May 2-3, 1970: The Weekend Before the Storm 50 Years Ago

by on May 2, 2020 · 2 comments

in History, Peace Movement

The weekend of Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3, 1970 – exactly 50 years ago – was the “lull” before the storm of protests that erupted and enveloped the nation in response to President Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia.

Thus, we continue our series of installments of a day-by-day recounting of what came down half a century ago, which is actually just a sampling of what happened during that first week of May 1970. From coast to coast and everywhere in between college and university students rebelled – sometimes violently – against Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam War.

Nixon had been elected in 1968 because he had a “peace plan” and had actually begun bringing US troops back to the states – when he announced on April 30 that he was sending American troops into Vietnam’s neighbor Cambodia, a diplomatically neutral country.

National Guardsmen on campus.

Protests began immediately (see the intro to the series here, and Part 1 here) and ultimately involved literally millions of students and faculty members with the closings of hundreds of campuses, as every kind of protest imaginable occurred. From building take-overs and occupations, to street blockades and barricades, to sit-ins, from massive peaceful demonstrations to violent clashes with police, where rocks were met with teargas and clubbings, the youth of America stood up and resoundingly cried out, “No!” Nationwide, America’s education system broke down for a number of weeks in the largest student strike in US history.

What’s offered in this installment is an accounting of the weekend then, May 2-3, 1970.

Today – in May of 2020 – during the COVID-19 pandemic, National Guard troops are in a sense seen as saviors; they’ve been called up to help hospitals, nursing homes and to supplement strained first responders. And they’ve been universally welcomed as a stabilizing force during this crisis.

Fifty years ago it was quite a different story. National Guardsmen were called up to help quell the student protests and to serve as back-up to the local police forces who were overwhelmed by thousands of young people rebelling. And at Kent State in Ohio on May 4, it was National Guardsmen who opened fire on unarmed students, killing 4 and wounding nearly a dozen more. Then ten days later, police opened fire on an African-American girls’ dormitory on the campus of Jackson State in Mississippi, killing 2 young men and riddling the dorm so much it looked like a war zone.

Members of the Black Panther Party when they showed up in protest at the California Capitol in Sacramento.

So, the reader is asked to try to enter the mindset of young, college students on American campuses 50 years ago, some of whom were facing the draft to be sent to the very war they were protesting. Anti-Vietnam war protests had been going on for years at many campuses – but it was the Cambodian invasion and the subsequent gunning down of the Kent State four that were the turning points.

Politics in America 50 years ago were quite different than today, that goes without saying. In particular, one key difference was the role and state of the Black Panther Party, a militant national organization of African-Americans. Their leadership was under attack by the J. Edgar Hoover-led FBI and a Nixon administration hell bent on suppressing dissent, especially Black people carrying guns in self-defense. Many white college students had come out in solidarity with the Panthers and their stance was reflected in the demands they made of their college administrators.

Another layer of American politics back then was the blossoming of the counter-culture, the hippie “movement” – which had definitely taken root on many college campuses. It had created a generation of young people who were out-front rejecting the mainstream culture and politics. This cultural rebellion converged with an evolving full-scale rejection of US militarism, the draft – and on college campuses, ROTC programs and college departments that had contracts with the military or corporations who did.

The war had dragged on for so long, killing tens of thousands of Americans and millions of Vietnamese, that it was the students of this country that forced society to stop – even for just a brief moment of several weeks in May – and take a look around. Check out what the country was doing to itself.

What follows in this installment then is part of the narrative of the story of the students blowing up. As the raw data for an upcoming book on the strike, 1970: Rebellion in May, it asks the reader to jump right in – there is no context or historical development. And remember this is our history, a history still covered up, and as history, it’s not all exciting to read, but there are nuggets of truth and wisdom scattered about.

My main two sources have been “On Strike! Shut It Down!, a pamphlet on the student strike published by the Urban Research Corporation in 1970, and the extensive files accumulated by the Kent State U collection of campus strike newspapers and papers. There is also a website dedicated to the Student Strike here.

Join with us as we cross the country, from the northeast to the southwest in our remembrance of fifty years ago this weekend.




Yale – New Haven

Saturday, May 2

The two-day affair brought between 15,000 and 20,000 people, mostly students to converge on New Haven around the slogan “Free Bobby Seale”. Some viewed the massive rally more than an enthusiastic demonstration against political repression, but “a two day exposition of solidarity created not an isolated protest, but a living communiversity now attempt­ing to spread from Yale to every campus in the country.”

