On April 30, 1970, then President Richard Milhouse Nixon announced he was sending US troops from Vietnam into Cambodia, a diplomatically-neutral country. His announcement set off a month of intense protests by mainly college and university students across the country, from Maine to Southern California. What follows here is a sampling of the reaction by students on April 30 and May 1 of that year. It was a different time. The only people bringing guns to campuses then were cops and National Guardsmen. And on May 4, National Guardsmen shot and killed four unarmed students, wounding 11 others on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. Ten days later, two young Black men were murdered by local police at Jackson State in Mississippi. Other anti-war demonstrations:
Princeton University – New Jersey
Thursday, April 30
Within an hour after Nixon’s televised announcement, over 2,500 students and faculty packed the University Chapel to protest the escalation of the war. Along with many members of the faculty, it was later estimated that forty percent of the student body was present. A vote to strike against the war passed overwhelmingly, with the class boycott to begin Friday, the next day, May 1. With this vote, Princeton became one of the very first schools to strike against Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia. As part of the protest, over 200 students surrendered their draft cards.
May 1, Friday
The Princeton strike officially started. As an element of the protest, hundreds of students and faculty members demonstrated in front of a military-related campus facility, the Institute for Defense Analysis.
SUNY Stony Brook State University of New York – Stony Brook
Friday, May 1
In response to the invasion of Cambodia, fifty students at SUNY Stony Brook embarked on a hunger strike. They vowed non-violence in their campaign to remove a Defense Department project from the campus. This demand to end all DOD research, had first been raised on the Stony Brook campus during a series of protests in April 13-17.
University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia
Friday, May 1
University of Maryland – College Park
When Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia by U.S. troops, there was a group on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park ready to respond. The Concerned Students and Faculty, a group that had formed in March of that year after the arrest of 87 people in a sit-in, called for a rally on the mall the next day – Friday, May 1. As background, two popular professors had been denied tenure by the University, and as a protest, students had occupied a campus building in March, also demanding that they have a greater say in university affairs. After the 87 had been arrested, the student-faculty activist group was formed.
Friday, May 1
The noon rally on the McKeldin Mall at College Park began peacefully enough. It was a bright, warm, spring morning. It had been called by the Concerned Students and Faculty, and a thousand students heard several speakers attack Nixon’s decision to send US troops into Cambodia, a country considered neutral, except by the Pentagon. Nearby a group of New York “guerrilla theater” actors gave an impromptu performance.
Reportedly, forty-five minutes into the rally, an unidentified man shouted, “ROTC has got to go” and bade the crowd to follow him to the nearby Reckord armory, which housed the ROTC offices. The rally was held at the Mall – a large grassy area, often a hang-out for students, which laid to the east of McKeldin Library. At the other end .– stood Reckord Armory. It wasn’t very far away as the crow flies.
Hundreds of students began marching east over to the armory. Once there, most of the crowd surrounded the building – an estimated 500 students – while a smaller group swarmed into the building, broke into the room where the Air Force ROTC uniforms were stored and ransacked the place. Chanting, “Rotcee must go!” uniforms were flung out into the hallways and out into the crowd. Other protesters went upstairs and broke into the ROTC offices, overturning desks, smashed office equipment, tore telephones from the walls, dumped file cabinets onto the floor – one report had them burning papers and uniforms. A pile of uniforms were torched out on the front steps. When administration officials – including Vice President for Academic Affairs R. Lee Hornbake – arrived to survey the damage, the protesters were already at Route 1. (The president of the University Elkins was away on a foreign trip nearly the entire month.)
From the armory, the crowd roamed over to Route 1, literally several hundred feet away, and took it over, blocking traffic while some gathered near the south gate of the university. By then, it was about 1:15 pm. Police didn’t show up for another two hours, but when they did, they were in force – over a hundred members of the Maryland State Police tactical squad, along with Prince George’s County police, wearing helmets, batons and carrying gasmasks, marched onto the roadway. The students were informed their demonstration was illegal, they shouted back that Nixon is murdering Indochinese and Americans – also illegal.
Police rushed the crowd. Some in the crowd of protesters fought back and threw stones and other projectiles. Half of the students fled down College Avenue while others remained just inside the gate, in a tense standoff with police. Glares and taunts were thrown back and forth. Chants of “Hell no, we won’t go,” “Pigs off campus,” and “Nixon’s in Cambodia and we’re in the streets. When Nixon’s out of Cambodia, we’ll get out of the streets.” At that point, the students moved south on Route 1 and took up another blockade of another intersection. The police then chased them off the road entirely.
The standoff continued and control of Route 1 seesawed back and forth, with students blocking traffic, police clearing them out and with students returning. Then police chased the students onto the campus and as they ran west they dispersed across the campus in small groups. Small acts of vandalism occurred, along with deflating the tires of cop cars. A crowd gathered near the campus police station and when police showed up and ordered them to disperse, they refused. This led to a skirmish where students were battered with batons. One student leader was clubbed to the ground and led away with blood streaming from his head by police.
