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Mon Jun 8, 2020, 10:09 AM

Remembering the protests of 1971, when questionable tactics kept D.C. open

Remembering the protests of 1971, when questionable tactics kept D.C. open

Police in riot gear respond to antiwar protesters staging a sit-in during the May Day demonstrations on May 3, 1971, in the District. (Bob Daugherty/AP)

By John Kelly
June 7, 2020 at 4:46 p.m. EDT

Local leaders may have been apprehensive when thousands of young people took to the streets of Washington, aiming to shut it down. Still, given its long experience with political demonstrations, the District prided itself on its crowd control. But now the federal government was stepping in, guided by an attorney general who many felt was only too happy to do the president’s bidding.

It was May 3, 1971. ... Back then, the issue was stopping the Vietnam War. For many who were in the District 49 years ago, the marches and demonstrations gripping Washington today in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers have provided a weird sense of deja vu.

“What is heartening is so many people have come out to say enough is enough,” said Ellen Faryna, 68, who was arrested twice in 1971 when she was a student at American University.

Now a psychologist in the Bay Area, Faryna was arrested in February 1971 and charged with “failure to move on” after she and a friend ignored a police officer’s demand to leave the sidewalk in front of the White House and move into Lafayette Square. ... Three months later, Faryna was among 7,000 people arrested in Washington during the largest mass arrest in U.S. history.


A remarkable training film produced by the D.C. police department captured the events of May 1971. (It was recently posted on YouTube by Periscope Film. To see it, search YouTube for “anti-Vietnam protest film whole world is watching Washington.”)


Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.

John Kelly
John Kelly writes John Kelly's Washington, a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. Follow https://twitter.com/JohnKelly

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