Flashback to 1971: 156,000 march to protest the Vietnam War

In this month’s issue of The Richmond Review newspaper, the above photo was featured, which shows thousands of citizens marching in protest against the Vietnam War. They’re moving down Geary Boulevard; that’s the Donut World at 18th Avenue in the background.

The photos were taken by Saul D. Feldman, who participated in the protest and captured these photos.

According to the UC Berkeley Library of Social Activism, the rally took place on April 24, 1971. While 200,000 people held a rally on the Mall in Washington DC, around 156,000 simultaneously marched here in San Francisco. It was the largest such rally to date on the West Coast.

The procession began at the Civic Center and made its way up Geary Boulevard, finishing up at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park. Live music was played and people flew frisbees and coffee can lids in the park, which you can see in one of the photos below.

The official rally poster includes a slightly reworked quotation of Lincoln, addressing the powers-that-be: “You can fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; …but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.”

Legacyamericana.com says the rally was noted for the prominent participation of veterans, who started their protest the night before in DC. “In an act of defiance that would become symbolic of the war and its damaging effects on the American psyche, on the eve of the demonstrations, hundreds of decorated Vietnam vets, inspired by Ron Kovic, threw away their medals on the barricaded steps of the Capitol building.”

I was in my mother’s stomach when this rally took place. Mom, were you and I somewhere in the crowd of marchers?

Special thanks to Saul D. Feldman for sharing his photos with us. There are some more in the set; click here to see them all (Flickr log-in required).

Sarah B.

Near the intersection of Geary and 3rd Avenue. That building in the background is where
Kragen Auto Parts is currently. Photo by Saul D. Feldman

“Sick People Say Get the Hell Out”. Not certain, but I believe these are patients in the window of the French Hospital, Geary & 6th Avenue. Photo by Saul D. Feldman

Protesters near 24th and Geary – St. Monica’s church in the background. Photo by Saul D. Feldman

Frisbees and coffee can lids flew through the air at Speedway Meadow. Photo by Saul D. Feldman

The rally poster for the march. Source: LegacyAmericana.com


  1. Cool!
    Photo #4 is misidentified. The location is 24th and Geary, which still looks very much the same almost 40 years latter, with the Standard Station and St. Monica’s School and Church visible.

  2. This brings back memories. I was 5 at the time. my mom was a hippie living in a commune. i was living with my grandparents on Masonic across from sears. Sometimes i would spend the night with my mom in the commune. my mom use to take to the Blue Unicorn on Hayes st. Any Blue Unicorn alumni? The term hippie was actually coined in reference to the patrons of the Blue Unicorn. i can remember looking at the rally as it was coming up masonic. A mass of people, the hippie buses. it just kept pouring up the street. my mom spent the night with me and my grand parents. When she woke up at about noon the throngs who were still coming caught her by surprise. Why didn’t you wake me up she asked. We went to the park. i can remember sitting in a circle with a bunch of hippies telling tall tales about how my grand parents kid napped the police and buried them in the back yard as kids do.

  3. how about the Berkley Barb? it may have been the predecessor of the Bay Guardian. i remember going to collage campuses with my mom and pretending i was hawking the Berkley Barb. one time i was stuck down inside a ditch at City Collage. in stead of yelling help i was saying “get your Berkley Barb”. Someone yelled down to see if i was all right and realized i was trapped. he came down and rescued me. Any other people about my age 45. Sons and daughters of hippies? drop me a line we can exchange war stories. hippie schools, nude summer camp, pagan summer camp, living in the commune,? i did a long stretch in foster homes too thanks to mom not being able to recover from the 60’s but it would be fun talking about going to the planetarium at mid night, ice cream sandwiches for dinner, learning to spell our names in incense sticks while watching creature features or land of the giants.

  4. My dad told me he was at one of these protests with my mom. Wonder if this is it? 🙂

  5. could have been. Did they live here in the city? it’s funny when my father died i got some news articles about him from his sister. Apparently he set up his drums on Broadway and Columbus and started playing. he was dubbed the blue beetle in the press. they threw him and my mom in jail and that’s when my grandparents first learned about me. mom was a runaway and had given birth to me and put me in foster care. Chuck, my father, went on to become a founding member of the BBHC but was kicked out for guess what using to many drugs. Are you kidding, to many drugs in the BBHC? When i was two i moved in with my grand parents after living in 3 different foster homes.
    Some of my earliest memories are of going to rallies, concerts, strange movies, etc.. with my mom. one new years we went to project Artud. i was the only kid there and while the adults were having their party i was rummaging around the artist spaces taking peoples keys. when we got home i had about 25 keys. no wonder i’m a locksmith now. i often wonder what those people thought the next time they tried to get into what ever there keys were missing to the next day. There is a special place in my heart for old hippies. any one remember wally who use to do crazy oil paintings in north beach. rainbow lady. she was a little later. Pete the jeweler who use to make pipes out of toy cars so if you were to stoned you could roll the pipe across the floor instead of having to get up from the couch and pass it across the room. things really were so innocent back then. peace.

  6. It strikes me that the poster could be used today to help get us out of Afghanistan and Iraq, with just a little editing of the text.

    Thanks very much for sharing the history!

  7. Clicking there to see the slide show doesn’t work, and I can’t tell which set of the hundreds on this guy’s flickr is the correct one…

    I was born a week before this. Very cool to see the neighborhood then! Thanks, Sarah.

  8. I remember that rally. Me and some friends walked (or rode our bikes) up to 27th Ave and Geary (from Clement) to see it and the march was crossing 27th Ave there (staying on Geary). I don’t know where it turned south to get to Speedway Meadows but it went to at least 28th Ave (probably up to at least 33rd Ave since all the hills going from Geary to Anza are pretty steep betw 28th and 32nd Aves.

  9. I was at this event. The march was a block and a half away and we went down to watch. I remember the veterans were at the front, and the sadness we had at seeing the disabled vets. We had just received a telegram saying my brother was wounded in action in Vietnam and in the end he lost an arm. But does anyone remember the bands at Speedway? And was this were Dick Gregory said he would fast until the troops were pulled out?

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