The March on the Pentagon on October 21st 1967 was not the first, the last or the largest of anti-Vietnam war protests by activists, hippies, students and draft resisters. However, the rally was envisioned with one adamant purpose: to shut down the war effort, if only for a day — and on that October morning the crowd of some 100,000 confronted 2,500 rifle-wielding soldiers for just that. The organizerorganizer Abbie Hoffman held a mass exorcism, hoping to levitate the Pentagon 300 feet off the ground, turn it orange and vibrate out any evil spirits.
French photojournalist Marc Riboud noticed a lone girl posturing inches from the soldiers’ sheathed bayonets. She was trying to start a dialogue with them. Riboud crept close, snapping away in the soft, dying light of the late afternoon with the last of his film. He wouldn’t learn the girl’s name for three decades, but the photograph he took—a gauzy juxtaposition of armed force and flower child innocence—soon became a defining image of the antiwar era. The girl, Jan Rose Kasmir, was 17 when the picture was taken, a high-school student who’d bounced from foster home to foster home in the nearby Maryland suburbs. Now she had settled in Denmark.
The photo–perhaps as as proxy for the girl–talked to the soldiers; it convinced them to throw down their guns and join the anti-war movement soothingly and softly. However, what happened that day was anything but: it resulted in some of the first violent clashes of the antiwar movement as the soldiers lobbed tear gas into the crowds trying to force their way into the building. Six hundred eighty-one protesters were arrested, and dozens were beaten as they were pushed off the Pentagon’s steps. Norman Mailer chronicled these events in his firsthand account, The Armies of the Night.