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Police Tear Gas Routs Demonstrators In Skirmish at Department of Justice

By John G. Short

(Special to the CRIMSON)

WASHINGTON, D. C.- Police routed 10,000 people- some of them spectators- in a rally of militant antiwar groups here Saturday afternoon, driving them from in front of the Justice Department with tear gas and clubs. They arrested 50 demonstrators as Attorney General John Mitchell watched from his office window.

Demonstrators had been throwing bottles and stones through windows of the building and at police.


The rally began shortly after 4 p. m. when a coalition of the Yippies, the Weathermen, the Mad Dogs, and small anarchist groups from New York City gathered around huge papier mache figures of Spiro Agnew and other men in the government. A march led by red, blue and yellow Viet Cong flags began circling the Justice Department building from its front door on Constitution Ave. The group had a permit to rally from 5 to 8 p. m.

The marchers demanded an end to the Chicago trial of the eight people charged with conspiracy to riot at last year's Democratic National Convention. They also demanded the freeing of Bobby Seale, one of the eight, who was sentenced to four years in jail for contempt of court in that trial.

Shortly after the march had rounded the building and was back on Constitution Avenue, a demonstrator threw a red smoke bomb which exploded next to the building. Then, with thousands of demonstrators jammed in the street in front of the Justice Department, members of the crowd hurled rocks and bottles at the windows.

A line of Mobe marshals briefly ringed the base of the Justice Department building holding their fingers in the V-shape to try to stop the barrage. Police moved in from the east and fired two successive rounds of tear gas which drove about a quarter of the crowd back into the Mall to the south.

In the meantime, other police formed a line across Constitution Avenue to block the main body of the demonstrators. Some of these hauled down the American flag from the Justice Department's pole and ran up their Viet Cong flag. Police then took it down.

For some 15 minutes demonstrators and police confronted each other until the crowd began to throw rocks and sticks at police. Then the police began a massive tear gas attack on the crowd.

The police first shot gas at the front of the crowd, which began to retreat immediately. Then as the 10,000- both militant demonstrators and less-militant spectators- on Constitution Avenue tried to leave the area, the crowd was bottle-necked by narrow exits.

Two thousand people trying to get between the Museum of Natural History and a concrete underpass could move no faster than a very slow walk. Big clouds of tear gas covered the crowd. Police fired more cannisters of gas into the air so that they landed and exploded in the midst of the crowd on the feet and clothing of the retreating demonstrators.

Many Blinded

The gas blinded those it hit and made it very difficult for them to breathe. Many were overcome and collapsed. Many others lay gagging and vomiting over the rail into the underpass.

A larger group of demonstrators was similarly trapped on Constitution Avenue. Police arrested about 30 for disorderly conduct.

Most of the people from this group headed north towards Pennsylvania Ave Some then headed west to the White House where they were repulsed again, and where more were arrested.

As they retreated, some groups smashed some store windows. A total of 20 windows at the Justice Department were broken. Over 100 demonstrators were arrested Saturday on a variety of charges.

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