WASHINGTON (AP) - A nuclear weapons protester who held the Washington Monument hostage for 10 hours died with a police bullet in his head at the wheel of a van as empty as his threat to blast the monument to rubble. Norman D. Mayer was killed Wednesday night after holding police at bay with threats to detonate the explosives he said were packed in the van at the base of the obelisk. There were none. The monument itself remained closed today as workers cleared the remnants of tear gas fired by police to flush out what they thought was a second person involved in the incident. No one was found. Elsewhere, the capital returned to normal. Thousands of federal workers evacuated during the siege were at work; traffic and the city's subway flowed normally. Mayer, a White House protester no one had much noticed, had been obsessed by a conviction that mankind is drifting toward nuclear extinction. He died in a final gesture for, as he had put it earlier, "a national dialogue on the nuclear weapons question."
THE MIAMI BEACH handiman, still dressed in a blue jumpsuit, was shot in the head in a barrage of police gunfire after he started driving his van from the monument. He got only a few yards. "If the truck had become mobile, we would have had a moving time-bomb in the city of Washington," said Chief Lynn Herring of the U.S. Park Police, explaining the decision to open fire. The White House was six blocks away. Mayer, wounded, took down a flagpole. The van flipped onto its side. When police got to him, Mayer was still alive, still warning that the vehicle was loaded with TNT. Police handcuffed him to his steering wheel; minutes later he was dead. He had claimed to have dynamite in his white van, and he demanded that the newspapers and broadcasters devote 51 percent of their space and time to discussing the fear that obsessed him.
AS IT TURNED out, Mayer's threat had been empty - the van was loaded with nothing but routine personal effects and detonators with nothing to detonate. Police thought Mayer might have had an accomplice, and they hurled tear gas into the 555-foot monument, then made a cautious, fruitless search that ended after midnight. Mayer had acted alone, officials said. Mayer had given Washington a scare; forced the city to take notice of his message, emblazoned on his truck: "No. 1 Priority, BAN Nuclear Weapons." Seven tourists and two Park Service workers, trapped in the monument until mid-afternoon, were allowed to leave. Thousands of government workers at the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving were sent home. In a printed leaflet that was distributed by authorities, Mayer spelled out his grievance against the arms race. "The world is threatened every day of our lives with man-made annihilation," it said. "It's a disgrace to decency, civilization and reason." And his solution? "A national dialogue on the nuclear weapons question as the first order of business on an agenda of every organization in the U.S.A. Churches, businesses, fraternal, unions, sports, etc., no associations excepted. "Local state and national elected bodies and bureaucracies must comply. National and local media must carry these discussions daily, 51 percent of their time and space. The book, 'Fate of the World,' to be the guide."
He apparently meant "Fate of the Earth," the best-selling book by writer Jonathan Schell, describing how all human life ultimately would vanish in the aftermath of a nuclear war.
Police learned Mayer had a long record of arrests - for prowling in 1949, assault and battery in 1957, drug trafficking in 1976, passing out literature on campuses in violation of college regulations in 1979.
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