Mitchell Predicts Violence Today
(Special to the CRIMSON)
WASHINGTON, D. C., April 23-Over 1000 Vietnam Veterans Against the War-representing half of the registered demonstrating veterans-ended their five-day protest here today by dashing medals and other military hardware on the west steps of the Capitol.
As the vets discarded silver stars and navy crosses, workmen put the finishing touches on an extensive restraining fence being constructed in anticipation of tomorrow's march.
Organizers say they are expecting close to 250,000 people tomorrow, although the Washington police and movement observers point to 100,000 as a more likely figure.
Despite the claim of George R. Donahue, Assistant Chief of Washington Police, that plans to cope with the march are "low-key and low-profile," Attorney General John N. Mitchell said today he foresees "a substantial possibility of physical confrontation and physical harm in the district."
According to the UPI, the Pentagon indicated yesterday that Federal troops have been alerted for possible duty during the march. Jerry W. Friedheim, a Defense Department spokesman better known for his Vietnam War briefings, declined to comment on how many troops were involved or where they would be located.
"We have today, at the request of the Justice Department," Friedheim said, "taken actions to reduce the response time of a certain number of federal troops."
This morning vets lined up outside Capitol at about 11 a.m., waiting in a long line for their turn to throw away what they angrily termed their "worthless" and "bullshit" medals.
They hurled them toward the Capitol over the six-foot high restraining fence just built at the foot of the statue of John Marshall. Over a bushel of medals-a body bag's worth-were collected. The vets discarded helmets, dress uniforms, ribbons, discharge papers, and such awards as the bronze star, silver star and purple heart.
Many expressed their growing frustration as vets were continually turned away from Congressmen's doors through-out the week.
Former Marine Sargeant Jack Smith, the first to discard his medals, said the vets were gathered in Washington to visit those "whose action and inaction was responsible for the war... our testimony gives definition to words like genocide, racism, and atrocity."
Ron Dollums (D-Calif.)-saying that he was a veteran but not one that had served in Vietnam-heaved his good conduct medal over the fence. One World War II vet tossed away a life-time membership card in the V. F. W. for what he called "the group's sympathy with the war."
Many vets demonstrated their great anger by cursing Nixon for "killing their brothers" and referred repeatedly to the "genocide of the Vietnamese people."
After the ceremony vets marched two blocks back to their encampment-object of much Justice Department furor-where they proceeded to clean up trash and plant grass. At 6 p.m. this evening only several hundred remained although a large contingent had moved west of Potomac Park, the area being used for camping by tomorrow's marchers.
At a meeting with a group of college journalism students, Mitchell, answering a question on the possibility that "external groups" might try to exploit the demonstration, said, "The answer is a definite yes. There is no question in my mind that some of the individuals who will participate in some of those activities are inspired by outside interests."