tiffany is at the far right. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)
Rabbi Byron Rubenstein of Temple Israel addresses the crowd from the steps of the Y. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)
The crowd was predominantly -- though not entirely -- made up of Staples students. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)
A Staples student states his case. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)
Junior high students joined Stapleites at the 1969 Moratorium rally. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)
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