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Norman David Mayer, 66, was shot dead by the U.S. Park Service on this date in 1982 after a day-long siege in which he parked a van emblazoned with the message, “#1 Priority: Ban Nuclear Weapons,” next to the Washington Monument and threatened to destroy the building with 1,000 pounds of TNT that he said were loaded in the van unless a national dialogue on nuclear disarmament was begun. The Park Service evacuated the Mall and, after ten hours of negotiation, shot Mayer as he drove off in the van — which turned out to have no explosives. Mayer had been raised largely in the New Orleans Jewish Children’s Home after his father had died when Mayer was two; he spent much of his adulthood as a drifter and working many jobs, including in the Navy for two years, which earned him burial at Arlington National Cemetery. He had been a regular presence with protest signs at the White House gates until his more spectacular protest ended in his death.
‘It’s up to the President, it’s up to the media. They have been pretending that we are not threatened every day of our lives with annihilation and whether by collusion or otherwise they refuse to give the real information about the precarious and uncontrollable situation the world finds itself in.” —Norman David Mayer