Demonstrators Face Nixon: Two Worlds in Washington


Then Nixon was sworn in (his wife held the family Bibles open to Isaiah's "They shall beat their swords into plowshares" passage) and delivered his address. After declaring that an end was coming to "America's longest and most difficult war," and decrying the "condescending policies of paternalism," Nixon spoke to another theme with which he (and we) had grown familiar.

"At every turn," he said, "we have been beset by those who find everything wrong with America and little right with it. But I am confident that theirs will not be the judgement of history on these remarkable times in which we are privileged to live."

As he spoke, cries of "Stop the War" could be heard from demonstrators marching to the Washington Monument.

IT WAS COLD OUT, and different people coped with the elements as best they could. One group of anonymous bodies huddled together under an American flag. Another group tried to ignore the wind with a game of bridge. Near the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, a group made a bonfire in one of the wire trash-cans,fueling it with leaflets (of which there were many) and fence poets.

A man resembling a skinny Burl Ives pulled out his guitar, and began to sing an antiwar version of "Down by the Riverside." The crowd of people encircling him joined in the chorus, "I ain't gonna to study war no more..." He then veered to the original version, "I'm gonna kiss every doggone girl, down by the riverside," and proceeded to kiss and be kissed by every doggone man, woman and child around him. Nearby, a middle-aged couple carried a sign with the words BREAD NOT BOMBS, and handed out free chunks of home-made rye bread.


One group sat around a radio, listening to Nixon take the oath of office and give his Inaugural address.

As Nixon stated his "resolve to march forward," another group fell into the line of march.

It had all happened before, and this gathering around the Monument was not much different from the ones that had come before. True, the crowd was a little older, and bigger than it had been in quite a while. But the same songs were sung, the same speeches given, the same factionalism was present. An anti-war professor once told a Vietnam teach-in that "politics is the art of doing the same thing over and over again until it works." The crowd took him seriously, and why not? There seemed little else to do.

The factionalism was there with a vengeance. "Read this if you take your politics seriously," cried a vendor of "New Solidarity." The SDS contingent, denied a speaker on the podium, marched behind a yellow truck, determined to have its say. "We're in Washington fighting Nixon, not just mourning," someone said over the truck's loudspeaker. When the contingent got to the monument grounds, a speaker at the platform urged the crowd on his left to "sit down, lie down in front of that truck. Don't let them come through. We want this to be a non-violent protest don't we?" The crowd roared its approval, and the truck stayed where it was.

At one point in the afternoon, someone climbed up one of the flagpoles around the Washington Monument and tore down a flag. He was quickly followed by others, who tore down the remaining flags and set them afire amidst cheers. Some, seated closer to the speaker's platform, expressed their disapproval.

Throughout the afternoon, small groups of people left the rally to join the throng of 300,000 that had come to watch the Inaugural parade. Some cheered when Canada's float went by, and booed the military floats. Some threw eggs at the President as he passed (and missed). Most headed toward the buses which took them back to Michigan and Ohio and Massachusetts as official Washington prepared for the Inaugural Balls.

ONE HOUR AFTER the Swearing-In ceremonies ended, the Inaugural Parade began. Among the participants were four Pee-Wee football teams, all of which had won divisional championships. "We're marching behind the Texas float, 'The Winning Spirit,'" said Bob Lanham, the group's manager.

Nest the footballers was the Alexandria Friendship Fire Department float, which included a fire engine bought for thee city Alexandria by George Washington in 1774.

"The last time we marched was in 1889, the centennial of George Washington's first Inauguration," said George Knight, one of the firemen manning the float.

One of the flashier contingents was the Golden Spurs from Texas. The thirty-odd girls were decked out in short, fringed skirts, gold-speckled body shirts and red, white and blue "Nixon" banners. They saved red, white and blue pom-poms. "The Golden spurs were specifically invited by President Nixon to attend the Inaugural on a pre-election trip to Texas," intoned the man on the loudspeaker.