The Placeholder Salutes – Marshall Ledbetter

Word Count – 950

Anyone who’s first sentence of their wikipedia article describes them as a “psychedelics enthusiast” is salute worthy in our books.

On June 14th, 1991, Marshall Ledbetter Jr. broke into the Florida state capitol building in Tallahassee. He barricaded himself inside the office of Wayne Todd, the Sergeant At Arms of the Florida Senate. Once inside, he made a number of phone calls to the local police, explaining the situation, and demanding that “society wake up and stop being automaton clones of one another”. A standoff situation ensued, as police were unaware if Ledbetter was armed or had taken hostages.

When asked what his demands were, Ledbetter faxed a note detailing his demands to local rock radio station Gulf 104…

Notable inclusions on the list were…

– 1 Gumby’s 20 incher veggie pizza with extra jalapenos

– 1 case of Asahi Dry

– 1 carton of Lucky Strikes (filtered)

– 1 CNN news crew (within an hour)

– 666 Dunkin Donuts for my fine friends in the Tallahassee Police Department, Florida State University Police Department, and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office

– $100 worth of Chinese Food

As his demands were being processed and analyzed by police, snipers and SWAT team members formed a phalanx around the capitol building. While on the phone with the police, Ledbetter also demanded that he be put on the phone and allowed to speak with Timothy Leary, Lemmy Kilmister, Ice Cube, and Jello Biafra.

The standoff ended peacefully after several hours of negotiation between Ledbetter and local police. He calmly walked out of the building wearing nothing but a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt and his underwear, holding a bottle of Jack Daniels and smoking a cigar. He was arrested on B&E charges, and forced to undergo psychiatric counselling. There were no hostages in the building, and he was completely unarmed the entire time.

Marshall Ledbetter died in 2003, which is a shame, because the world has always had a dangerous shortage of people like him. Any jackass with dreadlocks and a heightened sense of moral turpitude can chain himself to a tree and talk about how the man is keeping him down, but Ledbetter was the kind of revolutionary that spoke to a way more universal pandemic. That being the horrible internal oppression that man foists upon himself, keeping him from being the glorious bastard he knows he very well could be. All of us have dreamed at one point or another of doing exactly what he did, but he has thus far been the only one crazy, brilliant, and stupid enough to do it.

Jello Biafra himself became a huge fan of the man, and was very humbled to hear that he was one of the four people Ledbetter demanded to speak to. While he never personally met Ledbetter, he was quoted as saying…

“I have spoken with him. He was lucky to get out of there alive. If it had happened now, I’m sure they would have just gone in there and blown the place up, or just done it in Waco-style. He was institutionalized, and now he’s back out again walking the straight and narrow. But he sends me some odd anecdotes in the mail now and then. He was somebody who had had enough of the injustice in our world and chose to do something about it in very colourful fashion. I’ve been a long time fan of creative crime. The best part about this one is, it made a statement, it was a work of art, and not a single person got hurt.”

Years went by after that incident in 1991, and Ledbetter was never able to fully explain why he did what he did or what his exact motivations were. All he knew was he was pissed off, thought society needed a swift kick in the ass, and wanted to bring some whimsy to the idea of political protesting. He got peoples attention, and did so without killing anyone or writing a horrible whiny acoustic Ani Difranco-esque protest song.

I would never dare call him a hippie, but if caring about the state of the world and doing something about it makes you one, then Marshall Ledbetter was the greatest hippie to walk the face of the earth. For his legacy of dynamic confusion and clever disobedience, we at The Placeholder salute Marshall Ledbetter. Climb The Highest Mountain, and Punch The Face Of God.

And now, for your listening pleasure, we present ‘The Ballad Of Marshall Ledbetter’, performed by Jello Biafra’s metal side project, Lard.

Download song from the Alternative Tentacles site.


Six-hundred, sixty-six Dunkin’ Donuts
A twenty inch veggie pizza from Gumby’s
Extra jalapenos on the side
And a case of Asahi Dry

I wish to speak with Timothy Leary
Lemmy, jello, and Ice Cube Too
Carton of Lucky’s with filters
And bring a CNN news crew

Talahasse, Florida
Four AM, June 14, ’91
Capitol Building’s occupied
Broke the glass, walked right inside

Wouldn’t be advisable to enter
You don’t know the number of hostiles
Of if anyone’s got guns
Or if there’s hostages

I just want to speak my mind
More for you than just one sound bite

Mushroom Cop and Info Man have something to say
This whole world is disturbing me
I wanna cut a rap record each month
And mail my little pinkie to George Bush

Agh, agh
Where are my friends
Where are you
Where are you
I can’t believe it’s come to this

Sharpshooters on surrounding roofs
Traffic blocked off by SWAT troops
Evacuate the people inside
Pretend we’re CNN, say Leary’s died

I just want to speak my mind
More for you than just one sound bite

Twelve forty five, he emerged unharmed
J.D. in one hand, in the other, cigars
Hendrix t-shirt and his underwear on
Guess what, he never had no gun

I only broadcast my freakout to the world
I was a prisoner for twenty two years
When I broke through that door, I was free
Not to mention pretty damn lucky

Nowadays, boy, you’d just get shot

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