Angry, the protesters reformed – joined by hundreds of others – and by 8 pm a crowd of 1,000 and 1,200 stood and mingled around as more police arrived. With the number of officers at 250, another stand-off occurred with the two sides squared off. Then bottles, eggs and rocks were flung at the police lines – and the police charged – and drove the students across the campus. Then police began shooting teargas to clear the rest from the area including people who had come out to see what was going on – but they also fired teargas and pepper gas into the dormitories. Residents of Harford Hall, Montgomery Hall, Annapolis Hall and other hill area buildings were forced to evacuate. There was one report that cops waited at dorm doors and clubbed students as they ran out to get away from the gas, while others were dragged out by officers.
For some thirteen hours turmoil raged across the campus as law enforcement officers and protesters clashed throughout the afternoon and into the evening. The confrontation gained national media coverage in the process as students split up into small contingents, skirmishing until between 1 and 3 am.
During that period State police Lt. Col Tom S. Smith ordered his men to return to the University police station along Route 1. All told, approximately 25 had been arrested and up to thirty to fifty people injured including ten state troopers. Damage estimates to university buildings topped $25,000. The Washington Post called the protest “the largest and most violent in the university’s history.” Meanwhile, Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel ordered two companies of the Maryland National Guard to activate and to be on standby.
Friday, May 1
Students at American University staged a one-day strike on May 1st against the US invasion of Cambodia, as well as against the New Haven Black Panther trial, and a recent speech by Vice President Agnew.
Yale – New Haven Connecticut
The May Day weekend at Yale had been planned for weeks, if not months. The Black Panther Party and its white allies had called for activists to come to New Haven for the purpose of supporting eight members of the local Black Panther Party and the national chairman of the Party, Bobby Seale – all facing trial for kidnapping and murder.
Tens of thousands of protesters were rumored to be headed to New Haven, encouraged by members of the Chicago 7. Abbie Hoffman – one of t he Chicago 8 defendants and known rabble-rouser – was to have been alleged to vow New Haven would burn. In response to all of this, Connecticut Gov. John N. Dempsey, who had warned then-Attorney General John N. Mitchell there was a “strong possibility … of weekend violence in New Haven,” and requested federal troops. The troops were flown into New England and nine armored personnel carriers were deployed in armories on the outskirts of the city.
Gov. Dempsey also called out 5,000 National Guardsmen. Many merchants were boarding up their windows, while Yale officials removed their sensitive files from the campus. Armageddon was approaching.
That day, April 30, was of course, the same day Nixon announced his invasion of Cambodia – and campuses began to respond.
Yet, New Haven did not burn as may have been predicted. Yale administrators decided to take on a new tact than what Harvard had employed in mid-April which had produced riots and tear-gas. Yale President Kingman Brewster and his then-assistant Henry “Sam” Chauncey traveled to Harvard and met with the then assistant to the president of Harvard, Archibald Cox. After this brainstorming, Brewster came up with a plan. He would open up the campus and actually welcome the visiting radicals. He invited them to sleep in Yale’s 12 residences and Yale’s dining halls would feed them 3 meals a day.
Negotiations were begun between the administration and the protesters. Brewster and Chauncey met with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Anne Froines – spouse of John Froines, Allen Ginsberg, and the attorney Bill Kunstler – Kunstler had been a college classmate of Brewster. As Chauncey recounted years later:
We convinced the radicals we were decent people; we would listen to them. We were talking nonstop, 12-14 hours a day. It was exhausting. …Black Yale students were talking to the New Haven black community; Yale alumni were talking to anyone they knew…
At 3 a.m. on Friday, May 1, the administration and the protesters struck a deal. As Chauncey remembered, “We struck a deal. The deal was we would do everything in our power to keep the police and National Guard out of sight of the [New Haven] Green, to use as little tear gas as possible. They promised not to change their rhetoric, but to preach nonviolence. They could say ‘f-ing this and f-ing that, but today is not for violence.”
It was a gamble for President Brewster, but it worked. As far as the administrators viewed it, for two days, protesters calmly assembled on the green to listen to speakers such like Benjamin Spoke, Jean Genet, Froines, Hoffman and Rubin.
Teach-ins were held at the colleges. New Haven community organizations also housed and fed the visiting protesters.
Friday, May 1
The first rally was held at 4 p.m. on Friday, preceded by a rock concert. Meanwhile, on campus 1,000 Yale students met and agreed on demands, and voted to extend their own 2 ½ week old boycott in support of national strike.
As thousands of young people arrived at the two-day event, they gathered on the New Haven Town Green. The Panther organizers and their allies in the anti-war movement, including the big stars like Rubin and Hoffman, stressed continuously throughout the weekend that the event was a non-violent demonstration in support of the Panthers. But everybody knew there were groups of white radicals who were willing to push the edge. And they did Friday night. The rowdy radicals were causing trouble, bricks were thrown – and the police arrived and fired off some tear gas. In a show of force, however, the organized marshals – dozens of them – joined hands in a human chain and pushed some 1500 people back onto the Yale campus and away from the Town Green.
