|Rockwell International Action: Take a trip down memory lane with Nikki Craft as she prods Jed Riffe to recall their 1975 action against Rockwell International and their B-1 Bomber. This action landed her on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, albeit as an anonymous “young woman”. This oral history project was recorded in May of 1987 during a trip in Jed’s truck from his South Texas ranch to Guadalupe to go tubing down the river. Lee Baxandall was also in the truck at the time as he was visiting Jed’s ranch with Nikki. Lee comments several times.
Jed describes the information gathering and preparation process, including how they were able to access the hotel despite heavy security by posing as tourists as well as how they were able to obtain the baby doll parts needed for presentation to the Rockwell board members. Jed also describes how they were able to disguise themselves as press to obtain entrance to the conference itself, followed by his account of her direct confrontation of board members. Nikki assists in Jed’s recollection of the events.
Listen to the oral history audio interview about the action between Nikki and Jed here.
Craft’s personal account of the events, as well as a copy of The Wall Street Journal article, can be found on her website in her article called War Stories: My Demo at Rockwell International. --Jessica Cassidy
My Demo at Rockwell International
by Nikki Craft
My first conscious decision to use theater was against Rockwell International in February, 1975. They were having the stockholders convention to convince their stockholders to back the B-l bomber, or the "Peacemaker" as they so affectionately referred to it as. It was held in Dallas intentionally -- and strategically -- because they knew if it was held anywhere else there would be big demonstrations as there had been in Pittsburgh the year before. They would regret the decision to have it in Dallas.
The night before the convention opened several Quakers who had come down from New York to organize the demonstration showed a slide show about the B-1, the cultural implications of war expenditures, tax dollars per person and the life it would cost, the fear and imperialism it would spread. It was a rousing political documentary.
After the slide show, on the way home a friend and I went to the Fairmont Hotel to check out our "stage" as we discussed what we would do. The Fairmont Hotel was under 48 hour top security, but dressed like tourists, in our shorts and Hawaiian shirts we had the complete run of the place. At our leisure, talking about the tourist sites we'd go see the next day right there with the guards and hotel people walking around setting up, we quietly and nonchalantly walked the entire area checking every detail, getting the layout in our minds and tossed about ideas and possibilities on the way home. We stayed up all night laughing about all the possibilities, rushing around fixing props, making calls, getting falsified press credentials as a college video collective.
Back at the Rockwell action, the next morning we entered the Fairmont Hotel with a suitcase full of video equipment and press credentials for our jr. college video collective. Rockwell was thrilled enough to spread their message to the jr. college students that they evidently didn't do any checking. The video collective cover also enabled us to document the event on video too.
This was the most formal affair I had ever attended in my life. I wore make up to pass and dressed up and blended right in with the crowd. There was wall to wall red drapes, hundreds of white men in suits and a few women in mink coats and about thirty thin model types in short, short skirts and high, high heels lined up at the reservation table to cater to the stockholders. They thought we were with the media so they brought us water and smiled at us. We smiled back.
At the very end of the meeting I went to the very back microphone so as not to be intimidating and in the littlest voice, which was not hard to cause I was only in my twenties and I was totally scared to speak in public under any circumstance, much less something like this that was so potentially volatile. This was my first public political action and it was definitely starting on a bigger stage than what I wanted to be on. But who could stop it? Certainly I wasn't going to. :)
I've never told this part of the story, but I will for those who think I never am willing to compromise I'll let you know this. When I got out of the truck and entered the hotel I reluctantly dropped in the trash can right outside the front of the hotel, a huge round of firecrackers that I had wanted to put off to give all those people a little chance to see what it would feel like not to know from one moment to the next if they are going to live or die as those who would be victimized from their financial 'choices' and decisions. It would have been great theatre, but I was worried someone might really get hurt in the reaction so I passed on that one. Sometimes I regret not doing it, but it was actually for the best that I didn't.
Instead, and now this is going to seem so, ummm conservative, eh, I said (remembering what they say, that you can get more flies with honey) sweetly and ladylike as I could, "Mr Rockwell, my name is so and so" (I don't remember what name I used-- i used different names all the time as a matter of practice during those years ) "and I represent a group of Dallas Citizens. We have a presentation we would like to give to the Rockwell Board."
Rockwell says "Well..." and pauses cause he knows it's not part of the program but he doesn't want to appear rude and remember that they are sighing sighs of relieve that they have gotten through this much of their program only to have to deal with some Quakers out front of the hotel holding signs that said FOOD NOT BOMBS which, as honest a statement as could be made, lacked impact in the 70s after all the anti-war demonstrations of the 60s, "Well......" he said as I stood there shaking. "Well," he asked "... would you like to do that now?"
I could hardly believe my ears and my heart was pounding so I thought he could hear it through the microphone. So far so good. I couldn't believe this was happening. It was like the beauty contestant moments before the crowning. :-) sorry. Deep breath.
