1969

That November there was a big march in Washington, D.C., to protest against the war in Vietnam. I was a photographer for the college paper, the Harvard Crimson, and I drove down with fellow budding journalists. I loved their company and the way they thought underneath the events of the day, whether on our campus or on the national stage. I, however, lacked some gene necessary to be a photojournalist. At a rest stop on the way, some feminists occupied the men’s room because it was better than the women’s room. I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a picture. My fellow staffer and future roommate, Tim Carlson, understood that he should take a picture of the woman who gave us the finger from a car in the next lane.

The demonstration was fascinating and peaceful, and my college newspaper PRESS card got me close to the stage. Timothy Leary went to the mike and stood there silent. Then he said, “Too much,” and since he was a counter-culture icon, everyone cheered. Then he said, “No, wait, wait … Just enough!” and everyone really went wild.

The militant Weather Underground was there, and when the demonstration was over and people were disbanding, things started to slide violent. By nightfall, thousands of demonstrators had wended their way to outside the South Vietnamese Embassy, and suddenly a car was flipped over and set on fire. I gawped, camera around my neck, and Scott Jacobs, a reporter for the paper who understood breaking news much better than I, dragged me by the collar to the burning car and yelled, “Take pictures of this!” Then the police arrived to clear us out. Scott and I took shelter near the front door of a house, separated from the street by the front yard, but a police officer jumped the shrub and ran at us. We spluttered, “Press! Press!” but he still whacked our shins, and we jumped the shrub in the other direction and ran away. Half my film fell out of my army surplus jacket pockets, and I never saw the pictures of the burning car.

I regrouped with some fellow Crimson editors, and we drove around the city trying to figure out what was going on. We saw this scene, the driver stopped, and I was pushed to the window to take the photograph.

 
We spluttered, ‘Press! Press!’ but he still whacked our shins.
 

Once back at the paper in Cambridge, we put together a double-page photo spread of the demonstration and riot that included the shot of the guardsmen, one of the photos I hadn’t lost. It ran next to a quote from Woodie Guthrie:

I like a kid that bawls real loud
And grows up with a big loud lung
To walk up to some pizzeldyasst Washington Office
And yell so loud
Up and down them crackly halls
That they pass five or six laws that minute
By Gollies
To give my kid whatever the heck he’s yelling for.

The story went round that the photo editor at a major metro paper (Boston? New York?) took our spread, held it up to his staff, and yelled at them about how much better it was than what they’d been able to produce. It felt great to scoop the major leaguers.

 
Kelly Nowels