Later…at a little bar in Dinky Town…I saw Tommy siting with a bunch of other kids I had seen at the rally. They were all sitting in a huge booth by the back wall.
I went over and introduced myself…just in case he had forgotten who I was.
I told him how impressed I was with his speech and told him I was eager to help in any way.
“Riley. Of course I remember you! Here sit down next to me.” He said and patted the space next to him and everyone slid over.
Tommy said he had been talking to other anti-war protest leaders on other campuses across the country and they had been sharing strategies.
He was flying to Washington D.C. tomorrow to plan the inauguration protest…if Nixon was elected..
We sat and talked that night for hours and over the next several weeks, we got together to plan strategies and share more ideas.
We were all students…so we had to fit everything in around classes…but winter break was coming.
It was the middle of January when Tommy brought up the water tower idea again…only this time the plan was to blow it up.
“It’s the only way to get the press to pay attention,” Tommy said. “And it will be safe…no one will be around in the dead of winter…I’ve checked it out many times and the place is always deserted…not one foot print in the snow.
“I talked with a couple of guys from New York and California and they all said…and I agree…we have to start making people sit up and take notice.”
“Blowing things up will do that…and we’ll get the front-page headlines we deserve.”
Everyone agreed with Tommy…but I did not.
“No. Sorry…no violence.” I said. “I’ll lay in the street. I’ll get arrested. I’ll chain myself to a building or whatever…but no violence that could possibly hurt innocent people. Absolutely not.”
Sheila Baxter and her boyfriend Gerald Michaels were sitting next to me. They were also working toward law degrees and had known Tommy when he was in California.
They also had come here on scholarship.
Another boy, Mikey Longwell was the organizer of a small group of kids who had been at the Wisconsin Dow Day protest…where there had been injuries…it was the first university protest to turn violent.
They listened to me and then turned back to Tommy. It was like I hadn’t said anything at all.
I sat for a few more minutes shaking my head in disapproval.
Finally, I had enough. I stood up and started to put on my jacket.
“I’m leaving. I’m not doing this.” I said and started to walk out.
Tommy got up and followed me to the door. He grabbed my arm so I couldn’t leave.
“You better keep quiet about this, Riley. Remember all those people at that rally a few months ago?”
“They heard one thing over and over again…that ‘staging a protest at the water tower’ was your idea.”
And then Tommy smiled and my whole body suddenly got so cold I shivered.
I knew then that Tommy Clark could be very dangerous if you made him mad. I think I just did.
I angrily pulled my arm away and walked out the door.