In mid-November, 1969, anti-war sentiment  against our military involvement in Vietnam was at its peak. Huge demonstrations were taking place on college campuses and in larger cities across the United States. The demonstration in Washington, DC was expected to bring more than 500,000, participants. Law enforcement officials were rightly concerned about the safety of our federal employees, buildings and monuments. The Secret Service was concerned about safeguarding the first family and government leaders and staff in the White House and adjacent buildings; particularly the Old Executive Office Building and the Department of the Treasury. President Nixon insisted on remaining in the White House, vowing to keep the city open during the demonstrations. Every federal and local law enforcement officer was on duty that weekend, including everyone in the Secret Service. The demonstrators were going to march down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. As they neared the White House they were to turn South, ending up at the Mall for a rally. What bothered the Secret Service were efforts by some of the organizers to redirect groups of demonstrators to other streets. Groups like the Weatherman, and the Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, had a history of provoking violence and disorder at demonstrations. One of the streets of concern was New York Avenue, which fed directly into that portion of Pennsylvania Avenue bordering the North side, or front, of the White House. Washington’s Chief of Police had a clever idea to safeguard against any attempt by demonstrators to storm the White House. He ordered that 57 city buses to be used as a barricade around the White House and adjacent buildings. The buses were parked bumper to bumper. He stationed police inside the barrier to repel anyone climbing over or crawling under the buses. The bus-barrier proved to be  highly effective. We had just organized our photo/graphics departments into the Visual Intelligence Branch, or VIB. On that day, all of us were on standby as photographers. Two photographers were already in the streets documenting the demonstrations. U. S. Park Service estimates put the crowd at 250,000. Around mid-morning, the Special Agent In Charge of the command center monitoring that day’s activities ordered me to grab a camera and report to an agent stationed behind the Treasury building. Our offices were only three blocks away, and I made it to Treasury in five minutes. I found the agent standing among a group of law enforcement officers discussing the current situation. He brought me into the conversation and said that intelligence had uncovered plans that some of the demonstrators might attempt to breech the barricade of buses. Their goal was to storm the White House. He and the other officers had concluded that the likeliest place for the breech would be near or at the corner of 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. He told me he wanted photographs of anyone in the encroaching crowds who appeared to be leaders or organizers. Equipped with a two-way radio and 35mm camera, I got into the second bus from the corner and set up at one of the windows. The crowd was about two blocks away when I started taking photographs. The crowd continued massing and advancing, waving North Vietnamese flags and anti-government placards denouncing the war. As I continued taking photos my earphone “cracked” with the voice of the SAIC. “Paul, when the crowd reaches the buses, you get the hell out of there,” he ordered. “Understood,” I replied, thinking that I had already come to the same conclusion. Fortunately, the crowd decided against storming the buses, though some people tried rocking a bus or two in an attempt to turn one over. They found the buses heavier and the task harder then they had thought. However, several police officers behind the barricade did sustain injuries from bottles and other debris thrown over the buses by demonstrators. One police officer was knocked unconscious. In less than an hour, I was out of the bus and riding in an unmarked car through Georgetown with three Secret Service agents. Their job was to patrol the streets looking for anything out of the ordinary, and to take appropriate action whenever necessary. We stopped in the middle of a large crowd near Dupont Circle and got out to survey the situation. I starting taking a few photographs. Standing next to me was a young college student, barely five feet tall, attempting to take photos over the crowd in front of us. As we stood there, one of the agents suggested she get up on hood of our car for a better view. He then offered his hand to help her up. The girl was visibly impressed but confused by the kind gesture offered her by three guys in suits and ties.  She and I continued taking photos when, after a few minutes, the radio in the car suddenly came alive with a message from the command center. We were being directed to another location. Immediately, the agents began getting back into the car. The girl on the hood looked down at me not knowing what to do. I reached up for her hand and started helping her off the car saying, “Sorry, we have to go. I hope you got some good shots.” I then took my place in the car and as we drove away, I watched the puzzled look on the girl’s face suddenly change into sheer enlightenment. She had just figured out that she had been standing on the hood of an undercover police car. I wondered if she now tells this story to her grandchildren. The rest of the day was uneventful except for one incident about mid- afternoon. While cruising down Wisconsin Avenue, we noted a group of about six individuals verbally harassing and cornering a lone, uniformed police officer in an alley. We stopped immediately. The three agents jumped from the vehicle and ran down the alley toward the officer. The bullies quickly dispersed with no further altercation. My orders, of course, were to remain in the vehicle during such situations. Obviously, my only “weapon” was a camera.
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