The New York Times: 'You brought down one President and you'll bring down another.'
Starting at 7:30 A.M., hundreds of youths, mostly from New York University and others from Hunter College and city high schools, gathered at Broad and Wall Streets in a demonstration demanding the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam and Cambodia, the immediate release of all "political prisoners in America" and the cessation of military-oriented work by the universities.
"All accounts agree that the demonstration was without violence until the construction workers reached the scene.
"The construction workers, most of them wearing brown overalls and orange and yellow hard hats, descended on Wall Street from four directions. A thin line of policemen had blocked off the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial at Nassau and Wall Streets, from about a thousand students who were sitting on the sidewalk and pavement listening to speakers denounce the war abroad and repression at home.
"The morning was chilly, with a light rain. But toward noon the sky lightened and the day became warm and humid. The students were in good humor; they cheered a Broad Street lawyer, Charles F. Appel, 56 years old, who told the youths: 'You brought down one President and you'll bring down another.'"
Pace College student Martin Dolgow: "The march was peaceful."
"At 11:50 A.M. on Friday, I arrived at the intersection of Wall and Broad Streets. I entered from Nassau Street. I immediately went up to George Washignton's statue on the Sub Treasury Building. The march was peaceful. I heard both sides yelling different slogans. Then at 11:55 P.M., I noticed a huge group of yellow helmeted construction workers assemble at Broad Street in between Exchage Place and Wall St. The police made a human chain across Broad Street to block off the workers. The chain was horizontal to Broad Street."
The Police Report: "A police line was quickly formed..."
"At approximately 1200 hours (12:00 noon), a group of from one hundred to two hundred construction workers, carrying a variation of sizes of American flags, appeared north along the west side of Broad Street. A police line was quickly formed across Broad Street some twenty feet south of the intersection of Wall Street immobilizing them...
"The four police commanders present drew several, of what appeared to be leaders of the group, into a dialogue, hoping to get them to disperse, and, in any event to gain time pending the arrival of the two additional Special Events Squad Units.
"The construction workers assailed the fact that there was no American Flag in evidence at the Federal Hall National Memorial Building, in contrast to the many that were displayed from the adjoining banks and financial institutions (all of which were at full staff). They argued that this was a Government owned building, that it was owned by all the people and that they had a right to share an equal portion of the steps and to express their views in support of the American Flag and the foreign policy of the United States; that everyone had an equal right to freely express their views.
"The construction workers were told that if they applied for a parade and/or loudspeaker permit, that one would be issued to them and they could then exercise their rights; it was pointed out, however, that because of the dangers involved, they could not occupy the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial Building simulataneously with the anti-war protesters.
"While this exchange was taking place between the police and the construction workers, the noon time lunch crowd began to filter into the area causing it to become quite congested with people, many of whom flocked to the support of the construction workers and their demands and swelled their ranks considerably.
"It was later learned, that because of the early morning weather, the flag was not flown from the Federal building as per regulations.
Construction worker Joe Kelly: 'U.S.A. all the way'
"When you were still up on Broadway you could hear the ruckus, the hollering. The peace demonstrators trying to outshout the construction workers. The construction workers hollering, 'U.S.A. all the way' and 'We're Number One.' And the peace demonstrators screaming up there that the war was unjust and everything else, right by the Treasury Building on Broad Street there.
Pace College student Martin Dolgow: "I clung to my atache case for my life..."
"At 12:05 P.M., a group (huge) of construction workers marched down Wall Street towards the demonstrators. There were altogether about 650 helmeted workers. Then when the workers on Broad Street saw the workers on Wall Street they tried to break the police line. At first they were held back for about thirty seconds, then they went through on a rampage without any restraint from the police. All of a sudden, everyone started running down Wall Street (peace demonstrators) towards William Street. All this time I was standing on the steps of the Sub Treasury building in front of a rope that stretched across, and in front of a line of helmeted police.
"The construction workers from Broad Street who were carrying big American flags stormed the statue and I was bewildered. I turned around and looked at the policeman in back of me. It was a look that said, "Help, please protect me. Please God." He then said, "Come on you kids, get out of here. Get out of here. Let them up."
"Then with both of his hands, he pushed me and if there weren't people in front of me, I would have fallen down the steps. He then pushed me again. I clung to my atache case for my life. I raised it so as to hide my peace button and the black arm band on my sleeve and the two buttons on my coat.
"Then I saw them come up the steps and in the process two young girls, about fifteen and ten years old (they looked like they were sisters and they clung to each others' hands) were stepped on and knocked down and stepped on. I was afraid to run. I was in a state of bewilderment. I walked down the stairs and walked up Wall Street towards Broadway.
"As I walked under the statue on Wall Street, a policeman looked at the construction workers and sympathizers and began to grin. It made me mad. How could he grin at a time like this. Businessmen in the street were cheering the construction workers who had liberated the statue with the American flag."
Construction worker Joe Kelly: 'He spit on the flag! He spit on the flag!'
