History - U.S. Marshals and the Pentagon Riot of
October 21, 1967
Saturday, 5:40 p.m.-
Demonstrators March to Pentagon:
The day's activities began with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial.
Fifty thousand protestors, "armed with limp flowers and sturdy
convictions," gathered to protest the war. After 3:00 p.m., some
headed for home. Others headed toward the Pentagon for more rallies.
The riot lasted the night. The Deputy Marshals, acting as the civil
the federal government, made all the arrests. As soon as they were
many of the demonstrators simply collapsed, forcing the Deputies to drag
them to the waiting prison vans where other Deputies pushed and shoved
the recalcitrant demonstrators aboard. The Deputies worked without
relief, taking few breaks. Physically exhausted, they responded to the
rioters with increasingly rough treatment, though remarkably few
injuries. A total of 682 people were arrested. Forty-seven
people-demonstrators, soldiers, and U.S. Marshals were injured. By 7:00
o'clock Sunday morning, most of the protestors had left; only 200
The October 1967 Pentagon riot, the first national protest against the
war, exemplified the agonizingly divisive debate over Vietnam.
Ironically, the demonstrators helped the federal government confirm its
own commitment to civilian control. Civilian Deputy Marshals, not
soldiers, arrested them. The Deputies were fulfilling the historic role
of U.S. Marshals, for each arrest affirmed the enduring concept of
civilian supremacy in the United States.
Saturday, 6:00 p.m.-
Demonstrators Storm Pentagon:
Some of the demonstrators were determined to disrupt military
operations by storming the Pentagon. The most serious incident occurred
when 20 to 30 demonstrators pushed through the line of U.S. Marshals and
military police into the Pentagon's Mall entrance. They were greeted by
heavily armed troops. The soldiers forced some demonstrators outside.
Others were carried out bodily.
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