By Lee Batdorff
In 1971 thousands of anti-war protestor against U.S. Federal government policies concerning the Vietnam War (being directed by then President Richard Nixon), were more measured than the Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.
The Trump supporters shut down the U.S. Congress and committed violence in the process by breaking windows, busting up news media camera equipment, lugging off lecterns and senatorial paperwork, etc..
Five people died as a result of this ‘protest’–including a police officer. Except for the four May 4th, 1970 killings at Kent State University in Ohio, dying at anti-war demonstrations was not the norm.
These Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol building, overcoming many police officers in the process. This is something that has never happened at the U.S. Capitol before, except for when the British took it during the war of 1812. There certainly will be arrests of members of this group that stormed our nation’s Capitol building.
Arresting protestors in Washington DC is a time-honored tradition. However these Trump supporters are not likely to received a financial award from the U.S. Supreme Court as some law abiding Anti-Vietnam War protesters did for their protest 50 years ago.
From Friday night April 30th to Sunday morning May 2nd 1971, I was a 19-year-old college student among some 35,000 anti-war protesters at the Student and Youth for a Peoples Peace May Day Anti-Vietnam War protest.
After sleeping outside on the ground for two nights, like most protestors, two college pals and I departed the event on Sunday morning of May 2nd. We had only 48 hours over that weekend to contribute to the anti-war cause. Thousands of riot police showed up early Sunday morning encouraging us to leave. And we needed to be back in college classes on Monday May 3rd.
We returned to our dormitory at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio late Sunday and missed the real action.
After we had been back in classes for three days on May 5th, amidst the spraying of tear gas and many indiscriminate arrests, 12,614 protestors were put into the Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. This was, and still is, the largest mass arrest in U.S. history. Eventually charges against almost all protestors were dropped though 79 protestors were convicted of mostly minor criminal offenses.
Mostly the May Day 1971 protestors were peaceful though they blocked streets. A lucky 1,200 were entered into a court case against the Federal government brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
It must be noted that these protestors were unlike the Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021. These anti-war protestors were peaceful.
The U.S. Supreme Court determined that many million dollars in damages was done to the civil liberties of these 1,200 protesters. Each of them received thousands of dollars in the award. This was the first, and so far to my knowledge, only such award ever issued by the U.S. government.