HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » 12,000 were arrested in M...

Thu Jan 7, 2021, 01:11 PM

12,000 were arrested in May Day 1971 protests, just for contrast

This is how the May Day protests 50 years ago were handled in Washington DC. The protesters, for the most part, planned to sit down in civil disobedience to block streets. I spent several days bailing out arrestees from my college in the aftermath.

They were FAR less of a threat to the U.S. government than the traitorous seditionists who invaded the Capitol yesterday.

Addendum from Global Nonviolent Action Database:

"Before the actions took place, protesters were given a manual that described 21 detailed key bridges and traffic circles. Protesters were told to block the roads nonviolently using stalled vehicles, jury rigged barricades, or their bodies. They were also told to break down into “affinity groups.” These were groups of five to fifteen people who would jointly take part in the actions. The manual asked the protesters to come in waves, thus one affinity group would sit down at the target until arrested and then additional waves of demonstrators would follow."


You will notice that there were no plans in the 1971 protest to carry firearms, plant bombs, break into government buildings, destroy government property or to hold members of Congress as hostages. There were no plans to invade and damage state government buildings around the nation.



The 1971 May Day Protests were a series of large-scale civil disobedience actions in Washington, D.C., in protest against the Vietnam War. These began on Monday morning, May 3rd, and ended on May 5th. More than 12,000 people were arrested, the largest mass arrest in U.S. history. (my boldface)

Monday May 3

The U.S. government had put into effect Operation Garden Plot, a plan it had developed during the 1960s to combat major civil disorders. Over the weekend, while protesters listened to music, planned their actions or slept, 10,000 federal troops were moved to various locations in the Washington, D.C. area. At one point, so many soldiers and Marines were being moved into the area from bases along the East Coast that troop transports were landing at the rate of one every three minutes at Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland, about 15 miles east of the White House. Among these troops were 4,000 paratroopers from the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division. Troops from the Marine Barracks lined both sides of the 14th St bridge. These troops were to back up the 5,100 officers of the D.C. Metropolitan Police, 2,000 members of the D.C. National Guard and federal agents that were already in place.[7] Every monument, park and traffic circle in the nation's capital had troops protecting its perimeters. Paratroopers and Marines deployed via helicopter to the grounds of the Washington Monument.

Protesters announced that because the government had not stopped the Vietnam War they would stop the government[4] and told troops, many of whom were of similar age, that their goal was to prevent the troops from being sent to Vietnam. While the troops were in place and thousands held in reserve, the police clashed with members of the May Day tribe. The protesters engaged in hit and run tactics throughout the city, trying to disrupt traffic and cause chaos in the streets. President Richard Nixon, who was at the Western White House in San Clemente, California, refused to give Federal workers the day off, forcing them to navigate through police lines and May Day tribe roadblocks. Most commuters who tried arrived at their jobs, despite being delayed somewhat. Federal Employees for Peace held a rally the following day in Lafayette Park. (Me - This is somewhat inaccurate. Many protesters intended to peacefully sit down to block street traffic in acts of civil disobedience - I was there)

While the troops secured the major intersections and bridges, the police abandoned their usual arrest procedures, roaming through the city making sweep arrests and using tear gas. They detained anyone who looked like a demonstrator. By 8 am thousands of people had been arrested, including many who had not been breaking any law. The city's prisons did not have the capacity to handle that many people thus several emergency detention centers were setup including the Washington Coliseum and another one surrounded by an 8-foot-high (2.4 m) fence was set up next to RFK Stadium. The prisoners massed against the fence, pushed it over, and were tear-gassed. No food, water, or sanitary facilities were made available by authorities but sympathetic local residents brought supplies. Skirmishes between protesters and police occurred up until about mid-day. In Georgetown, the police herded the protesters and onlookers through the streets to the Georgetown University campus. The police then engaged in a back and forth with the protesters outside the university's main gate on O Street, lobbing tear gas over the gate each time they pushed the crowd back. Other forms of gas were used including pepper based and one that induced vomiting. Police helicopters also dropped tear gas on the university's lower athletic field where protesters had camped the night before. Numerous people were injured and treated by volunteers on campus. By afternoon the police had suppressed the protest and held more than 7,000 prisoners.[8]

On Tuesday, May 4, another 2,000 people were arrested at a sit-in outside the headquarters of the Justice Department. On Wednesday, May 5, 1,200 more people were arrested at a legal rally on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, bringing the total to 12,614 people, making this the largest mass arrest in U.S. history. [4][9]

3 replies, 704 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 3 replies Author Time Post
Reply 12,000 were arrested in May Day 1971 protests, just for contrast (Original post)
Wicked Blue Jan 2021 OP
Massacure Jan 2021 #1
Wicked Blue Jan 2021 #2
abqtommy Jan 2021 #3

Response to Wicked Blue (Original post)

Thu Jan 7, 2021, 01:19 PM

1. That was a different era and not really a fair comparison.

It's far more relevant to compare yesterday's events to the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.

I suspect police leadership may have viewed their response to the BLM protests as too heavy handed and swung too far in the opposite direction, but I'm speculating and they really need to come out and say why yesterday was handled differently than this summers events. There really needs to be dialogue around the vastly different responses.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to Massacure (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 7, 2021, 01:25 PM

2. The main difference was that the 2021 event was encouraged by the President

while the 1971 event was opposed by that president.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to Wicked Blue (Original post)

Thu Jan 7, 2021, 04:33 PM

3. Thanks for the reminder. I was 22 years old then and I'm sure I noticed at the time but I forgot to


Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread