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30,000 rally against the draft: 1980 | by Washington Area Spark
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30,000 rally against the draft: 1980

Some of the crowd of more than 30,000 anti-draft demonstrators on the steps of the U.S. Capitol March 22, 1980.


The number of protesters was double what organizers expected.


They rallied at the Ellipse, marched around the White House, down Pennsylvania Avenue before rallying at the U.S. Capitol March 22, 1980 in protest of draft registration requirements proposed by President Jimmy Carter.


The draft registration requirement was ended in 1975 in the wake of the Vietnam War when the military service branches were converted to an all-volunteer force. No draft orders had been issued since 1972.


Carter proposed the registration requirement be reinstituted after the Soviet Union sent military force to aid the government in Afghanistan in fighting mujahideen.


The demonstration was organized by a broad coalition calling itself the National Mobilization Against the Draft (MAD) and was composed of antiwar, labor, civil rights, socialist and other organizations.


The diversity of the coalition ranged from having Mark Hatfield (R-Or.) and Peter, Paul and Mary onstage to having a large contingent from the Revolutionary Communist Party marching in the demonstration along with the United Auto Workers and AFSCME


Alan Canfora, wounded in the Ohio National Guard shootings at Kent State University a decade before, said:


“From Kent...the antiwar movement spread over 500 campuses, we shut them down tight. The legacy of our antiwar actions are clearly wit us today in the 1980s. Just as we were opposing the bloody Nixon doctrine in Southeast Asia, we will oppose the bloody Carter aggressions.”


Other speakers included Kwame Ture of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party; David Landau of the ACLU; Duane Shank, a spokesperson for the Committee Against Registration and the Draft; Rev. William Sloan Coffin, former Yale chaplain and prominent anti-Vietnam War activist; and Roy Childs a San Francisco gay activist.


Carter received his funding authorization for starting draft registration and it began later in 1980, although Congress stripped Carter of the right to have females register.


A court challenge to the all-male policy failed in 1981 with the court deferring to the military, which at that time barred women from combat roles.


For more information and related images, see


Photo by Manuel Lopez. The image is courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

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Taken on March 22, 1980