Doug Miranda of the Black Pan­thers was amazed at the sheer number of participants, especially in view of the presence of thousands of police, state patrolmen, and national guardsmen, and the threatened intervention of 4,000 Marines and paratroopers, who were waiting in readiness in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Over the weekend, Panther leaders and members of the Chicago 7 spoke and engaged in workshops.

Workshops on Saturday began at 10 am and ran till the main rally at 4pm. It was a warm and sunny day in New Haven. And by time a rock group set up and played around 1:30, the action became almost a festival, despite the serious undertones that brought all these thousands together. One observer noted that at this point, the Yippies were the most prominent, as they passed around marijuana, danced and chanted, “Off Nixon, Fuck Spiro—Bobby Seale is the People’s Hero.” (Yippies were of the Youth International Party, YIP, that rose to some prominence during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.)

Once the rally opened up, a series of speakers addressed the crowd – Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Yale Asst. Prof. Kenneth Mills, representa­tives of Gay and Women’s Lib­eration and Doug Miranda of the Black Panther party all spoke. Also on stage was Artie Seale, Bobby Seale’s wife, who brought a taped message Bobby had recorded in jail just three hours earlier. In the message, Seale clarified earlier reports of him saying he would get a fair trial in New Haven. “What I said was that I understand I’m SUPPOSED to get a fair trial after getting assurances from the judge. But I know that I can’t get a fair trial, just as no Panther can get a fair trial on trumped up charges.”

Jerry Rubin got up and introduced himself: “Hi, I’m Johnny Cash – come to en­tertain all you prisoners here at Yale Prison.” All universities were prisons, he declared and called for all of them to close. He went after Yale President Brewster (“Kingman Bre­wer or whatever his name is”) – “as long as he’s a univer­sity president, he’s the enemy.” Rubin then led thousands in a resounding chant “Fuck Kingman Brewster!”

Tom Hayden that day, gave one of his most important speeches of his young life, clearly, some thought, the most impressive speech of the day. Hayden called for a summer of sol­idarity and warned that liberals must take a clear moral stand—for repression or against it. “We are at the point,” he said, “where liberals and ‘neutralists’ like Kingman Brewster, who advocate ‘fair trials,’ will be forced to be ‘neu­tralists’ like Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia who gave aid and sanctuary to the NLF.” He continued, “And, if these middle people and other well- intentioned people want to be good Germans paving the way for fas­cism, this generation will not back down. This will require a crazy commitment from us, doom­ing us for our lives.”

“It will necessitate an end to our rhetoric, our male chauvinism and self-indulgence on a scale of commitment that neither we nor the anti-war movement has ever displayed before. It will necessitate acting, not talking, and this is probably the last speech I’m ever going to give.”

At this point, Tom Hayden, one of its first principle organizers and former field secretary of the SDS – the national student organization that for nearly a decade was the main student antiwar force in the country –  then called on the crowd to join him in an effort to shut down their respective college campuses in response to Nixon’s escalation of the Southeast Asian conflict. Hayden called for a national student strike of high schools and colleges, starting Tuesday, May 5.

The demands of the national strike were as follows:

  • The immediate suspension of political repression of dissident groups or individuals, and the immediate release of all political prisoners, notably the New Ha­ven Nine.
  • Cessation of the United States expansion of the war into Laos and Cambodia and unilateral with­drawal of all military forces from southeast Asia immediately.
  • The end of all Defense de­partment and counterinsurgency research in Universities and the abolition of ROTC immediately.

Thousands in the crowd, yelled. ‘Strike! Strike! Strike” when the walkout of all university, college and high school students was proposed.

Other speakers also rose before the crowd. Doug Miranda of the Panthers warned of “pigs and provocateurs” in the movement, and urged the self-disci­pline of movement people. He said, “There are those among us with long hair, beards, Afros who shout revolutionary slogans who will lead us into suicide. In every white man, there is a John Brown and an Adolph Hitler just as in every black man there is a Huey Newton and a Booker T. Washington. It is up to us to de­cide who we really are.”

Yale Asst. Prof. Kenneth Mills announced a demonstration in Washington this coming weekend – Saturday, May 9 – against the invasion by of US. troops into Cambodia and Laos. As the rally wound down, there were pleas for movement solidarity and a reiterated call for the national student strike of high schools and colleges. And then it was over.

