Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism

by Geoffrey R. Stone

On April 17, an SDS-sponsored event in Washington drew 20,000 demonstrators. Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, and Judy Collins sang; I. F. Stone, Staughton Lynd, and Senator Ernest Gruening addressed the crowd; and marchers presented proposals at the Capitol calling for an end to the war. In May, more than 20,000 people participated in a marathon teach-in at the University of California at Berkeley. The following month, 18,000 people attended an antiwar rally in Madison Square Garden. An interfaith delegation of Christian and Jewish clergy visited Washington to appeal for peace, and other religious leaders called for a new Geneva conference to bring about an end to the conflict.


On October 21, 1967, some 6,000 federal marshals and troops gathered in Washington in anticipation of the event. More than 100,000 antiwar demonstrators convened at the Lincoln Memorial to hear speeches and sing protest songs with Phil Ochs and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Dellinger then took the microphone and declared, "[T]his is the beginning of a new stage in the American peace movement in which the cutting edge becomes active resistance." Whether he knew what was about to happen next has never been clear.

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