In the spring of 1972, political activism raged on campus as the Vietnam War continued into another year.
On a festive day in May, the anger of anti-war protesters reached its climax when they dug four “bomb craters” on campus to symbolize the destruction that the war was causing to the Vietnam countryside.
With music and speeches blaring, the craters were dug in celebration of Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X’s birthdays, both on May 19.
In addition to the digging, other symbolic anti-war protests were made that same day. The administration building was “mined” with balloons — balloons were placed on the ground symbolizing explosive mines — while four unidentified youths simultaneously flooded the lobby with tomato juice to represent the blood of the Vietnamese people.
Protesters consulted the University when deciding on the four locations to dig after the administration expressed concerns that the digging might interfere with underground power and water lines.
Of all the locations, the Diag was the most controversial place chosen for demonstration and was strongly opposed as protest location by the University.
Ultimately, the protestors defied the University’s requests and threats of prosecution choosing to dig in the Diag anyway. The event provided a widely visible example of the war’s destruction.
Within two weeks of the digging, arrest warrants were issued by the University’s Security Department for Genie Plamondon of the Rainbow People’s Party, Jay Hock, the former administration vice president for student government council, and two students, John Goldman and Richard England.
Within a week of the warrants being issued, the so-called “Crater Four” turned themselves in. Supported by a crowd of more than 100 people, they were released on a personal bond of $50 and a trial was set for July 20. It was later postponed until August.
During their arraignment, the Crater Four’s testimonial, signed by 280 supporters, acknowledged their digging in the Diag but also demanded that the charges be dropped and the University confess to what the protesters argued were its war crimes.
The digging was co-sponsored by then-Mayor Robert Harris, City Council members from the Democratic and Human Rights parties, People Against the Air War, Tribal Council, the local branch of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and other local groups.