50 Years Ago, ‘The Dude’ Didn’t Abide. He Helped Lead Thousands in Protest at UW After Students Shot at Kent State.Breaking News
tags: Vietnam War, Protest, student activism
These days, Jeff Dowd is known as the real-life inspiration for “The Dude” in the 1998 cult classic, “The Big Lebowski.”
The character, a slacker who walks around in Bermuda shorts and sunglasses, smokes dope and likes White Russians and bowling, is so ingrained in our culture that there are Lebowski Fests around the country. Slogan: “Just take it easy, man?”
But 50 years ago, when he was 20, The Dude was at the forefront of a massive protest on May 5 by 5,000 University of Washington students who took over I-5. He was out on bail after being indicted by the feds on conspiracy charges as part of the Seattle Seven after demonstrators rushed the doors of the federal courthouse here.
Fifty years ago, when she was 25, Stephanie Coontz was working toward her master’s degree at the UW. She’s now a professor emeritus of History and Family Studies at The Evergreen State College.
Coontz also took part in that I-5 protest, eventually negotiating with Seattle Police near the southbound Roanoke Street offramp. The UW students had come off campus and gone onto I-5 at Northeast 45th Street.
A few days ago, they were asked to explain those times to the proverbial 20-somethings of 2020. It is a message of warning: Some of the same elements that split the country then are still here today.
And, from The Dude, for the anniversary being about such a tragic event, it’s also one of hope.
Says Dowd about that freeway march, “We were dodging trucks and buses and cars coming at us at 60, 70 miles an hour. We were lucky there wasn’t a pileup.”
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