The Sheep Meadow Will Never Be The Same: Peace March 1967
Huge Peace March Spans Wide Social Spectrum
By Don McNeill and Leticia Kent
The theme of the demonstration was "The Bread is Rising" -- a slogan that dates from the French Revolution. And the April 15 Spring Mobilization march against the war in Vietnam was vast enough to do justice to the theme.
Although the head-count is still in dispute, it is clear that the march broke all records for peace demonstrations in this country. As Dr. Martin Luther King began to speak near the United Nations, the last contingents of the parade were still in Central Park. There seemed to be enough marchers to fill the entire parade route twice. Some said there were as many as 200,000 marchers -- the same number that converged in the March on Washington in 1963.
They came from all over the East Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi to the gulf of Mexico. Four hundred busses filled Shea Stadium. For many, it was their first trip to New York City. Radio City was jammed Saturday night.
The marchers gathered in the Sheep Meadow of Central Park and the grass will never be the same.
The Department of Parks shuddered at the prospect but, a Department spokesman explained drily, "we were requested by the police to let them use the park in the interest of public safety."
The day before the march, police criss-crossed the Sheep Meadow with rows of wooden barricades. But the marchers who gathered on Saturday morning milled on the meadow -- confounding Mobilizations leaders. Many were unaffiliated and unresponsive to the military commands of the parade marshals. They carried daffodils, offered fortune cookies with peace slogans inside, wore buttons, blew up balloons, circulated petitions, snapped pictures, and marveled at the turnout.
Ringing the meadow on the east side, various groups affiliated with the Angry Arts movement performed in a "Peace Fair" on top of flatbed trucks. On the west side of the meadow the flag of the National Liberation Front waved atop a 40 foot tower. Nearby, small paper NLF flags were sold to demonstrators.
And the banana heads were there. A familiar sight since the Easter Be-In, they hurtled across the Meadow holding aloft their banana replica, chorusing the banana mantra. The mobilization committee, concerned about respectability, did not condone the NLF and the banana contingent.
At 11 a.m. atop a knoll -- called Hippie Hill since the be-in -- at the south end of the Sheep Meadow, about 75 men burned their draft cards. A fire flickered in a coffee can held above the heads of the crowd and one-by-one the cards were ignited. For each burning card, the crowd cheered. The draft card burners expected to be seized on the spot by the Feds -- but no arrests were made...
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