Chanting "Hell no, we won't go!" like better-barbered ghosts from the 1960s, about 400 student demonstrators gathered on the Capitol steps yesterday to protest bills to resurrect the draft.
While one or two tossed Frisbees and others waved placards showing buring draft cards, the heard seven speakers charge that bills to revive the draft are being fathered by the same mentality that produced the Vietnam war.
"The same people that had us on these steps in the 1960s are behind the draft," said Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.)
"We will not fight for them. We will not die for them. We will not be paralyzed for them. We will not register for them," said Ron Kovic, a 32-year-old former Marine paralyzed in Vietnam.
Shortly before the noon rally, a House Armed Services subcommittee passed legislation that would require men who became 18 after Dec. 31, 1980, to register with local draft boards begining Jan. 1, 1981.
The bill, an amendment to the military authorization bill, does not call for conscription. Separate legislation would be required before men could be called for military duty. The last previous draft law was phased out in June 1973.
Edwards told the crowd more support was needed in Congress to defeat the draft bills and urged them to "work, work, work" to gain it.
"Now is the time to beat the draft . . . in its first steps," Rep. James Weaver (D-Ore.) advised. "If the draft had not been in effect in the Vietnam war days we would have needed a great debate" to restore it, and "I tell you that war would never have taken place," Weaver said. "The draft is the only way they can get cheap bodies."
"If it's more men they need, let them take the ones trained for military service and let the civilians take over as bartenders and chauffeurs for the generals," said Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) as the crowd applauded in agreement.
Rep. Paul N. McCloskey, (R-Calif.), a Vietnam war opponent in the 1960s who has introduced one of seven draft bills in the House, attended the rally but did not speak.
McCloskey said he was invited but then denied the right to address the crowd. Tom Palmer, chaiman of the California-based Students for a Libertarian Society, which sponsored the rally along with several other organizations, said McCloskey had not been invited to speak. "He basically came to crash it" (the rally), Palmer said.
Yesterday's protest was a mini-version of many held in the late 1960s when thousands marched against the draft and the Vietnam war and many burned draft cards at the Capitol gates.
The 1979 protesters, however, were shorter-haired and better dressed than their predecessors. And nobody got arrested.