Anti Vietnam Protest at American Embassy
President Johnson, who had inherited what was already a difficult situation in Vietnam from JFK, had deepened the problem by sending in troops rather than just ‘advisers.’ In a century that had already seen two world wars many began to fear a third, given the support the communist North Vietnamese were already getting, and could expect to get, from other Marxist states. The perversity of America supporting a deeply flawed South Vietnamese regime for ideological reasons also struck the liberal press and Western students as wrong-headed.
In this atmosphere demonstrations became more numerous and vocal. In Britain there were fears, probably unfounded, that our special relationship with America might mean we would be dragged into the conflict – Michael Stewart, the British Foreign Secretary in 1966, was trying to act as a peacemaker and was in fact determined to avoid involvement for Britain’s forces.
American bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong, with major civilian losses, sparked a large organised demo on July 3 1966, at least 4,000 protestors marching on the American embassy, albeit originally in a reasonably peaceful if impassioned fashion. The police intervened to avoid any danger to the embassy, but inevitably perhaps pushing and shoving turned to scuffles and they in turn escalated. A police motorbike was set on fire. The violence worsened, but eventually the police restored order, making 31 arrests.
The vehemence of the anti-war protestors may have further influenced the policy of Harold Wilson ’s government. Britain stayed out of the war, but the protest set the tone for many more in the next few years, and for an anti-establishment mood that permeated university and factory alike.
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