Organizers blamed Friday night’s violence on provocateurs – who caught unwitting white “crazies” up in their shenanigans, “self-indulgent trouble makers”. During the day, at a workshop given by Jerry Rubin, two men who claimed to be Black Panthers announced that police were suddenly making unprovoked arrests of Panthers. These claims caused others to be outraged and soon a small group had mushroomed into a small army of approximately 1,500 which marched onto the Green under the flag of a group called Youth Against War and Fascism. A confrontation with police ensued; rocks and bottles and bricks were thrown – and police responded with tear gas. Then in force, police swept through the Green clearing out the area – with the help of the marshals – and arrested 17, mostly for disturbing the peace. Later, spokesmen for the Black Panthers said that the two men at the Rubin workshop were not party members and were police provocateurs.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
April 29 – May 1
The day Nixon announced his Cambodian invasion, the Student Legislature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill met and in response, condemned the aggression and called for a boycott of classes that next Wednesday, May 6. The next day, Friday, May 1, Student Body President Tom Bello called for a student strike and an emergency meeting of the student body to express opposition to sending US troops into Cambodia for Wednesday, May 6. In the ensuing days, the one-day boycott evolved into an extended strike.
Duke University in Durham
Friday, May 1
A boycott of classes to begin Tuesday, May 5 and last through that Thursday, was called by the Duke student legislature, the Associated Students, on Friday, May 1. They sent a letter to faculty members announcing a boycott of classes scheduled for May 6 in protest of the escalation of the war; the letter asked faculty to not give tests that day and to consider changing class topics to Vietnam-related issues.
Ohio State University at Columbus
April 29-May 1
When the official strike started on Thursday, April 29, all was peaceful but noisy as student pickets appeared outside classroom buildings and about 2,000 people gathered at the Oval to hear speeches. The rally was put together by the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Rights, which had presented a series of demands and called for a student strike until the administration negotiated.
Meanwhile State Highway Patrol officers were off campus on standby, as had been requested by university officials.
After the rally had dissipated in the afternoon, demonstrators decided to take direct action. Around 2:30 pm, they moved to the wrought-iron gates at the traditional entrance to the campus and swung them shut as a symbolic closure of the university and built a barricade blocking the entrance. Columbus police, parked right outside the gates, asked the students to reopen the gates several times but were refused. Rocks and bricks began to be tossed – and then police charged in full riot gear and began shooting tear gas canisters at the students. A number of students were clubbed. 4 were arrested.
Student protesters barricaded at least one and possibly two other intersections. In response, around 4 pm, Columbus police began gassing students at these different streets – and 30 more were arrested. At 4:20 pm, the National Guard were placed on stand-by.
The crowds of students fell back and hundreds of angry people gathered on the Oval – upset at the over-reaction and heavy-handed tactics of the police. At about 4:45 pm approximately 1200 students surrounded the Administration Building and busted out a few windows. A police helicopter began dropping gas indiscriminately on students below, as police fired gas canisters towards them, some of the gas permeated the dorms. One reporter for the student radio station was knocked unconscious when he was hit in his head with a tear gas canister.
During the violence, football coaching legend Woody Hayes spoke to the students attempting to quell the violence. During the unrest, Woody was the only member of the Ohio State administration to actually speak to the students, to seek peace. Woody always seemed to genuinely care about the students at OSU.
Another group of hundreds had assembled on High Street. By the time the Highway Patrol showed up, the crowd had swollen to around 3,000. More tear gas was lobbed at the students and the crowd broke up into small groups. A few molotov cocktails were thrown at local businesses on High Street.
The Highway Patrol, the “Staties”, called for reinforcements. Emboldened with more officers, the state troopers advanced on the crowds that had regathered. The local Lantern student newspaper estimated that 6,000 had assembled around the area. It was about 8:45 pm when after another cloud of rocks had rained down on them, police responded by shooting live rounds of buckshot and rocksalt into the masses of students. Miracles happened – no one was killed. But at least seven people were wounded. The crowds responded with more bricks and rocks. Police and troopers pursued demonstrators through the campus area, discharging great quantities of tear gas.
At 9 pm, the curfew went into effect, and there were reports of a frat house on fire from gas cannisters fired through its windows by Columbus PD. Later, it emerged that extensive damage was reported on fraternity row, where police had shot into houses and threw tear gas. In one fraternity house, 15 38-caliber bullet holes were counted in one window alone. Computer damage was reported, but not confirmed.
The clashes continued for hours, as the sky darkened with gas, smoke and dusk. At 10 pm Governor Rhodes called in the Ohio National Guard. The sight of tanks and armored troop carriers rumbling down the streets on an American campus chilled the protests, conjuring up images of the Soviet mobilization to crush the’68’ Prague Spring. At 11:30 pm there were still thousands of people in the streets, as reported by students, and more tear gas was shot off.[It was later determined that agents provocateurs from the police or the Patrol had actually instigated the critical moves to close the 11th Avenue entrance.]
When the pepper fog had dissipated, it was determined that about 50 -70 people had been injured, with many taken to area hospitals. The injured included the 7 wounded by gunshot and another dozen wounded in one way or another. It also included 25 police officers and non-students. More than 300 people had been arrested. Columbus mayor Jack Sensenbrenner declared a curfew for the campus area and the National Guard appeared on the scene.
Thursday, April 30
When OSU students arrived on campus Thursday, April 30, they were greeted by National Guard tanks, armored carriers and rifle-toting troops. Many students still boycotted classes, and strikers continued to make plans for rallies on the Oval over the course of the next few days. An editorial in the day’s student newspaper, The Lantern, opined that high numbers of police and aggressive students were both to blame for the violence the night before that escalated from what originally began as peaceful protests.
The administration had called for a meeting on the Oval during the day, and when students gathered, a statement by President Fawcett was read. He stated he regretted the incident of the day before, but he would have “no hesitancy in summoning and retaining sufficient security forces to preserve order.” Administration officials demanded that the strike end at 8 pm, that everyone should leave – or presumably be gassed and shot at. Over a barrel and exhausted, strike leaders agreed to this condition.
As the Ohio National Guard patrolled the campus, news of the secret war waged by Nixon in Cambodia came over the radio. Crowds congregated once again and refused to break up. Claiming the crowd was too large to handle peacefully, Guardsmen moved in and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd of several thousands. Wind carried the gas into nearby classroom buildings, forcing some classes to close and disturbing faculty and students. The gas also caught students and faculty out in the open as they changed classes.
Friday, May 1
Friday, May 1, opened with a dozen classroom buildings being picketed, as the third day of the student strike gained momentum. A new demand had been added to the list: the removal of guardsmen and state police from the campus. More rallies and meetings were planned for the day, including a rally on the Oval at 4 pm. The all-white National Guard detachment had been reinforced and troops were everywhere.
Facing armed troops on their campus, that morning, a faculty group called the Faculty Green Ribbon Commission met and agreed it would attempt to bring the warring sides – the administration and the students- together in order to begin negotiations. It called for “serious negotiations” and stated, “due process is most necessary in times of tensions.” The group urged the Faculty Council not to allow the summary suspensions of students, it called for the modification of the “injunction” suppressing campus activity to allow for “meaningful discussion of the issues underlying the current situation,” and finally the faculty group pushed the university to make every effort to get arrested students released on their own recognizance or on minimum bail.
A flyer appeared on campus that first day of May. It had a reminder that “tonight’s curfew includes the Oval and all college land.” What followed was a list of self-defense advice:
Tear Gas – Most important is to stay upwind. Carry a wet cloth and breathe through it. Do not rub your eyes. If it’s really bad, flush your eyes with lots of water or boric acid. If that doesn’t work, go to the hospital.
Guns: People should be aware that the cops have fired on people, particularly last night. None have seriously been hurt by gunfire as yet.
Affinity Groups: Its best not to walk anywhere alone. Individuals have been busted at all hours, all places, and for no reason. Travel in groups of four- or five if possible. If you’re into doing something, you should definitely work with a small group whom you know & trust.
Equipment: The Mayor has ordered a halt on all sale of equipment. This includes gas masks, guns, & all else conceivable. People should go out of town to get stuff.
Charges: (1) Non-students who are arrested on campus are liable for an additional charge of trespassing. (2) If you resist, either actively or passively, during the course of arrest, you are liable for an additional charge of resisting arrest.
The Curfew: is again on for tonight between the hours of 6PM &7 AM. This makes anyone on the streets (on foot or car) between the area of 5th St & Hudson and Olentangy & Indianola liable to arrest.
Students were informed the campus strike switchboard was trying to keep track of all those who had been jailed and was trying to raise money to get them out. ‘Write a phone number on your arm with a ball point pen in case you are arrested’ they were admonished. They were asked to call the switchboard if they see anyone arrested or shot or hospitalized, and to raise money. It ended with, “What you can do: Strike ! Don’t go to class.”
Oberlin College in Oberlin in Ohio
At Oberlin College, immediately after President Nixon’s announcement on Cambodia on April 30, 50 students briefly sat-in at the administration building in protest. The students left the building when a faculty meeting on the issue was announced for Saturday, May 2.
Kent State University – in Kent Ohio
Friday, May 1
On May 1, two rallies were held on campus. The first, a noon rally, was held to protest the invasion of Cambodia by American troops. Some 300 students cheered the burying of a copy of the U.S. Constitution (spokesmen said “‘We see the Constitution as a piece of paper. It is dead as far as consulting the people it represents.”), and the burning of an Army discharge certificate by a veteran of the Vietnam war.
At three that afternoon a second rally was held, this one sponsored by the Black United Students. The black students were demanding that Kent accept a total of 5,000 black students by the coming September, that Kent hire more black instructors and all-black faculty for the Afro-American Studies Institute, and that the university provide a more satisfactory cultural center.
Michigan State University – East Lansing
Anti-war student activities had been visible on the Michigan State University campus since the mid-sixties. In the Spring of 1970, the movement to push ROTC from the MSU campus crystallized, and in April, the MSU Committee Against ROTC presented President Clifton Wharton with three demands: that ROTC be prevented from using any University facilities, that there should be no contractual relations between MSU and the US military for training officers; that then-current ROTC students who were receiving ROTC scholarships be given equivalent MSU scholarships.
Also going on that Spring was a type of “counter-cultural” and political happening with the establishment of “People’s Park” among tall trees in the quad area south of the Red Cedar River. College residents pitched tents – and at least one tipi – or set up lean-tos. Over the course of that spring, it had an on-going population and was the site of regular gatherings. Some of the walkways were dubbed as “streets”, one being nicknamed, “Hash Avenue.” Administration officials refused to look the other way and searched for means to close the camp down.
Friday, May 1
The Cambodian invasion brough a new wave of student protests and demonstrations at MSU. On Friday, May 1 – the day after Nixon’s announcement of the invasion – the Committee Against ROTC sponsored a protest demonstration that night. Details are scant but at some point, the crowd and protest were apparently so rowdy that police moved in and used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. Reportedly some students fought back, and a student flier published the next week claimed a few people were arrested and that two police officers “were badly hurt.”
It’s also cloudy as to exactly when the MSU ROTC building was destroyed by fire, but it and other campus buildings that were targeted reportedly were so heavily damaged as to cost $40,000 to $50,000.
Purdue University – Indianapolis
Friday, May 1
Student activism burst back onto the campus at Purdue University on Friday, May 1. In protest of Nixon’s expansion of the Indochina war, 300 students gathered for a rally on the mall. As a few speakers addressed the crowd, it grew to about 600. Student body president Stan Jones urged students to take part in the three-day national strike. Three demands were formulated; an end to the ROTC program at Purdue, an end to all classified war research, and that the university issue a public statement that called calling for an end to America’s involvement in Southeast Asia.
To deliver its demands to President Frederick Hovde, the crowd headed to the university executive building. Once there, they met with John Hicks, acting for President Hovde, who refused all three demands. Hovde was at the moment over at the ROTC Armory where the President’s annual review of the ROTC units was taking place. The protesters turned around and walked toward the Armory, linking arms and “shouting an obscene antiwar cheer.”
When they walked into the Armory hall, they were immediately ordered to leave by officials or risk arrest. Everyone complied except one former student, 26-year old John McKown, who had been there with his young son watching the review. He was arrested for trespassing. But, when word of the arrest reached the crowd, the mass of students immediately marched back to the Armory, entered the building and, staged a sit-in right then and there in the middle of the floor, and refused to leave. In response, police officers already on site took out their riot clubs and began poking and jabbing the students – forcibly removing them. At least one student leader, SDS organizer Bob Rose, was injured enough to seek treatment at the university health center. And two students ended up suing the university later for beating them “without provocation.”
This incident stuck in the administration’s claw, as they identified and cited 30 to 40 students and later suspended them. Hastily forming a “panel of inquiry” of 4 profs and one grad student, administrators moved to suspend up to 40 students. In protest, seventy-five Purdue faculty members drew up a petition in support of the demonstrators, which stated in part, that “students and faculty members refuse to acknowledge as legitimate the threatened expulsion or suspension of students involved in ‘disruption’ of ROTC exercises in the Purdue Armory on May 1.” Yet, the university was determined to show zero tolerance for this type of protest. After a commission hearing for each student was held, on June 1 the suspensions of 35 students was finalized.
A fire of undetermined origin was set in the Navy recruiting office in nearby Lafayette, a suburb of Indianapolis.
Southern Illinois University – at Carbondale
Friday, May 1
The day after President Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia by US troops, students held an anti-war rally at Southern Illinois University. Dozens of students gathered across from the Campus Shopping Center. Troubles began when several students tried to start a fire in the middle of the street. When Carbondale police moved in, protesters began hurling bricks and sticks at them. One group, reportedly, charged a police car and sprayed tear gas on the three officers inside, causing them to be treated for burns later.
Police sealed off one street only to force students down an alley onto another commercial street, South Illinois Avenue, where garbage cans were overturned and debris was scattered onto the streets. A number of students entered a construction area in the shopping center, picked up bricks and laid waste to number of business windows. Aided by campus security, Carbondale police broke up the demonstration, arresting 15 people. Around 11:30 pm police closed down all the stores in the vicinity. Two places were hit by fire bombs, but little damage was reported, including the SIU Center of Vietnamese Studies. There was no damage done to the ROTC building on campus or the military recruiting offices in downtown Carbondale – both of which had been scenes of previous violence in connection with war protests.
Friday, May 1
A protest at Wisconsin State College at Oshkosh – in 1971 it became the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh – took a decidedly militant turn on Friday, May 1. But it was not initially about the Cambodia invasion, which Nixon had just announced the night before. It was about a wide north-side street that ran straight through the middle of campus, Algoma Boulevard, which due to the high volume of traffic had made that area of the campus unsafe. Members of the campus community had been complaining about the thoroughfare for some time due to the high number of serious accidents involving traffic and students. A university professor had suffered a broken arm over spring break.
The student government on campus, the Administration and the Regents Planning Committee had all advocated for the streets permanent closure as a safety measure. Yet the Oshkosh City Council had not taken any action on the problem, except to tell critics a solution was years away. Those who had been complaining knew there were alternative routes, but the Council refused to pay for a traffic switch. To make matters worse, traffic control engineers with the city had estimated that traffic would actually double with the opening of a nearby plaza. To the campus community, it seemed like the city was holding the economic value of the road over the dangers to humans. The city repeated the mantra that closing Algoma would cause a loss of business for the city, despite the dangers of injury and death if it remained open. In addition, it seemed the city was ignoring that the university was the largest employer in Oshkosh, generating over $3 million a year that was spent mainly in Oshkosh.
This was the issue in the minds of 30 students who at 10 am Friday lined up across Algoma, blocking the heavy flow of traffic they were protesting. A motorcycle police officer showed up shortly after and began redirecting traffic to Elmwood Avenue, a block east. Students then constructed a barricade across Algoma made up of wood and concrete parking bumpers, trash cans, tree stumps and a snow fence. A sign was attached to the barricade which read “This street closed. Considered to be a danger to life and limb.” At one point at the peak of the demonstration, more than 400 students had filled the street at the barricade. Just before 2:30 pm Oshkosh police arrived and lined up down the street.
Approaching the students, Oshkosh Chief Guenther assured them action would be taken at an emergency City Council meeting planned for Friday evening. This persuaded some to leave. The commander at the scene, Capt. Louis Zernzach then addressed the students at the barricade and asked them to remove it. He assured them that he would do whatever he could to alleviate the traffic problem, but until it was fixed, Algoma would have to be open. Two city dump trucks and a front-end loader that had followed the police, moved up to the barricade.
After some verbal protests and cussing, a majority of some 300 students at the barricade decided to dismantle their project. When the barricade had been removed, the crowd moved to the sidewalks – all except ten students. Capt. Zernzach directed a motorist to proceed pass the remaining students in the street, but when the car moved forward, three women students got in front of it, blocking its movement. Zernzach made an attempt to remove the women but a scuffle broke out when other students jumped in and tried to pull the officer away. But that was it – that was the spark, this minor incident. It was 3:30.
A thirty-man riot squad was called in. They had assembled at Lincoln Elementary School, a few blocks to the south and marched north up the street. Once at the site, using their clubs, the police roughly pushed the students back to the curbs. Three students – two men and one woman – were arrested for disorderly conduct and taken to a paddy wagon. These arrests and what appeared to the students an over-reaction by police set the protesters off. They pelted the police with rocks, who retreated to the elementary school.
By 5 pm the situation had defused to the point most demonstrators had left. 30 people had remained, and they began rebuilding the barricade. But even this group was persuaded to leave by other students and university officials who all pointed to the Monday city council meeting. At that point, some students and Protestant clergymen from the Newman Center dismantled the barricade for the second time and cleaned the street. By 6 pm traffic was once again flowing smoothly on Algoma.
University of Iowa – Iowa City
Thursday, April 30
A police – student confrontation erupted on the campus of the University of Iowa, Thursday, April 30th but it didn’t have anything to do with – at least directly – President Nixon’s announcement of the invasion of Cambodia that evening. It probably had more to do with the spunkiness of Spring on a college campus. It all began with a water fight at a men’s dorm, which was followed by an attempted “panty raid” and ended up as a confrontation with police in front of the Iowa City Police Department at the Civic Center.
The 200 to 300 students were convinced to go home by city officials, and no arrests were made. The incident was fairly non-violent however a UPI photographer and an assistant professor of photojournalism were showered with a barrage of rocks as students apparently mistakenly thought they were taking photos for the University and future disciplinary actions. As one participant lightly put it, “We just started to have a little fun and got everybody out of the dorms, so we decided to storm the streets. It’s as simple as that.”
Friday, May 1
The afternoon of Friday, May 1, things became decidedly more political than the pantry raid the night before. Between 300 to 400 students in a protest against ROTC, stormed into the campus Recreation Building where an awards ceremony for Army and Air Force ROTC cadets was to be held. After a confrontation between them and campus security officers with University officials, the protesters took the floor, sitting, talking, singing and chanting. Administrators were forced to cancel the event. Before any arrests could be made, the students picked themselves up and swarmed out with victory whoops and yells.
University of Missouri – Columbia
University students moved off campus Friday, May 1 for a May Day march to protest repression in the United States and, for the first time in history, flags of the National Liberation Front (NLF) were carried through the streets of St. Louis. Starting at the ROTC building here at about 3:30 p.m.. a group of over 200 persons marched across campus, through the Brookings arch and down Lindell Blvd. where they were met by police escorts on motorcycles. Plainclothesmen, two on every corner, covered the entire length of the march.
Marchers carried NLF flags and banners and signs saying “Off ROTC,” “Free Bobby Seale.” “Peace Now” and other slogans. Rush hour traffic was blocked as they marched down Lindell, chanting slogans like “Up the ass of the ruling class,” “Power to the people,” “1.2,3.4. Off Nixon. Stop the War, 5,6,7,8, Organize and Smash the State.” Just past DeBaliviere. the group was joined by about 20 Black Nationalists who led the march the rest of the way to St. Louis University. Along the route, marchers handed out leaflets to drivers and sightseers. A few people watching the march joined in after talking to demonstrators. At one point they passed an FBI agent who declined an invitation to join the march.
A women’s liberation group approached the Playboy Building as the other marchers continued. They stuck two NLF flap in the Playboy garden and chanted “Off Playboy, Free Women. Free our sisters,” as Playboy executives and Bunnies watched from inside a plate glass window. Outside one house, a lady planted an American flag on her lawn and stood by it proudly as the marchers paraded by, raising their fists in the power sign.
