The report on this 1965 anti-war protest is marginally better than most current press release churnalism, of course it favours the Police and the future PM McMahon (who eventually presides over troop withdrawal), but its easy enough to read between the lines and see this was the start. So, a welcome find. At this time a Gallop Survey showed more than 50% of Australians supported the Menzies Govt’s decision to send troops to Vietnam (in April 1965 – before that only military advisors [and probably special ops had been there – see ‘The Sullivans’]). The first anti-War teach-ins were held in July that year.
“60 arrested in Vietnam war protest (Canberra Times, 22 October 1965)
SYDNEY, Friday. — About 60 people were arrested tonight during a demonstration against the Vietnam war in which more than 400 people threw Sydney’s peak hour traffic into chaos with a sit-down across Pitt and King Streets.
At one stage, some people feared that the demonstration would develop into a riot. Scores of uniformed and special police were rushed to the area at the height of the demonstration. Police cordoned off one-way streets as 15 radio cars and five police vans surrounded the demonstrators. Earlier, police and demonstrators ex-changed blows in the streets while others were dragged to police vehicles. Some people, caught in the melee, rushed at demonstrators and wrenched their banners from them, tearing them to shreds. The New South Wales Police Commissioner, Mr Allan, called for an immediate report on the incident. It probably will be ready for him late tomorrow. Police said late tonight that most of those arrested had been released on bail. They would appear in Central Court on Monday.
Peak hour traffic. The few who had not been bailed out would spend the night in police cells at Central, Darlinghurst and Regent Street police stations and would appear in court tomorrow. The demonstration began about 5pm as hundreds of workers left their offices. Many had trouble getting through the placard-waving, chanting crowd, and some were still caught there as police reinforcements arrived. The Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr McMahon, was leaving the Commonwealth Bank Building on Martin Place, where parliamentary offices are located, as the demonstration began. The demonstration began peacefully, but soon home-going city traffic was banked up to Circular Quay in the north and the Central Railway Station in the southern end of the main city area. Demonstrators paraded along the footpaths. They carried posters, on which were written anti-American slogans, and photographs of Vietnamese civilian casualties. They marched into Pitt Street during the peak hour and were blocked by police. … Some demonstrators sat and lay across the roadways. They still held aloft their banners, and chanted slogans protesting the Vietnam war. Fights broke out, and extra police moved in. Many people were arrested by police and loaded into vans. They were taken to Central, Darlinghurst and Regent Street stations. Mr McMahon was reported to have spoken to a demonstrator who carried a banner which read: “How can the Vietnamese be aggressive in their own country?” There was a brief exchange and Mr McMahon appeared to offer to shake hands. The demonstrator walked away. Scores of leaflets were handed out by those taking part in the protest, but most were thrown away. After the area had been cleared the leaflets littered the ground. Demonstrators included members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation, the Communist Party, the ALP youth body, women’s organisations including the “Save Our Sons” Movement and university students. Militant members of trade unions, including some officials, were reported to be among those who chanted, “One, two, three, four, We don’t want war . . . Five, six, seven, eight, End the war, negotiate.” Some chanted, “American casualties, one in 20, Australian casualties, one in 10.”
Militant action. Most placards were directed against American policy in Vietnam, although some attacked the Australian Government’s policy on conscription. A spokesman for the demonstrators said tonight that the demonstration was the forerunner of more militant action by the group. Until now they had been prepared to hold peaceful demonstrations in the Sydney Domain and other areas, but in future similar demonstrations were likely, he said. While demonstrators paraded, about a dozen sup- porters of the Australian- Vietnamese policy waved American and Australian flags as a counter protest.”