Gene McCarthy praises antiwar efforts of students

by May 11,

Wednesday’s rioting turned to rhetoric Thursday as over 6,000 persons massed before Coffman Union, listening to a parade of speakers including Gene McCarthy, who said he supported the barricading of Washington Avenue.
About 25 speakers addressed the rally, which began just before noon, calling for nonviolence, outreach into the community and the conversion of the University into an anti-war institution. “I don’t care if you block this bridge,” McCarthy told the crowd. “They blocked it for several months to put in a new bridge — why not block it for several days to stop a war?”
There were numerous jeers among the applause that greeted McCarthy after his introduction as a man who voted for extension of the draft, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the crime control bill.
” I didn’t come here to defend myself,” he said as he began his 10-minute speech. ” I hope we can get together and help each other to find a way to end the war.”
The crowd spread across the grass and sidewalks in front of Coffman, packed the footbridges and overflowed onto the mall.
McCarthy, dressed typically in a gray suit and blue shirt, was, as usual, cagey about his political future.
“I will lead the way in 1972 for people to express themselves. If that means a new party, then I’ll go that way,’ he offered.
“Ask the Congress to cut off funds. But beyond that, this is the time for impeachment proceedings,” he added, drawing a long ovation.
As speakers filed one by one to the microphone on the steps of Coffman, exhortations for actions of all types blossomed like the Mall elms.
Rep. William Ojala (DFL-Aurora) won a standing ovation when he called for a special legislative session to put a war referendum on the ballot.
Gary Prevost, Minnesota Peace Action Coalition state coordinator, said, “The most important thing we can do is to bring people to the Capitol Saturday.”
Rev. Vincent Hawkinson, Minnesota Clergy and Laymen Concerned, said the crowd should demand that Gov. Wendell Anderson come to them and demand he call a special session instead of the National Guard.
After a false alarm of an imminent police attack on the barricades, people flocked to the street. A spontaneous but orderly march of about 1,500 persons, led by a contingent of veterans with linked arms, flowed down Washington.
Covering the width of the street for over a block, they headed up Oak Street and then University Avenue to the Armory.
The bullhorn announced, “All we’re here for is to show that we can mobilize the people. We’re not here to hassle the cops.”
As the line bent around the corner of 17th Avenue and University, police and guardsmen nervously tapped their riot sticks against their boots but no incidents occurred.
As the leaders hit Church Street, they were stopped to allow passage of a convoy of five National Guard trucks and four jeeps carrying about 65 guardsmen, some of whom flashed peace signs or clenched fists to the delight of the crowd, which later trod back to Coffman.