The march turned off Lindell onto Spring and settled down in the St. Louis U. quad for several speeches. Unity was also the keynote of Marty Liebowitz’s address as he spoke on the need for forming a city-wide liberation front. He said the St. Louis Research Council “want to turn WU and SLU into Stanfords and MIT’s…The planes that are bombing Southeast Asia arc made in St. Louis. The war is in St. Louis and our fight is in St. Louis. In a few years we won’t be talking about WU. Well be talking about the Washington Institute of Technology.” He called for the immediate formation of a St. Louis Liberation Front to start working in September. “We start a fall offensive and we hit them.” Several Black Nationalists spoke on the need to gain freedom. “If we don’t get freedom,” one speaker said, “we will take it by any means necessary.” After a few more speeches along the same lines, the rally broke up peacefully.
University of Nebraska
The University of Nebraska had been involved before Ivy Day in the wave of student protest against “President Nixon’s Incursion into Cambodia.” The night of the President’s speech, Steve Tiwald, newly-elected Student Senate president, was notified of an emergency meeting of the National Student Association the next day in Washington, D.C. Tiwald arrived In time to Join 54 other campus leaders at 11 a.m. on Friday, In calling for the impeachment of President Nixon.
“We plan to rally students throughout the country, urging them to enlist the support of their campus and community to urge their congressmen to take action and assume their constitutional responsibility to check the President’s use of power….”, the NSA statement read.
University of Montana – Missoula
About 250 persons protesting the invasion of Cambodia by U.S. troops and the presence of ROTC on campus demonstrated in Air Force ROTC offices in the Men’s Gym Friday afternoon, May 1. The demonstration followed an anti-imperialism rally in the Oval at noon.
Army ROTC doors were locked because of “traffic” in the building, Maj. John R. Krimmer, deputy professor of military science, said. He said someone was stationed at the door to open it “if anyone knocked.” Demonstrators entered the Air Force ROTC offices and questioned AFROTC instructors about the value of ROTC and the ethics of war. Andrew C. Cogswell, Dean of Students, interceded and told the demonstrators to leave the building because they were interfering with the operation of the University.
The demonstrators left the building when Mr. Cogswell said ROTC instructors would answer questions in front of the men’s gym. William G. Craig, academic vice president, discussed University position on questions raised by the demonstrators. The demonstrators demanded that the University not invest in corporations involved in war-related activities. Mr. Craig said persons who wanted to review UM investments should meet with administrators instead of ROTC instructors.
Capt. John Benedict, AFROTC assistant professor, asked demonstrators to question him, warning them that he would “have to elude some questions.” He said he could not Justify the American position in Cambodia. Mr. Craig said he feared that if ROTC were removed from every U.S. university the military would lose liberally educated officers. Capt. Robert Anderson, AFROTC assistant professor, told the group AFROTC offices would be open to anyone who wanted to “rationally” discuss ROTC. E. W. Pfeiffer, professor of zoology, asked the ROTC instructors if they taught “bombing hospitals and ambulances.”
At the rally in the Oval, Mr. Pfeiffer blasted President Nixon’s decision to send American troops into Cambodia. He said Mr. Nixon was “just a bloody liar,” because of Mr. Nixon’s claims of Communist troop activity in the Mimot area in Cambodia. Mr. Pfeiffer said there was no such activity when he toured the area in January. He said shutting down universities is one way to draw President Nixon’s attention to America’s anti-war feeling.
Lt. Col. Jack Swayze, chairman of AFROTC, said people who were upset with American policy should “talk to congressmen,” who could produce results. He said that he could use more pilots if the demonstrators wanted to do something more than talk. John G. Watkins, professor of psychology, said he hoped the demonstrators could get results, but that they should use “active political action.” Many ROTC students said they were angered by what they viewed as the protestors’ desire to deny them freedom to study courses of their choice. Mr. Cogswell told the Montana Kaimin that the afternoon’s activities were a “good discussion.” He said that a protest would have to be much more violent before he would call police on campus.
About 20 students picketed the UM Military Ball at the Florence Hotel Friday night. A spokesman for the group, Donna Applegate, junior in philosophy, said the ball was picketed because of President Nixon’s expansion of the war. She said she could not see how a celebration was justified when the war in Asia is being enlarged.
University of Washington – Seattle
April 30, 1970 President Nixon announced the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. Now he was expanding the war. With one move, Nixon added significant fuel to the fire that galvanized the antiwar movement.
Friday, May 1
Protest movements on college campuses and in cities throughout the country immediately flared up after Nixon’s announcement. In Seattle, on May 1st, over a thousand protestors gathered at the Federal Courthouse and cheered speakers. For example, Stephanie Coontz, a member of the Student Mobilization Committee (an offshoot group of former SDS members), stood in front of the crowd and shouted, “Nixon is using the new kind of speak. He’s saying we’re going to move the troops out of Vietnam by moving them into Cambodia…We’re damned angry about it. We will stay in the streets until every GI is brought home.” These passionate speeches resonated with the feelings of thousands of UW students. After the speeches, protesters marched peacefully through Capitol Hill and back to the University District.
Some 800 University of Washington students attended a rally on campus the afternoon of May 1, to protest U.S. military action in Cambodia. During the afternoon rally, approximately 75 members of the radical Seattle Liberation Front broke off from the main group, and invaded the ROTC annex on campus. Virtually all of the building’s windows were smashed in the invasion, as well as furniture overturned, typewriters, filing cabinets and a film projector damaged, and two small fires set.
