Thousands of people march in San Francisco, California, on 6 April 1969, in protest against the United States’ war in Vietnam. In the 1960s, the United States saw a wave of demonstrations against the Vietnam War, which was increasingly seen as immoral, imperialist and senselessly violent. Though the protest movement was started by small groups of left-leaning university students, it grew quickly, gathering into its fold hippies, artists, the clergy, women’s organisations and racial-minority groups.
Vietnam was the first war to be widely televised, with images of atrocities being broadcast into many Americans’ living rooms. In May of 1968, US soldiers slaughtered around 500 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam. Coverage of this event, which came to be known as the My Lai Massacre, prompted outrage in the United States and around the world, further fuelling the protests. That year, polls showed that more than half of all Americans were opposed to the war. Prominent figures lent their voices to the growing consensus, including the champion boxer Muhammad Ali, who refused induction into the military on pain of arrest, and the civil-rights icon Martin Luther King Jr, who said, “If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read ‘Vietnam.’”
The protest movement is widely cited as a factor that contributed to the end of American involvement in the war. The United States withdrew its last combat troops from Vietnam in 1973.