On 1 January 1969, a People's Democracy march left Belfast City Hall on a four-day march to Derry.

Along the route, blockades were met in Antrim town, Randalstown, Dungiven, and again at its final destination of Derry City.

As the civil rights movement gathered momentum in late 1968, the number of disturbances also increased. On 9 December 1968, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Terence O'Neill, went on television warning that, "Ulster is at a crossroads" and appealing for an end to the growing disorder. He attempted to reassure civil rights supporters by promising to implement a programme of genuine change. O'Neill also appealed to them to call off their street protests to allow an atmosphere for change to develop.

Eddie McAteer of the Nationalist Party and Cardinal Conway welcomed the speech. Encouraged by public reaction, O'Neill sacked William Craig, Minister of Home Affairs, from his cabinet. The civil rights movement announced a suspension of marches until 11 January 1969.