At the same time, the main crowd of students moved on to the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Seattle, where their ranks swelled to over 1,000. They then began a three-mile, traffic-disrupting march through city streets with riot police following closely behind.
After two hours of marching the crowd had dwindled to only 150 demonstrators, and the decision was made by police to disperse the crowd. In the ensuing scuffle, nine persons were arrested on charges ranging from throwing rocks to using profanity, and several students “were severely clubbed by police,” according to the Seattle Times.
Continuing disruptions at Stanford over the issue of ROTC’s presence on campus, received fresh impetus with President Nixon’s announcement of American troops invading Cambodia. The night of his speech April 30, some 3,000 students gathered for a protest meeting, and voted to shut down the campus “peacefully.” However, by April 30 midnight violence had broken out as tear gas was used against anti-ROTC demonstrators who pelted police with rocks and smashed windows of a dozen buildings. Sixteen students were arrested.
The following day May 1 more than 2,000 students and faculty signed an open letter to President Nixon warning that the Cambodia escalation would turn many students away from moderate positions and would “irreparably” split universities. Hundreds of students invade Encina Hall in the early morning hours of May 1. Police clear the building.
University of California at San Diego
Around 10 PM last Wednesday night, April 29, Provost Saltman closed the open meeting in Revelle Cafeteria which had been called in response to attacks on the University for its active involvement ir the war effort. The majority of those present were clearly dissatisfied with the shaky Justifications put forward by faculty members (Saltman, Penner, York) for war research conducted by University personnel. After a short discussion the people decided that the meeting would be moved to the office-lab complex of the Institute for Pure and Applied Physical Sciences (IPAPS,headed by S.S. Penner).
By 11 p.m. the fourth floor of Bldg. 2A prime (which houses IPAPS) was occupied, and the 85 persons inside voted unanimously to sit-in overnight and until 5 p.m. Thursday [April 30]. Business as usual was effectively and totally stopped for the entire day Thursday, not only at IPAPS but also in the APIS dept., housed on the 4th floor of Bldg. 2A which the administration had seen fit to close off.
An impromptu meeting in Revelle Cafeteria Wednesday night, called discuss the role of the Department of Defense at UCSD, led to an 18-hour sit-in at the Institute for Pure and Applied Sciences (IP AS) at Building 2A-Prime in Muir. Nearly 200 people left the meeting at 10:30 p.m., entered the Institute on the third floor and occupied the hallway, where they staged a sit-in until 5 p.m. Thursday, April 30. Spokesmen for the demonstrators indicated that the sit-in would resume Monday morning after a weekend of efforts to gain support.
The administration, according to Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Lynn Naibert, took no punitive action yesterday, having issued an official warning that probation for students who refused to leave the area might follow. Naibert said the administration “would cross that bridge when we get to it” if a sequel to the sit-in occurs.
The faculty, in an unofficial meeting during the sit-in, decided to set up an ad hoc committee, in Academic Senate chairman Gabriel Jackson’s words, “to get to the bottom of defense research at UCSD and see if we can become less dependent on the Department of Defense.” The first committee meeting will take place next Friday.
The sit-in grew out of three weeks of intense activity by members of the SDS and sympathizers to “acquaint” the campus with any war- related research they thought was going on on campus.
As the crowd in the cafeteria became restive, Provost Saltman called an end to the meeting. Kirkby, who was identified last year with other activities related to the Vietnam war protest on campus, urged the students to action. As students entered 2A-Prime, UCSD campus police arrived to blockade the area. According to Vice-Chancellor George Murphy, San Diego City Police were not present. But other officers came to allow traffic to be restricted only to those existing.
The ranks of protesters swelled to 76 after half the original group had left. At 2 a.m. five demands were passed, with minimal opposition, calling for:
- Ending of Defense Dept, and CIA contracts for UCSD
- Closing of the Point Loma Naval Electronics Laboratory Center
- Refusing classified research or consulting by UCSD personnel
- Refusing classified research or consulting by UCSD personnel
- Forbidding classified information or documents or non-classifed paper work related to these documented from being handled by UCSD personnel
- Releasing of all current contracts and grants.
During the long morning, protesters used air ducts in the building to supply them with food and blankets. Among the several non-students on hand, Kirkby was issued an order by Chancellor McGill to leave the premises of the university. He complied at once, but according to reporters in the hallway, he was seen entering secretly once again. During the day no work was able to continue in the occupied area, but Vice-Chancellor George Murphy, who had been on the scene until 3 a.m., issued an order to comply with UC regulations and leave upon request.
His 2 p.m. order was ignored by protesters, who claimed that the inability to hear his request (through shouts and chants) constituted sufficient grounds for them not to leave. Rumors circulating around the area indicated that serious action would be taken against the protesters if they failed to leave by i 5 p.m.
After they had swept the hallway, leaving only a defaced plaque as damage done to the building, the protesters, now numbering about 175, marched through Muir and Revelle Cafeterias. The sit-in, UCSD’s second such incident, ended with speeches in Revelle Cafeteria at 5:30 p.m.
by FRANK GORMLIE, author of 1970: The May Rebellion. Written on MAY 1, 2020.