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While You Were Away

King Began Peace Drive Here


The Rev. Martin Luther King was last in Cambridge almost exactly a year ago--April 23, 1967. He came here to launch a campaign for peace in Vietnam that eventually prompted Sen. Eugene McCarthy to run for President, and led to President Johnson's decision not to run.

At a press conference to announce "Vietnam Summer," King firmly committed himself to the anti-war movement, giving his "absolute support" to the "massive organizing effort" that was to follow.

"It is time now," he said, "to meet the escalation of the war in Vietnam with an escalation of opposition." He added, "There can be no freedom without peace and no peace without justice."

He spent that evening in a meeting with two dozen top strategists of the New Left. They urged him to focus the anti-war sentiment in the country by running for President.

Afterwards, his top aide, the Rev. Andrew Young, trailed him outside the meeting room into a cold drizzle and explained King's hesitancy. "He just doesn't see himself running for President," said Young. "I guess it's just modesty. He laughs at the idea."

Much of the organizing apparatus that was set up during the Vietnam Summer later evolved into the McCarthy-for-President campaign.

King's anti-war statements in Cambridge were the strongest he had yet made. His plunge into the anti-war movement came despite strenuous advice from moderate civil rights leaders that it was a mistake to merge the civil rights and the peace movement.

He disagreed, and he stuck to his new position, but aides said that he did not have much hope that political organizing could topple the Johnson Administration and end the war. King's death came four days after President Johnson's announcement that he would not seek re-election.

Thursday night, about 100 students formed an impromptu sympathy march in the Square. They walked to a Negro section of Cambridge on Western Ave., but they were turned away by a group of 25 Negro men.

"Get out of our neighborhood," said one of the men. "Leave us alone."

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