--from the New York Times, May 21, 1970

On May 20, 1970, between 60,000 and 150,000 construction workers and others paraded through downtown New York to show support for President Nixon's Vietnam war policies. The parade was organized by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (led by Peter Brennan) in part to counteract the widespread media images of rampaging construction workers from May 8 with images of peaceful political protest. A blizzard of tickertape drifted down on the marchers from the windows of Wall Street offices.

This article is not news coverage of the march but rather "a random sampling of some marchers and their views." This is a valuable historical source for uncovering what the "hardhats" themselves thought and who they were. It is important to keep in mind, though, that the reporter and editors selected the marchers and views they found most newsworthy or representative.

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What are some of the reasons these people give for supporting Nixon and opposing antiwar protesters? What seem to be the larger social issues and assumptions underlying their opinions?

 

Richard Roeber, a crane operator from Queens:
I think it's about time something like this has been done. Everybody grows up and everybody has somebody over them, and when the parents don't take over, things go wrong.

And this is what's happening here: When your Congressmen and everybody else can't even stand up for America, what do they expect? And it can get worse and worse. The quicker Lindsay goes, the better...When your leader's wrong, what do you expect from the people?


John Nash, 48, a printer at The Evening News of Newark and a veteran of World War II:
We've got to beat these Communists somewhere. So we're fighting them. Let's win. Victory. No substitute for victory.

I'm backing the President all the way. My boy goes into service on Dec. 7...I'm proud of him. It's a chance we all had to take. It's his turn. With small wars, there will be no big ones as long as we stand up like they're doing now...small compared with 100,000 a year like we did in World War II. It has to be paid. It's a sad thing, but it has to be realized, or else we'll be by ourselves in this whole world and we can't stand up.

Of those killed at Kent State University:
I have no sympathy for them. I'm not a college man, I'm not smart. But I know one thing: When a guy's got a gun, I don't throw rocks at him. I go the other way...If I attacked that cop over there, I'd expect him to shoot me.

Of the flag:
Outside of God, it's the most important thing I know. I know a lot of good friends died under this. It stands for the greatest: America.

Robert Geary, 50, an office worker for the Colonial Hardware Corporation:
I'm very proud to be an American, and I know my boy that was killed in Vietnam would be here today if he was alive, marching with us...I know he died for the right cause, because in his letters he wrote to me he knew what he was fighting for: to keep America free and to avoid any taking over by Communists--atheistic Communists, by the way.

I think most of them [college dissenters] are influenced by a few vile people...I'll tell you one person who smudged the name of my son and that was Mayor Lindsay. When he stands up and says men who refuse to serve in the armed forces are heroic, then I presume by the same category that my son that was killed in Vietnam is a coward, the way he thinks.

Eighty per cent of the people are behind America and the flag...I believe that what we're fighting for is worth it, yes, but nobody likes war.

Of the flag: It's me. It's part of me. I fought for it myself two or three years in the Second World War...It's the greatest country in the world. All they [dissenters] have to do is move out.


Mrs. Allison Greaker, 411 100th Street, Brooklyn, marching with her children, Richard Nixon Greaker, 1, and Allison, 2:
We're part of the silent majority that's finally speaking--and in answer to the creeps and the bums that have been hollering and marching against the President.

I think he's doing everything he can to bring about an honorable peace. I think my kids are going to live better with Nixon in the White House.

To stop Communist aggression [the war] has been worth it, yes...If they had listened to Gen. Douglas MacArthur from the very beginning and gone into Manchuria, we wouldn't have had the problems we have. We would have put the Communists down back in 1952. I have a lot of faith in the college kids...I think they're being heard enough, and we're answering right now today...They've tried to take over education, the Communists have, and I think this is where [the students are] getting their viewpoints from.

Robert Romano, 40, Princeton, N.J., general foreman for the Tishman Construction Company at World Trade Center site:
I feel the children of today are getting carried away in their demonstrations. I don't think they're absolutely wrong. There are parts of things that they are right in, but most of the demonstration doesn't have to be violence.

I feel they [college dissenters] have been with the silver spoon in their mouth too long and somebody has to stop them, because if not, the country itself will come to ruins. My opinion is that protesting is a family deal. If children in college and high school have gripes, do it as a family group...The parents have to participate.

And if parents and children disagree?
Well let me tell you the old-fashioned way: Use your hand: My father didn't stop to hit me. If I said I didn't like something, he hit me. I learned to like it. That's the way it has to be."


Raymond Massaro, 25, electrician:
This is my country, and I'm going to support it to the highest limits. I have a lot of friends that are over there being killed and I don't go for this [war dissenting].

I'm on the 1-A list right now. My union has been keeping me out because of school, but I should be called any day. My local gets a deferment for training. I'll definitely serve this country 100 per cent. If America feels [the war] is right, it's right. There's a purpose for being over there, and I feel it's right.

People [dissenters] have a right to feel the way they do, especially if they have brothers and friends [in the war]. But when you're over there, I'm sure there's a difference. I can't give you that feeling. But people who have been there say we have to be there. I'm for this country. These are my people, right here.