The weekend rally was abruptly adjourned. There were initial plans to have the event continued the next day with a rock music festival. But attendance was flagging; attendance on Saturday was less than half of the size of the throngs that assembled on the green on Friday. There were some skirmishes that night, more spontaneous outbursts, some more incidents of rock throwing, teargassing and arrests. Three fires had been reported over the two days, with the molotov cocktail explosion on Friday night at the Ingels Skating Rink, thought to be the result of arson. There was also a fire in a building at Yale Law School. New Haven Police Chief James F. Ahern had said the outbreaks did not appear to be planned and the demonstrators’ activities were generally peaceful and orderly.

One view of the weekend was full of praise for the Panthers: “The excellent organization by the Panthers and beautiful weather produced a fantastic show of support. … the New Haven campus was trans­formed into a communal living experience composed of students, Panthers, and sympathizers from every section of the country. The activities, violence, and speeches have all been exploited by the media, but the implications of the rally upon uni­versity students can only be manifested through support of the planned national student strike.”

One of the results of the weekend, was the formation of the National Strike Committee in New Haven on Saturday to coordinate the strikes across the country. The group held a press conference at their regional office and named their four strike demands, which differed slightly from the demands enunciated during the rally, as they had included the “impeachment of President Nixon”.

New Haven returned to normal with the departure of the last of the 15,000 demonstrators and the 3,000 National Guard men brought in to help police. Three of the Black Panthers on trial were convicted on lesser charges than first-degree murder. Seale’s trial ended with a hung jury but prosecutors did not seek a retrial.  Kingman Brewster was at the helm of Yale until 1977 and became ambassador to Great Britain.

The other significant event of the weekend didn’t happen in New Haven – but people in New Haven heard about it. At Columbia University in New York City, eleven student newspaper editors convened and crafted a statement on the Cambodian invasion in support of an national student strike. They argued in the statement that Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia had placed America in a state of emergency and that a strike would demonstrate that “classroom education becomes a hollow, meaningless exercise” in the face of such an event.


Simmons College

Sunday, May 3

On Sunday, May 3rd, students at Simmons College met at 8pm in response to the war escalation. They drafted a resolution calling for immediate withdrawal of all troops from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and an end to political oppression, and all war-related research on campus. They also passed another resolution requesting that Simmons be shut down and blanket passes issued in all courses to allow students to work for these objectives. The resolutions were endorsed by a number of student groups, including Hillel, Newman Club, Women’s Liberation, and the Black Students Organization. A community rally was organized for Monday to get the word out, and those who met decided to present College President Park with the shut-down proposal.

Northeastern University

Sunday, May 3

The first inkling of something going on at Northeaster was Sunday night, May 3rd, when 50 students from different politics met because somebody had to do something as a response to Cambodia invasion. They felt the college should join the national student strike – so they planned to hold a campus-wide meeting the very next day, Monday, in the auditorium. Student Council members present at this gathering also called for an emergency council session for Monday.

University of Mass – Amherst

Sunday, May 3

At UMass Amherst on Sunday evening, students converged on the Student Union for a discussion of the national student strike which had been called for. Voting 8 to 1 the Student Senate executive board pushed Amherst into joining the strike. Soon after the general Student Senate agreed and voted 66-1 to “strongly urge…all members of the University community as a matter of individual conscience and moral duty to participate in the nationwide strike to end the war.” They also voted 51-15 to approve $1,000 in student monies to publicize the Strike and its three aims:

1.      That the US government ends its systematic oppression of political dissidents.

2.      That the US government cease its expansion of the Vietnam War into Laos and Cambodia; that it unilaterally and immediately withdraw all forces from Southeast Asia.

3.      That the universities end their complicity with the United States’ war machine by an immediate end to defense research, ROTC counter-insurgency research and all other such programs.

One speaker at the meeting, Sid Finehirsh, urged his fellow students to “be sure that this is not simply a student action, but that the University becomes a staging area for community action… We have to reach out to bring the community with us.”

Over the weekend, while deciding whether or not to join in on the proposed strike effort, students at UMass received a telegram from Rennie Davis, a member of the Chicago 7 and anti-war leader, urging them to “seize the time” and  join people across the country on Tuesday, May 5, 1970 to say “no to the war in Indochina, no to the war on the Black Panther Party and black community, and no to ROTC and university related war research.”

