January 20 was no day, as it has been traditionally, of uniting behind the President. Counterinaugural parades and speeches were held in cities around the world to protest not only Nixon policy in Vietnam but his next four years in office. Washington: 30,000. London: 12,000. Helsinki: 10,000. Los Angeles: 3000. Tokyo: 1200. San Diego: 1000 at the outside (the S.D. police said 600, the Indochina Action Committee, 3000).
Demonstrators met at noon in tiny Newton Park downtown to march to Balboa Park where speeches were to begin at 2. The mood was subdued and friendly, in fact, tranquil to the point of being slack. On the roof of the Atlas Lithograph Co. across the street, five Spiro Agnews with camera watched, and when the march started, three policemen followed at a "respectful" distance, expecting "no trouble" from San Diego's "fifteen most radical groups" (after all, "there's nothing to destroy in the Park"). Everyone glided through what began as a warm afternoon (at one Washington rally fires were burned to keep warm, and by 4pm that's just what San Diego needed).
Nixon's Parade was coordinated with computer efficiency. San Diego: people made their own signs on the spot, and when amplifiers broke down for a full hour, no one really seemed to care — except the woman in charge: "Please don't leave. Could people please not leave." Many did. By the time Tom Hayden — the featured speaker who was strategically placed last — got to the microphone, the crowd had shriveled to a third of its original size.
The last antiwar protest? In Washington Bella Azbug hoped it would be San Diego: the focus on Vietnam was diffused by special interest groups promoting their own causes — women, gays with lavender ribbon arm bands, blacks from the Kitty Hawk, Chicanos from MECHA, and everywhere men from the Young Socialist Alliance who, more than any others, circulated earnestly (within 45 minutes I talked with a mailman, county engineer, and ex-student). Observers? Except for the group playing football on the grass, who upon hearing the marchers near the park, said "Oh Good! We have a demonstration!" most expected very little from the speakers. Said one man of about 30, somewhat pompously: "I'd like to see the War end, but this isn't going to end it. I don't understand what they're doing. I wish they'd all come out to the Nicaragua Fund. That's more important than something which has already happened."
In Washington the Yippies headed their march with a huge papier mâché rat named Milhous. In Montgomery protestors dressed in black robes and death masks. San Diego? No such theatre. But the quality of the speeches was high and the program varied ultimately. The first four speakers were Chicanos from State. Then things branched out. Carla Kirkwood from Women Studies at State, Sidney Glass from the Kitty Hawk who explained the history behind the black courts martial, and Leonard Weinglass, attorney for Ellsberg and Russo in the Pentagon Papers Case. Said Weinglasss: California, home of the Kitty-Hawk-pentagon Paper Del Mar III Trials is the focus of the "new Justice"; for example, Peter Bohmer is now incarcerated in Chino for "medical examination and evaluation," i.e., psychiatric probes.
In Washington the beautiful, sad voice of black singer Ethel Innis made the last chords of the Star Spangled Banner sound like taps. Here HOlly Near, with her deep, strong voice and new song, caught another mood:
- That's just a lie
- It's one of the many
- And we have plenty.
- I don't want anymore of the same
- No more genocide
- No more genocide
- In my name.