The anti-war movement came to Salt Lake City in 1969, culminating in a rally that the Salt Lake Tribune called “the largest peace demonstration in Utah history.”
In October 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War, more than 4,000 Utahns took to the streets of Salt Lake to protest the Nixon administration's continued deployment of US forces in Vietnam. Part of the nationwide war moratorium movement, the rally was organized by a group calling itself the United Front to End the War. The protesters met on the campus of the University of Utah to hear speeches and hold a teach-in, then they marched down South Temple, turned south onto State Street, and ended up in front of the Federal Building, where G. Edward Howlett, leader of the city's Episcopal Diocese, read out the names of Utahns killed in Vietnam. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, up to that time it was the largest peace gathering in Utah history.
That same day, about 250 supporters of the Nixon administration held a counter-demonstration at the City County Building, where Salt Lake County Water Commissioner Jake Garn—later elected to the US Senate—encouraged what he characterized as the state's silent majority to continue supporting US involvement in Vietnam. Politicians in Washington were making decisions best left to the military, warned Garn, and if the US pulled out without a clear victory the more than 40,000 lives already lost in the war would mean nothing.
City administrators called out extra police in case either demonstration turned violent, but both protests ended peacefully. Only one person was arrested—a 19-year-old peace activist who was charged with displaying a flag that police believed showed disloyalty toward the US government.
Image: University of Utah Demonstrations, c. 1960s. Vietnam War Demonstrations at the University of Utah. Courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.
See news reports about the war protests in the October 15, 1969, edition of the Salt Lake Tribune. Also see Allan Kent Powell’s entry on the Vietnam Conflict in the online Utah History Encyclopedia.