"Yes I would" and nervously (let me tell you I have never been more afraid in my life) I walked quickly to a front microphone where I figured they would have to drag me away in front of the stock holders; and that always looks bad. :-) Then I added louder, "This is what we believe the B-1 bomber will do for world peace."
Soon as I didn't call it "the peacemaker" they knew I wasn't friendly to their agenda. I glanced around behind me and about 20 plain clothes security cops and hotel security and no telling who else were converging on me really fast....I MEAN fast (it was at that moment I was most glad I didn't let off those firecrackers) but not before I had presented Rockwell and his gang with "blood" stained dolls with red paint dripping down their faces and arms and legs pulled off.
I gave Rockell a huge headless one. He said thank you. I smiled. The men hustled around me from behind and hurded me towards the exit down a long isle. One said he didn't appreciate what I was doing. I said I didn't appreciate what he was doing.
A film spread out on a screen over my head, straight out in front of me. We were walking straight towards it with the filming showing from the behind us. It showed a plane far off into the distance. As I walked towards it the plane was flying right towards me and the men. The plane got bigger and bigger and quickly coming in from the distance. vvvaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr the announcer said in deep dignified male voice "Rockwell is in Central America. Rockwell is in Vietnam. Rockwell is in South Africa." vvvaaaaaaRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooommmm "Rockwell is EVERYwhere." The plane veered quickly to the right and I to the left and into the lobby of the hotel.
I got out in the lobby and there was a twirling model of the B-1. I took the left over dolls and placed them below the bomber, with their blood stained bodies and clothes it was a pitiful site that I wish to this day I had a photo of. Another man ran up, stuck the dolls under his arms, hiding them under his jacket as he carried them away, which was, to me, a sure sign of the effectiveness of my chosen medium.
Then a hotel official escorted me from the hotel. I dropped the left over arms and legs on the sidewalk outside where i figured the stockholders could just have to step over them to leave the hotel. The Quakers looked on in disbelief. They hadn't even known we were coming to the protest. I and my friend got the hell out of there but not before the Quakers gave us a big piece of their minds about how we had ruined their demonstration and that what we had done was violence. (continued in next column)
My first action made the front page of the Wall Street Journal in an article called (swear to god I'm looking at it right now) "Rockwell's B-1 Craft Prove to Be Bomb At Annual Meeting: Firms Gathering Is Marred by Marchers, Incidents Protesting Its Airplane" (feb 7th or 9th [can't read the xerox] 1975. There were four or five paragraphs on the anti B-1 critique and I, after spending most of my time leaflet car windshield windows in the college parking lot, was nothing less than exhilarated.
The Journal quoted other demonstrators saying they had nothing to do with the action -- that it was a "personal witness". Some of the Quaker protesters were upset. They said it was violent.
In the part about my action the Journal wrote: "In a bizarre incident at the end of the meeting, one young woman announced that she would like to make a presentation to the Rockwell board. "This represents what the B-1 bomber will do for peace." she said, and presented each officer at the head table with a naked doll splashed with blood-colored paint, immediately the lights went out and a film about the company appeared on the screen in front of the hall."
Much to my surprise they didn't arrest me. You know for years I thought they didn't do it because they didn't want the publicity, and they probably could have done it for disturbing the peace, or something, and looked pretty foolish in the press. GIRL ARRESTED FOR GIVING BOMB MAKERS BLOODY DOLLS I can see it all now. It wouldn't have really been worth it to them, but despite how at the time I thought it was such a rad revolutionary act :-), they really had no grounds to even arrest me. This was one of the actions that helped me understand that women don't have to do much at all. All women have to do is stop smiling and they challenge this culture. I did lots and lots, but really it was nothing when you stop to think about it, and I do mean that.
Years later, one of the Quaker women who had organized the demonstration approached my friend and asked what ever had happened to me. She retracted her outspoken criticism of my action and said that in retrospect it was the most meaningful part of the demonstration for her and said that she admired the fact that I had followed my own conscience. My action, which seemed so radical at the time to all of us, in retrospect it's all such small change.
That action also taught me early-on the importance of documenting our work. We videotaped the event easily, but unfortunately the video of this action was destroyed in a fire years later.
This was the action that made me understand I wanted to use the media (until it got too fucking corrupt to even manipulate) to get my political message across. Same with Civil Disobedience. But with that there was a problem though. It would be five years after I began publicly advocating that women needed to consider using CD as a tactic, and almost one decade after I understood it needed to happen, that I had the nerve to get arrested myself. It was a problem that I did finally manage to overcome. -- Nikki Craft
A good example of B1 Propaganda and how it is when the U.S. Military, as they are known to do, use meth to get revved up for the kill. It's also similar to the film that was shown to the stockholders that day without the hard music.
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