July 4 1968 – Global protests and suburban footy


July 4 demonstrations were an early feature of opposition to the undeclared war in Vietnam. The first one conducted in Melbourne was held in 1965. Usually a group of demonstrators gathered outside of the United States (US) embassy, speeches were made, a petition was handed to US embassy officials, and then people quietly wandered off into the Melbourne night. In 1967 there were differences within the march organisers, as there was a radical proposal for a planned sit-down and burning a US flag. Those pushing this approach were dissuaded by the march organisers, however twelve months later July 4 1968 turned out unlike any of the previous July 4 demonstrations.



Any expectations July 4 1968 would be another peaceful, quiet demonstration was quickly put to rest. As Bertolt Brecht would put it ;‘Wie es ist, wird es nicht Bleiben’ – as it is, it will not remain.



On a cold winter evening the demonstration started peacefully. As in previous years two demonstrators delivered a petition to embassy officials calling for a cessation to the undeclared war; they were promised a response in the mail. Other demonstrators made speeches using megaphones, whilst National Liberation Front (NLF) flags flew. With a crowd estimated by some to number up to 4,000 the demonstration would not remain a peaceful stroll down St Kilda Road and its surrounds.



The burning of a US flag indicated a different protest than were previously experienced. The police sought out to apprehend the perpetrators. Chants of, “LBJ, how many babies did you kill today,” and “1, 2, 3, 4, the NLF will win the war”,filled the air as the demonstrators sought to make their opposition to the war, clear to all. The demonstration organisers lost control of the evening as the radicals changed the focus from a peaceful stroll on a cold winter evening to a militant expression of anti-American imperialism. Over the next hour demonstrators and police clashed in a way unseen since the depression of the 1930’s.



Demonstrators sought to physically impose their presence onto the embassy. Rocks, along with smoke bombs, were thrown at the embassy windows. The attending Victoria police weren’t motivated by restraint, charging the demonstrators, batons drawn. Police horses were ridden into the crowds. 45 of the demonstrators were arrested. The Victorian premier, Sir Henry Bolte had 14 of them charged with the serious offence of riot.



The fallout amongst the groups involved showed out clear-cut differences between those opposed to the conflict in Vietnam. Participants found themselves in court, where they vigorously defended themselves. With mitigating factors court action against those charged continued into July 1969. By then it was time for another militant July 4 demonstration, though that may be covered in another posting.



As Saturday July 6 1968 greeted us, the noise and pandemonium of the demonstration was replaced by the sights and sounds of Round 12 for the VFL season. The six matches involving the twelve teams were played on a frosty Saturday, with 107,198 spectators turning out to see the football.



At Arden Street, in a battle of the battlers, North Melbourne encountered Footscray. A crowd of 7,844, less than half the size of the crowd of their round one encounter, watched the clash. In round one they’d clashed at Footscray’s home ground the Western Oval, with the visitors winning. The return bout again saw the visiting team taking the premiership points, this time Footscray. For the vanquished home side Mick Evans, brother of the present day 3CR luminary, “The Bagman”, lead the scoring with three goals.



Geelong, runners up in the 1967 Grand Final, were at home to Carlton. In a tight encounter Carlton defeated Geelong for the second time in the year. This was also the second consecutive loss for the Cats, enduring a mid-season slump. Despite Geelong being at home, the Blues played a tight defensive brand of footy. Geelong full forward Doug Wade was held goalless for one of only three times in his illustrious career. The final margin was 8 points, Carlton 9.9.63 to Geelong 8.7.55. With goals proving hard to come by, five players with 2 goals apiece shared the honours; one of these was Carlton full forward Bryan Kekovich, brother of the legendary ‘Slamming’ Sam Kekovich.



Essendon, sitting behind ladder leaders Carlton by percentage went across to Glenferrie Oval, taking on Hawthorn. Though Hawthorn led for the majority of the match, a withering 8 goal final term from the visitors saw the Dons fly up, up, then up again, to take the 4 premiership points. Missing from the Hawks’ side that day was Peter Hudson in his second year in AFL ranks, a year he finished with a total of 125 goals. For Essendon Don Gross and Bruce Lake both kicked 4 goals, they were also helped to a winning score by 3 goals from Bruce Waite, uncle of current North Melbourne player Jarrad Waite.



Reigning premiers Richmond were at home to Collingwood. 43,165, almost half the total attendance for the round, watched this pair fight it out.  Richmond just outside the four on percentage had won 8 of their first 11 games; their old rivals had only 4 wins at that stage of the season. Both sides were coming off a win. In a high scoring encounter Collingwood over came a three quarter time deficit of 14 points to win by 3 points, 17-15-117, to Richmond’s 17-12-114. The veteran Paddy Guinane in his final season at Tiger land kicked 8 for the home side. For the victorious visitors Peter McKenna kicked 6 goals. Both sides subsequently missed the finals in 1968.



Melbourne took on Fitzroy at Princes Park, a ground Fitzroy shared with long term occupants Carlton. With the famous shearer from Warracknabeal, Russell Crow, dominating in the ruck and John Murphy picking up 26 touches Fitzroy matched it with Melbourne for most of the clash. In the end Stan Alves with 27 possessions and four goals proved a player the Lions couldn’t stop, as he led the Demons to a 20 point victory.



South Melbourne – does anybody recall them? One of the original VFL clubs though they were gone after the 1981 season – anyhow in this round, way back in 1968 they traveled to Moorabbin. South was sixth on the ladder, St Kilda fourth with two and a half games separating them. St Kilda led from go to whoa, with ten players having over 20 possessions; their dominance was clear. Ruckman Bryan Mynott had 36 hit outs and Travis Payze and Ian Dyer with 4 goals apiece confirmed the dominance of the home side.



South Melbourne was hindered by the absence of Bobby Skilton, this being the season he won his third Brownlow. Graeme John, later to head Australia Post, kicked a pair of goals for the visitors.



Australia remained involved in the Vietnam conflict into the 1970’s.  Again in 1969 a wild, riotous, July 4 demonstration took place outside the US embassy.  In the following years the crowds at this demonstration became smaller, with a subsequent reduction in militancy. Furthermore diverse and at times bigger actions highlighted opposition to the undeclared war in Vietnam. Some of that and more, can be read about here: https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/football-almanac-moratorium/







  1. george smith says

    The most earth shattering event for this county happened about 6 months earlier on a lonely beach near Portsea when LBJ’s best friend failed to come out of the surf. This led to a power vacuum and a 3 way contest for leadership between Gorton, McMahon and Hasluck which so blighted the Liberal Party’s last years in office. Meanwhile the country had changed completely without our masters even noticing.

    End of Vietnam, end of censorship, Australian film industry, Aboriginal rights, abolition of capital punishment all helped along by a misguided day at the beach.

    Oh yes, for his memorial, they named a swimming pool after him! Only in Australia.

  2. Rocket Singers says

    Great memories!

    Carlton never lost a game with Bryan Kekovich in the side that season. …
    BK provided a big presence.

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