29 October 1968
Guild Gazette’s lead story this week is Gerry Cordon’s report as a member of the Liverpool contingent that travelled down to the Vietnam Solidarity demonstration in London:
About one hundred and fifty students from Liverpool were among the 40,000-strong Vietnam demonstration in London on Sunday.
There were no arrests or injuries among the Liverpool contingent, which followed the official Vietnam Solidarity Campaign route, and not the Maoist breakaway march on the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square.
The main VSC march – from Charing Cross Embankment, via Fleet Street and Whitehall, to Hyde Park – passed off peacefully. Despite the dread forebodings of last week’s national press, the three-hour walk was as calm as an old CND march- even if the slogans were more violent. For the students involved it was a triumph: “The main demo was a roaring success,” said one.
It was at the Grosvenor Square breakaway where most of the clashes between police and demonstrators occurred. A core of about 700 militants- led by Maoists and the Essex Revolutionary Socialist Student Federation group-tried to break through the police cordon surrounding the US Embassy.
In the face of five lines of police backed up by two rows of mounted police this attempt failed. Trouble soon began as demonstrators threw fireworks, banners and bottles, as well as obscenities at the police.
The London School of Economics ran their own ambulance service, ferrying the injured back to LSE. ”We’ve had about three dozen cases back here, mainly head injuries”, said an LSE spokesman later. “They weren’t very serious, and we only had to send two cases on to hospital.”
At eight in the evening LSE was closing after 72 hours of student occupation. Cleaning was already in progress but students were ready to stop and talk about the day’s events. “After all the publicity, to have a peaceful demonstration – it’s just beautiful.”
Not all were as pleased; one said, “It was bad tactics to split the movement by going to Grosvenor Square”. Some militants were concerned in a different way: “What could we do at Grosvenor Square? Most people there were merely observers – there were only about seven hundred actively trying to get into the Embassy.
Even before the main march had started inter-factional squabbles had broken out. Maoists chanted, ”Main enemy-US Imperialism; main target-US Embassy”, but VSC stood firm and kept away. Their chant was, ”Dare to fight, dare to win, long live Ho Chi-Minh”- at least when they were feeling articulate. At other times it was merely “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi-Minh!”
The slogans were simple: the targets were obvious. The Daily Sketch, despite a brave effort to confuse the marchers by boarding over the exterior nameboard, was a target for scorn and abuse. The Express building, the Telegraph offices, Rhodesia House and Australia House were all picked on as “imperialist strongholds” worthy of a “Seig Heil” chant.
President Richard Davies was present on the march and spoke of the hypocrisy of NUS leadership in advising students to stay away. “How can they talk of opposition to the Vietnam war, and then in the same breath be so trite as to insinuate that an event such as this demo might jeopardise the grants campaign? I find this disgusting”.
The Liverpool protesters had had a fairly uneventful journey down, though there had been rumours that the police might delay coaches entering London. Police have powers to stop, search and detain a coach in these circumstances under the Prevention of Crimes Act. Even before the main march had started inter-
In fact the coaches were searched at Hendon, but strict stewarding by the VSC meant that the police had no reason to confiscate anything – except, inexplicably, a reporter’s notepad and pen.