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Confronting Warmakers at a Distance


By Harry Hurt

"You kill people, you kill people," shouted the unexpectedly small crowd of demonstrators at the Pentagon Monday as security coordinators atop the huge headquarters of the Defense Department looked down upon them in silence.

A dark green Marine helicopter flew overhead, and members of the crowd raised their middle fingers at it in a gesture of hostility and futility. Draft cards were burned and speeches were heard as the time limit for the demonstration permit approached.

Finally, antiwar activist David Dellinger and others proposed that the crowd march symbolically and non-violently into the double line of police that guarded the building. Arrests began almost immediately, and as police carted away about 200 demonstrators, the latest action in a weakening wave of antiwar protests soon came to an end.

Dubbed by its sponsors, "Confront the Warmakers", the demonstration was intended to duplicate the legendary 1967 march on the Pentagon. However, only about 1000 of the expected 3000 to 5000 demonstrators actually showed up for the march, and demonstration organizers were noticeably disappointed.

Perhaps the turnout was so small because many antiwar activists were campaigning for liberal candidates or lobbying senators and congressmen. It seems more likely, however, that the old tactic of marches and sit-ins (and even lobbying and campaigning) has simply lost its appeal as a vehicle for initiating change.

The influence of these actions on the top-level decision-makers is certainly questionable, and the huge number of police on hand for Monday's protest seemed to indicate that the Administration is more concerned with controlling protesters than listening to their current grievances. Just as in the past, the "warmakers" remain well nigh impossible to confront, and the chief result of demonstrations is a deep sense of frustration and impotence.

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