From Suzanne King, Oak Park, Illinois:
I was nineteen and Mayday was Spring semester of my Freshman year at Syracuse University. I had attended Rennie Davis’ Hendricks Chapel speech in the Fall and so many others, and spent a lot of my first year there in political activities and organizing. We left for D.C. on April 30, 1971.
The assignment for the Upstate NY group was to block the Georgetown side of the Key Bridge. Our affinity groups were to stay at the Dumbarton Methodist Church in Georgetown. We traveled down in a VW bus (of course) and our first night, Friday, was a very cold one in West Potomac Park. I remember being up the whole night, shivering by a little fire. I had my army surplus field jacket, an old canvas knapsack, perhaps some sandwiches, and that was it.
The next morning a few of us wandered over early to the sunny concert area. In a spectacular lapse of good judgment, I agreed to do LSD for the first time with my friends. I was running on no sleep and breaking the cardinal rule of set and setting: being among thousands of people in an unfamiliar place, the Washington Monument looming over us like a giant Klansman with red beady eyes, cops or informants all around, helicopters overhead, and… the Beach Boys? Things were not destined to go well. I still don’t really like the Beach Boys.
At some point I wandered off towards the stage area and somehow fell into sleep/unconsciousness under a tree. I came to, ill and freaking out, as they say. Someone escorted me to the nearby medical trailer. To this day I wish I could thank the sweet young medic guy who took care of me. When I eventually left the trailer I knew I had to get to Georgetown so I started hitchhiking. Another kind soul, and thank you whoever you were, picked me up from the side of the road and drove me there. We slept on the hard, but welcoming, floor in the Dumbarton Methodist Church parish hall. There must have been about 25 of us there. That was Saturday. Honest to God, I don’t remember Sunday at all.
Monday morning, we were up and out for our action at our scheduled time, but apparently not as early as others who were already getting arrested. We never even made it to the bridge in the thick of things. The streets were chaos. We tried to obstruct them, and I remember running through a construction site and just missing getting grabbed by a cop. We picked up a VW bug and moved it to block the street. As the action was starting to ease a bit we began making our way down to the bridge and I saw a large black limo pass by me with a “2” license plate. I wonder who was making their way through the melee.
Before leaving, I grabbed a copy of the Washington Post that I still have,
and we drove back to Syracuse Monday night or Tuesday, though I have no recollection of it. But what I do remember is finally being able to take a long hot shower after arriving back at my dorm. As I was drying my hair under the blower, I distinctly recall thinking, “I’m kind of done with this”. Not political activities (and I was becoming more involved with feminist issues), but I knew I was done with large scale mass actions with such wide-ranging agendas. Mayday had been quite a patchwork of actions and politics. I also was on my way to almost flunking out and needed to start doing schoolwork. And though I may have miraculously avoided arrest in D.C. I did actually manage to get myself arrested for shoplifting a three-dollar pair of sunglasses two weeks later and spent three days in jail! I was treated harshly, I’m sure because I was dressed like a radical and at one point lectured the manager of the Woolworth’s, the cop, and the matron on the evils of the war (probably not a smart move) and they had had enough of us, it seemed.
I was an insufferable nineteen-year-old “revolutionary” in 1971, but I’m also proud of it, and very glad I was there. Didn’t flunk out, and around 2004, while in D.C. for work for the EPA, I asked the cab driver to take a detour to the airport by way of Georgetown and Dumbarton Methodist Church. A small Mayday poster still hangs on my wall decades later.
I save things! I have a box full of Mayday planning, leaflets, publications, and a few other souvenirs. I scanned everything and have put it in a public Dropbox folder for anyone who is interested: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zln8m9yqi8l3xkp/AACtD4KmmaS1q-tp_dKMPNwSa?dl=0