by Jeff Stevens
October 16, 1965: Mickey Mouse Fight Club
Never underestimate the impotency of a heckler--even when he, she or
it represents the majority. Such was unfortunately the case on the
date in focus here, when almost 400 protesters turned out for
Seattle's first major local demonstration against the Vietnam War,
and were greeted with decidedly feral heckling from both
counter-protesters and pro-war bystanders.
The event was organized by the Seattle Committee to End the War in
Vietnam (SCEWV) and the University of Washington chapter of Students
for a Democratic Society (SDS) in solidarity with other, larger
protest events in several major US cities that same weekend,
including a 13,000-strong march in New York City. The Seattle protest
began with a march under police escort down Fourth Avenue in Downtown
Seattle, from the Federal Courthouse at Fifth and Spring Street to a
noon rally at Westlake Mall. The heckling began at the courthouse,
where the counter-slogans included such reactionary gems as "Keep
Washington Green--not Red!," "For Sale Cheap--Ho Chi Minh Sandals!"
and, amusingly representing the UW's right-wing Greek community,
"Sigma Chi says 'USA--All The Way!'"
When the march arrived at Westlake Mall, the counter-protesters,
keeping their distance one block away from the rally, attempted to
drown out the antiwar voices by singing the Mickey Mouse Club anthem,
and the first speaker, UW Political Science professor Paul Brass, was
doused with red paint by a certain self-identified "Joe Freedom," who
amusingly turned out to be a disgruntled student of Brass's.
To protest the Vietnam War at such an early stage, when American
public opinion was still squarely (yes, that was a double-entendre)
in its favor, was truly daring, especially in light of the news that
the march in NYC hours earlier had been violently attacked by
spectators, while in Oakland, California, 10,000 marchers were also
attacked--some bludgeoned, even--by Hell's Angels. According to
eyewitness and radical Seattle icon Walt Crowley (1947-2007), then an
18-year-old UW freshman braving his first major protest event, all
involved were understandably "nervous." Nevertheless, the crewcutted
heckling majority eventually ate their according crow: by mid-1970,
in the wake of the Kent State massacre and the war's increasing lack
of direction and loss of American lives, nationwide antiwar protests
had grown into massive events, with increasing empathy from the
so-called "silent majority."
One can only wonder what Walt Disney (1901-1966), noted anti-radical,
would, by that point in time, have done.
Sources: Seattle Times archives; Walt Crowley, "Rites of Passage"
(University of Washington Press, 1995).