In 1968, nine members of the Catholic Faith entered a Selective Services office in the sleepy town of Catonsville, Maryland. They grabbed hundreds of draft files from the office and took them to the parking lot below, where they burned the files with homemade napalm. These people, known as the Catonsville Nine, represented one small part of the Catholic Left movement, yet became known nationwide for their action and commitment to their beliefs.
“Nine persons broke into the Washington offices of Dow Chemical Co. at 15th and L Streets nw. yesterday, poured what they said was human blood on furniture and equipment and threw files out a fourth floor window,” read the front page of the Washington Post on Sunday, March 23, 1969. The images which accompanied the article showed a chaotic scene: one protestor heaving files out of a broken window; papers scattered, as if struck by a tornado, across the pavement below. But these were not your ordinary criminals.
Dusk was approaching when Norman Morrison pulled into the Pentagon parking lot on November 2, 1965. Parking his two-tone Cadillac in the lot, he walked toward the north entrance, carrying his 11-month old daughter, Emily, and a wicker picnic basket with a jug of kerosene inside. Reaching a retaining wall at the building’s perimeter, the 31-year-old Quaker from Baltimore climbed up and began pacing back and forth. Around 5:20 pm, he yelled to Defense Department workers who were leaving the building.
The Vietnam era was marked by student anti-war protests and the counterculture movement. But in 1970 the "silent majority" organized the era's largest pro-war demonstration, simultaneously protesting against President Nixon's Vietnam War policies and "hippies and yippies everywhere."
In 1916, Jeannette Rankin made history as the first woman elected to Congress. A renowned pacifist, Rankin was the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. involvement in World War II. At age 87, Rankin made one final push for peace by leading an anti-Vietnam march: the Jeannette Rankin Brigade.
The May 4, 1970 antiwar protest at Kent State University in Ohio, in which National Guard troops fired into a crowd of demonstrators protesting the Nixon Administration's invasion of Cambodia and shot four of them dead, was a traumatic event that burned itself into the American collective memory. A photo of a teenage girl crying out in shock over the body of one of the slain students became, for many, the iconic image that captured a frighteningly turbulent time.
But it's almost forgotten that the University of Maryland's flagship campus in College Park was rocked by a protest that was bigger and possibly more raucous than the one at Kent State.
You can hear the rumble from miles away, a deep roar of engines joined together for a cause. This Memorial Day weekend, thousands of motorcyclists will ride in unison across Memorial Bridge, a moving force of memory and action for POW's and soldiers listed as Missing in Action. Rolling Thunder, as the demonstration is called, has been a Washington Memorial Day tradition since 1988. But do you know the history behind it?