Brandeis University – Waltham

The idea of establishing a national strike information center at Brandeis University grew out of discussions in New Haven during the May 1 weekend of demonstrations. Brandeis had a large contingent of students in New Haven and the suggestion that such a center be set up originated with them.

Soon after students set up the Informational Center for the national strike in the Sociology Department. The decision to turn over most of the space in Perlman for the center was made by individual department members. Prof. Morris Schwartz said,  “I turned it over to them,”  It’s official name: National Student Strike Information Center.

Organized as a collective, without an official hierarchy, there were about one hundred students working there. On a good day. A spokesman for Brandeis University stated that while Brandeis had “tried to help the students” in many ways, the information center“ is completely autonomous from and has nothing to do with the university.”

The center kept a list of the continually changing list of colleges and universities that are on strike. The country had been geographically divided into six regions. And information came in mainly by phone – in the days before cells phones, emails, twitter – from students at either the regional centers or from individual campuses. Whenever possible, the info was verified before it was sent out in the myriad different ways. Lists of campuses where protest actions of any measurable kind were kept with names and phone numbers of the students involved or had knowledge on activities on the campuses. And the lists kept growing. On one list, which was generated by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer, was 10 feet long and had to be taped to a ceiling.

In an effort to be a national resource, the Center published a newsletter, sometimes with several “editions” a day. Plus it issued reams of mimeographed material daily; there also was the “Constructive Action” sheet updated daily with the latest info on almost anything involving students.

New Jersey

Rutgers – New Brunswick

Saturday, May 2

At the New Brunswick, New Jersey campus, Saturday, May 2 it was Military – ROTC Field Day; veterans sat in the stands in the stadium and ROTC cadets paraded in the field. Then over a hundred anti-war students burst onto the field in their own mock parade as part of their protest to Nixon’s Cambodian statement. The demonstrators approached the stands – which elicited taunts from a group of veterans in the stands. Then police halted the line of the anti-war marchers. There are two versions of what happened next. One version held some of the students climbed into the stands and attacked war veterans. The other version had veterans spitting at the protesters, and one of the vets jumped down from the stands and attacked a student.

Whatever version was closer to reality, general fist-fighting broke out as the two sides clashed. Police moved in and arrested three Rutgers students for assault and battery of a police officer, and trying to avoid arrest. No veterans were arrested, although the next day, the university announced that it was preparing assault charges against two members of the veteran’s group, as well. Five students suffered minor injuries. The mock parade had been organized by the newly-formed Strike Now! Committee.

Sunday, May 3

Sunday night, the Strike Now! Committee’s plans for a student strike was endorsed by a number of student organizations, which included the Interfraternity Council, and the Inter-Residence Hall Association. This crucial support galvanized a great number of students who wouldn’t have probably attended the rallies.

Princeton University

Sunday, May 3

On May 3, the Council of the Princeton University Community passed a resolution postponing final exams, allowing students to work full- time for the peace movement.


Dickinson College -Carlisle

Saturday and Sunday, May 2-3

With deepening concerns over the widening of the war into Cambodia and the resumption of bombing, students at Dickinson College outside the town of Carlisle held several meetings over Saturday and Sunday nights May 2 – 3, which included some faculty members as well. Their concerns coalesced into doing something, and they decided to put up a table on Monday in the mall area on campus between the Union and the Spahn Library to distribute information and generate discussions of the crisis with other students, with the hope they’d figure out ways to respond.

Yet, some felt more had to be done, particularly around ROTC, as the faculty would be voting on the issue of ROTC that upcoming Monday night, the 4th. Several students knew that roughly 62% of the students at Dickenson had voted against granting credit for ROTC in an earlier balloting. Therefore, they felt the tactic to take while waiting for the faculty decision was to plan a demonstration – a peaceful takeover of the campus building called Old West – and if the faculty decided to retain ROTC with credit – the students would occupy it. The goal of the peaceful sit-in would be to convince the faculty that such a decision should be reconsidered. So the group made preparations.

Pennsylvania State University – University Park

Saturday, May 2

Students at Penn State were caught up in their own, very intense battle with the school’s administration and local law enforcement by time Nixon ordered troops into Cambodia. So when fifty students began a sit-in of the administration building on Saturday, May 2, it was in response to the arrival of state troopers on the campus for the fourth time in a week.

