The peace rally at Michigan Stadium on October 15, 1969, was the largest of all the anti-war protests in the 1960s in Ann Arbor. Including some 20,000 attendees, the rally was the culmination of Ann Arbor’s participation in a nationwide event - The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam - that took place that day, with many businesses, churches, and colleges across the country closing to protest continued involvement in the War. Related events at the University of Michigan included teach-ins and forums, and the day concluded with a 6 p.m. torchlight parade winding from the University of Michigan central Diag to Michigan Stadium, followed by a rally inside the Stadium.
Rally organizers were New Mobilization leader Douglas Dowd of Cornell University and Ann Arbor Mobilization leader Eugene Gladstone. Speakers included U.S. Senator Philip A. Hart; SDS founder and Chicago 8 member, Tom Hayden; U. S. Representative John Conyers; State Senator Coleman Young; State Representative Roger Craig; Eugene Charles of the Black Panthers; Rhoades W. Murphy, U-M geography professor; and Ann Arbor City Councilman for the Third Ward, Nicholas Kazarinoff. The local rock band SRC performed at the Rally. Both the U-M parade and rally remained peaceful, a minor incident occurring when a participant near the speakers' platform spit on speaker Tom Hayden and was removed by Ann Arbor police.
A month earlier, on September 19, in a speech at Hill Auditorium during the “Tactic-In” events on the University of Michigan campus, U-M President Robben Fleming came out against the war in Vietnam and promised to make University facilities available for the upcoming October 15 Moratorium. He further indicated that if enough people came out to express opposition to the War during the event, he would personally deliver their message to Washington. Fleming’s anti-war declaration was controversial at the time, as was his endorsement of a University venue for an anti-war protest; however, his decision, made on the heels of many contentious campus-wide protests that had occurred in preceding months - most significantly, the 1969 South University Riot - signaled his evolving belief that suppressing protests would only lead to violence.
In the days after the Moratorium, President Fleming remained true to his word and wrote a letter to Washington stating that the mood on the University of Michigan campus was one of “broad and deep opposition. This opposition is not simply emotional, it is thoughtful. It does not occur because of ignorance, but only after sober reflection.”