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U.S. Marshals Service

History -  U.S. Marshals and the Pentagon Riot of October 21, 1967


Demonstrators on October 21, 1967, near the pentagonSaturday, 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 demonstrators
headed for home. Others headed toward the Pentagon for more rallies.

The riot lasted the night. The Deputy Marshals, acting as the civil authority of the federal government, made all the arrests. As soon as they were arrested, 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 remained.

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.

Deputies and protestters at the Pentagon October 21, 1967Saturday, 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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