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Exhibition Marks 50th Anniversary of May Day Protests

Bus with protesters at the May Day Protests.

The 1971 May Day protests brought tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators to Washington D.C., the culmination of weeks of anti-war activity in the city that spring. These protests helped to end the Vietnam War and pioneered a model that would shape activism for decades. A new Library exhibition, The Most Influential Protest You’ve Never Heard Of, illustrates the impact and aftermath of the May Day protests on the Georgetown Campus through images and documents housed in the University Archives.

The announced goal of the protests was to disrupt the basic functioning of the federal government through nonviolent action; the immediate focus of the protesters was on snarling traffic to prevent government employees from getting work on Monday, May 3. Their slogan was “If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.”

By the end of May 3, more than 7,000 protesters had been arrested across the city; 5000 more were arrested on May 2, 4 and 5. These represent the largest mass arrests in U.S. history. Ultimately, however, only 79 people were convicted of any offense related to the protests.

If you were on the Georgetown campus during the May Day protests and would be interested in sharing memories or memorabilia, contact University Archivist Lynn Conway.