John Lennon and Yoko Ono at a rally in Bryant Park on April 22, 1972 — 40 years ago today — which I was lucky to attend, organized by the National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC).
It was a cold, rainy day, like today. My 8th grade friends and I assembled near the start of the march on the Upper West Side, near the Museum of Natural History. I volunteered to sell buttons for $1 to support the march, and was given an orange poncho full of them.
We marched down Central Park West and then Broadway. The streets were thronged with about 35,000 chilly, wet people. As we approached Times Square cheers went up as we saw a headline about the march go around the “news zipper.”
The march turned east at 42nd Street and ended in Bryant Park, where a stage for speakers was set up near the southwest corner.
Speakers included John Kerry, representing the Vietnam Veterans Against The War (VVAW). It was the day he and Lennon were photographed together.
None of us were expecting John and Yoko - they were a surprise. I was a huge Beatles fan and was thrilled beyond words. They spoke briefly and led the crowd singing “Give Peace A Chance.”
On this video you can see three brief clips. The first is taken from a Lennon documentary (the “1969” date is an error). The second, grainy video is an ABC news report that aired that day which includes part of Lennon’s spoken introduction:
We aren’t used to speaking, but we all know why we’re here. It’s great that you came in the rain. I read somewhere that the war movement was over… ha ha! We’re here to bring the boys home, but let’s not forget the machine! Bring the machine home, and then we’ll really get somewhere.
The third clip is from an official video for the original 1969 recording of “Give Peace A Chance,” issued sometime after Lennon’s death. It shows more footage from the April 22 march and rally. Toward the end, rallies in Washington D.C. and other cities are interspersed, but all the ones where you see umbrellas or John and Yoko on stage are from NYC. (The final crowd scene is from one other gathering I attended, sadly, eight years later: the memorial in Central Park where 225,000 New Yorkers assembled on December 14, 1980, the Sunday after Lennon’s murder.)