"There was just a lot of hollering and screaming going back and forth until whoever the individual was-oh, he was no spring chicken, he was 40, 45 years old-that spit on the flag. I was maybe four or five rows back in with the construction workers. I saw him make a gesture, you know, a forward motion. That was it. That was the spark that ignitied the flame. It came out in the roar of the crowd. 'He spit on the flag! He spit on the flag! And of course the construction worker got up there on top of the monument and he gave him a good whack and off came the guy's glasses and I guess he followed his glasses off the pedestal there.
"And then there just seemed to be a rush, a mob scene. The chant then was, "Get the flags up on the steps where they belong. It's a Government building.' and they can say what they want about the New York Police Department, they coulda had the National Guard there with fixed bayonets and they would not have held the construction workers back then. When we first went up on the steps and the flags went up there, the whole group started singing 'God Bless America' and it damn near put a lump in your throat. It was really something. I could never say I was sorry I was there. You just had a very proud feeling. If I live to be 100, I don't think I'll ever live to anything quite like that again.
"The flags were up on the top steps. The construction workers and the Wall Street workers, they had the steps of the Treasury Building filled and the demonstrators were now down in the street."
"And they started to chant in unison '___ no, we won't go,' and they just kept it up. And all of a sudden, just the same as the movement had started up the steps, the movement started back down the steps. This chant that they had kept up, it just raised the anger to a degree that it just seemed that everybody would just want to get down there and disperse them. When I say 'disperse,' I don't mean physically take these kids and manhandle them, but just to break them up, break up the group and break up this chant because it just seemed so un-American."
The Police report: "The police found it almost impossible to...prevent fighting..."
"The entire group of peace demonstrators formed up into a solid mass at the base of the statue of George Washington at the western extreme of the Federal Memorial Building steps. They shouted peace slogans and invectives at the construction workers and, intentionally or otherwise, proceeded to close the gap that existed between them. A second police line was quickly formed parallel to the first line to keep the two factions separated and to establish a buffer zone between them.
"Heckling between the two groups intensified very rapidly, emotions became strained, and the construction workers, reinforced from the rear by some thousand vocal supporters from the Wall Street area, suddenly burst through the easterly terminus of the police line and negotiated the eastern portion of the front steps of the Federal National Memorial Building. The scene was described by commentators as resembling the raising of the American Flag at Iwo Jima.
"Although portions of motion picture films of the incident depicted the presence of a large Viet Cong flag in the ranks of the peace demonstrators at the foot of the statue of George Washington, it could not definitely be established if it was so displayed at a time coincidental with the breaching of the police lines by the construction workers and their supporters, and the catalyst that caused their sudden surge.
"Once atop the steps, the construction workers implanted a number of American flags on the pillars and on the statue of George Washington. Since the peace demonstrators were concentrated to the westerly portion of the front of the building, little physical contact between these two groups took place at this time and the construction workers, seemingly content with their victory, proceeded to conduct a salutory ceremony to the Flag. The police lines were reformed perpendicular to the centerline of the face of the building to once again again separate the two factions.
"The usual lunch hour crowd which had, by now, inundated the area completely from building line to building line, loudly applauded the construction workers and their singing of the National anthem; many onlookers joined in, openly displaying much fervor.
"At this juncture, a neatly groomed conservatively dressed middle aged man suddenly took a position on the pedestal in front of the statue of George Washington where he thumbed his nose at the construction worker group, shouted obscenities, and ultimately committed an act of desecration upon one of the American flags implanted there by them. He was variously reported as blowing his nose in the flag, tearing the flag with his teeth, and eating the flag.
"The construction workers ignored his taunts but became enraged and reacted violently to the desecration of the American flag. They overran the entire step area, forcing the peace demonstrators down to the street among the spectators; the flag desecrator was toppled to the ground, and numerous sporadic scuffles took place between peace demonstrators, construction workers, and onlookers. Because of the solid mass of people, the police found it almost impossible to move about to prevent fighting or effect arrests, and the two additional Special Events Squad Units, which arrived almost simultaneously with the sudden eruption of violence, found it quite difficult to make their way through the crowd from Broadway."
The New York Times: "All we want to do is put our flag up on those steps..."
"Then came the moment of confrontation. The construction workers, marching behind a cluster of American flags, swept the policemen aside and moved on the students. The youths scattered, seeking refuge in the lunch hour crowds.
"The workers sought them out, some selecting those youths with the most hair and swatting them with their helmets.
"There did not seem to be more than 200 construction workers, but they were reinforced by hundreds of persons who had been drawn into the march by chants of 'All the way, U.S.A.' and 'Love it or leave it.'
"On reaching the Federal Hall National Memorial, the workers at first pushed halfheartedly against the police line. 'All we want to do is put our flag up on those steps,' one worker said quietly to Inspector Harold Schryner. 'If you try, there'll be blood to pay,' the inspector replied.
"But within two minutes the workers had surged over the memorial's steps, planting American flags on the statue of George Washington. Then they outflanked the police, driving demonstrators before them and hitting the youths with their helmets."