(From Bloom’s October/November 2012 issue)
BY ADAM KENT-ISAAC
Marc Haggerty, 64, elder statesman of Bloomington’s counterculture, grew up hunting, fishing, and playing guitar in the countryside south of Indianapolis. His father served as Democratic Party chairman for Marion County, and Haggerty recalls visiting the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City with his brothers. “We ran up and down the boardwalk, in and out of the convention, looking for girls—there was no security, nothing.”
His carefree youth was interrupted by the Vietnam draft. Offered a choice in 1967 between the Army and the Marine Corps, Haggerty chose the latter and deployed to Vietnam with “Hoosier Platoon” 1108, composed of recruits from Indiana. An infantryman, he saw combat and received a Purple Heart.
“The Marine Corps introduced me to activism,” says Haggerty. “The guys who came back from Vietnam were radicalized.” After coming to IU in 1969, he immediately fell into Bloomington’s rapidly growing counterculture community.
“That was our summer of love—there were thousands of us living in the neighborhood from Second Street to Twelfth Street. When the Screaming Gypsy Bandits would play, 2,000 people showed up. Acid was given out free. An eight-bedroom house rented for two hundred a month; we’d get twenty people in one of those things!”
Many of these hippies were just interested in partying, says Haggerty, but the dedicated ones pursued politics. In 1971, he and Charlotte Zietlow helped spearhead the first 18-year-old vote and they led a “takeover” of the Democratic Party through demonstrations and student organizing, he says. “The antiwar movement barely pushed Frank McCloskey into office” in the mayoral election.
In ways both big and small, idealistic youths left their mark on the town. The former site of the Black Market, an African American-owned business razed by members of the KKK, became one rallying point. “We occupied it, cleaned up the lot, removed all the rubble, and planted flowers and trees,” says Haggerty. “We lived in tents there from March until late May.” Today, that space is Peoples Park.
Haggerty never slowed down. Through the 70s, he traveled to the West Coast, founding a commune and working as a mechanic. Back in Bloomington in the 80s, he raised his son Cogi and lobbied for voting reform, even spending a month in jail after an election protest. The ’90s saw him help protect the environment against PCBs and perform as a trapeze artist with Ringling Brothers Circus. And lately he’s been active in prisoners’ rights issues.
And he never stopped strumming his guitar. He still performs regularly, both in town and in Indianapolis. See his website for details.