April 26, 2004


Remembering an Earlier War in America's Streets (Joe Guzzardi, April 26, 2004, ChronWatch)

In the spring of 1970, I worked for Merrill Lynch on Wall Street as an investment banker.

By 1970, the Vietnam War had split American into two factions—the pro-war and the anti-war.

And few demonstrated tolerance towards anyone whose view was different from theirs.

Most afternoons, my friends and I took our brown bag lunches down to Battery Park to watch the Hawks and the Doves argue over what course in Southeast Asia the Nixon administration should take.

What we didn’t realize was that those super-heated, in your face disputes would boil over into one of America’s ugliest street brawls during an era when violent demonstrations were commonplace.

Within the Hawks and the Doves were two subgroups: the Hard Hats, over-the-top patriotic construction workers who supported escalating the war and the Peaceniks, student groups who favored a complete and immediate withdrawal from Southeast Asia. [...]

The first bloodshed came on May 6.  Medical students from the Whitehall Medical Center ripped down an American flag on a Broad Street construction job.  Several of the students were beaten up. 

But on May 8, everything exploded.  A major peace rally scheduled for noon on Wall Street drew a big crowd.  Everyone expected trouble but we had no idea just how much raw violence we were about to witness.

Shortly after 12:00, the first wave of 200 construction workers arrived at the corner of Wall and Broad. Waving American flags, they all shouted, ''America, love it or leave it'' and ''All the way, U.S.A.''

My friends and I could sense what was coming.  The Hard Hats pushed their way past a police line that offered no resistance, grabbed the demonstrators and started to pound on them.  They hit them with helmets, pliers and wrenches.

It was pretty nearly the only good day between the Mets winning the World Series in October '69 and the US Hockey team beating the Soviets in February 1980.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 26, 2004 3:01 PM

Peggy Noonan wrote about this in a column in the WSJ last March about why she was no longer a Democrat:

"But--again--the antiwar movement startled me. I knew America was imperfect, but I also loved it. I had no illusion that other countries were perfect, or superior. I couldn't imagine an unelected dictator had more legitimacy than an American president. I will never forget a moment when on local television they showed one day an antiwar march meeting up with a bunch of New York hardhats near City Hall. They fought, and the hardhats tried to raise the American flag. I watched and realized I was pulling for the hard hats. "

You go girl.

Posted by: Jeff at April 26, 2004 3:31 PM

Which begs the question: How long is it going to take the hard hats (and other hard hat releated professions) to finally dump the Democratic Party?

Posted by: MG at April 26, 2004 5:14 PM

Fortunately, they have already for the most part, at least in many areas of the country. About the only bright spot in the 2000 election, for me anyway was Bush's upset in West Virgina (and Tennessee), which would indicate that even there the Republicans must have drawn a significant vote from Union members.
(I should say that I personally expected an easy Bush win, and so you can draw your own conclusions as to my perceptiveness.)

Posted by: h-man at April 26, 2004 6:35 PM

Of course what Guzzardi fails to mention in his article is a great majority of the construction workers who were involved in the Wall Stree area fights came from a nearby project being built by the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey called the World Trade Center.

Posted by: John at April 26, 2004 7:38 PM

I can't agree that it was a good day. I was pretty well disgusted with the anti-war protests and protesters, but I felt then, and feel now that the construction workers went too far. Unfortunately, neither side was genuinely interested in a sensible dialogue, as seems to be the case with the war in Iraq. Knee-jerk anti-war types vilify their opposites, who give back as good (or as bad) as they get. There are some exceptions, but requests for real consideration of the issues seem to be ignored or mocked at. At the end of the day, the only thing that seems to have increased is antagonism.

I don't have a solution - I think the only thing I can do is to try to keep my own discussions with those who disagree from being disagreeable.

Posted by: Henry IX at April 26, 2004 7:50 PM

The Gaullist had the Corsicans, they retained the
pied noir; despite De Gaulle's betrayal of them;
Nixon, who had a Gaullist fixation (ironic since De Gaulle had sent the force back to IndoChina; and came to power on the backs of the pied noir and their military allies)had the Teamsters for a brief while; anyways

Posted by: narciso at April 26, 2004 10:35 PM