A group of students is trying to restart a campus chapter of what is perhaps the most famous group founded at the University, Students for a Democratic Society.

Sarah Royce
Students for a Democratic Society founder Alan Haber speaks in Angell Hall on Feb. 10, 2004. (file photo)

It was the SDS that organized one of the first major anti-war marches of the Vietnam era.

On April 17, 1965, more than 25,000 students converged on Washington to protest the increasing American presence in Vietnam. The mass of students picketed the White House and then marched to the Washington Monument, where speakers denounced the government, focusing on American military involvement in Vietnam.

That march is credited with breathing life into the anti-war movement. Founded in Ann Arbor in 1960, SDS came to embody the student anti-war movement on college campuses across the country.

At a 1962 convention in Port Huron, Mich. the group adopted a manifesto for the student movement that would come to be known as the Port Huron Statement. Written by University alum and former Michigan Daily Editor in Chief Tom Hayden, The statement laid out SDS’s belief that the U.S. government was failing its citizens.

The Vietnam War represented what many in the SDS saw as the ultimate failure of the government.

At first, the group focused on fighting the draft because it was an issue that directly affected students, many of whom were being conscripted into service in Vietnam.

Members burned draft cards and obstructed access to military buildings.

But by the end of the decade, SDS was splintering.

Some – most notably a group called the Weathermen – felt that armed resistance was the only effective way of fighting what they viewed as an unjust government. The Weathermen, named for line from a Bob Dylan song, would go on to orchestrate a string of bombings throughout the early 1970s.

By 1969, SDS was torn by internal divisions and ultimately dissolved at its national convention that year.


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