Peace. Love. Protests.

In the '60s, these New Yorkers took on the Man.

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LESLIE CAGAN


61; Elmhurst, Queens


Then: Student Now: National coordinator for United for Peace & Justice

What is your most striking memory of protesting in the ’60s?
I went to the Students for a Democratic Society’s first national antiwar march in 1965. There were about 25,000 people and I remember being very moved. Then, that was a tremendous turnout.

What did the protests achieve?
They helped awaken people around the country to the problem in Vietnam. People could actually see an opposition voice being raised, and that made people think, Well, how do I feel about this war?

How does youth activism compare today?
Back then was a moment in this country’s history in which everything was being questioned. Now the social and cultural climate is very different and activism is not a new thing.

TOM HURWITZ


61; Hudson Heights

Then: Student Now: Documentary filmmaker and cinematographer

Which protests were you involved in?
I was involved in the takeover of the buildings in the Columbia University strike in ’68, and I was in the great civil- rights march on Washington in 1963.

What sparked the Columbia strike?
It was exposed that Columbia was involved in research that went directly into the military hardware for the war in Vietnam. [Also,] Columbia was building a gymnasium in one of Harlem’s only parks.

Out of all the protests, what is your most striking memory?
In maybe ’65, ’66, there was a march against Vietnam. The plan was to march from Washington into Arlington Cemetery, and then go silent—which the entire crowd did; it was really, really profound. The five days occupying the building in the Columbia strike were also life-changing.

GEORGE TOCCI


57; Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn


Then: Student, musician Now: Produces music events, musician (as “Ellsworth”), husband of TONY president Alison Tocci

How did you become a protester?
Things like the police beatings at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the Kent State University shootings in 1970 radicalized my age group.

What is your most striking memory?
Seeing the riot squads with the gas masks. At the May Day antiwar protest in ’71, the streets were lined with squads and you knew they were expecting trouble.

What did the protests achieve?
Ultimately they ended the war, but beyond that they created an awareness that welded people together. It’s a sense that a lot of people in my age group still hold on to.

Ellsworth’s protest album, American Compost, is available on iTunes and at cdbaby.com.

—Olivia Myers

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