It had all started a mere half month earlier when on April 15, the administration cracked down on about fifty students who were staging a sit-in and occupying the lobby of the Shields Building in protest of the University’s torpedo research for the military. Another 100 to 200 students occupied the lobby of another campus building, Old Main. In response, the administration, headed by university president, Eric A. Walker, called in state troopers. The heavy-handed tactics of the troopers resulted in a tumultuous scene; forty demonstrators were forced into police buses with 31 being arrested and charged – numerous students were injured but there was no accounting of them, while 18 police were injured.

The arrests of the 31 – and the tactics employed – became a local cause celebre and when 900 students rallied on April 20th in protest of their arrests, student anger boiled over and they simply exploded. When the dust settled, eight campus buildings had been firebombed – 5 in women’s dorms, a classroom building and a campus cottage. Windows in ten other buildings had been broken. And students had stoned President Walker’s home, forcing him to flee with his family. Needless to say, the state troopers were called in again to gain control of the college. Walker obtained a court injunction against any more sit-ins.

Yet, another sit-in did occur, when fifty students occupied the admin building for the second time, in open defiance of the court injunction. Their demands had crystallized and included a policy of open enrollment, the severing of all ties with the military, including research; support for Black Panther Bobby Seale in his murder trial; an end to intimida­tion of students through the use of court injunctions; and amnesty for the 31 arrested April 15.

So, by May 2, students at Penn State were already geared up in a vigorous, anti-war protest mode.

Bryn Mawr College

Sunday, May 3

On May 3, Bryn Mawr – a women’s liberal arts college – was among the first colleges to agree with a national student strike. School officials, however, reported atten­dance to be about 70 per cent.

New York

Columbia University NY

Sunday, May 3

Sunday, May 3 was a day of demonstrations and caucuses on the campus of Columbia. In one of those caucuses, students crafted a campaign called the “Action for Peace” to take around the city to build support for the Hatfield-McGovern amendment.

Meanwhile, the student editors of newspapers from nine colleges and universities met on the Columbia campus and drafted the “call” for a national student strike. Columbia President Andrew Cordier then made the announcement that in protest of the Cambodian invasion classes would be suspended the following day, Monday.

New York University

New York University

Sunday, May 3

The very first action at New York University that ultimately lead to a student strike began on Sunday, May 3, when after a speech by one of the Panther 21, 500 students at the University Heights campus voted to endorse the national strike and its three demands – to begin at NYU on Tuesday, May 5.

That night during an emergency meeting of University Senators, an overwhelming majority in attendance, voted to “condemn the in­vasion of Cambodia and the renewed bomb­ing of North Vietnam and demand the ces­sation of these actions and the speedy with­drawal of American forces from Southeast Asia.” However, because three days’ notice was not given – as required by University rules – it was deemed not an official meeting of the University Senate, NYU’s high­est decision making body. Yet sufficient numbers of senators did approve the statement to have it passed at a regular meeting, that it was expected to be later ratified on Thursday’s meeting, May 7.

Further, the Senators urged all depart­ments of the University to hold meetings on Monday and Tuesday “to develop concrete proposals for bringing effective pressure on the United States government.” They also unanimously voted that each of NYU’s 14 schools should decide at individual meetings, what course of action they wished to follow.


University of Maryland – College Park

Weekend May 2 -3

When Saturday morning May 2 arrived at the campus, relative calm had been restored. The atmosphere remained tense but quiet, and as a spring storm had moved in, students spent most of the day inside. It had turned out that the police action the day and night before had the complete cooperation of the administration. With the absence of President Elkins, officials in charge had explicitly given state police authorization to come onto the campus in pursuit of demonstrators.

Saturday night, May 2, there was another round of confrontation and protest. It was still raining, when a couple hundred demonstrators moved to Route 1 and liberated the roadway again. A four-hour standoff ensued into the wee hours. By 3:30 am many students had melted away in the downpour; others huddled under storefront awnings, and a few sought refuge in College Park’s Plain and Fancy donut shop. Around that time a large force of 150 state troopers had massed behind that same donut shop. Police gave all remaining demonstrators five minutes to disperse or face arrest.

Some observers said later, police waited less than a minute before they charged the remaining groups of students, with squads swooping into the donut shop and a local tavern. Startled customers – many of whom were not involved in the protest but were simply talking and eating, playing chess, or even asleep – were arrested. When the dust cleared, 28 people had been indiscriminately arrested– 22 were released without being charged, and 6 were charged with disorderly conduct and released on $100 bond.

The arrests were a preemptive measure, according to lt. Col. Thomas Smith, who said, “We took the action in order to break the back of the protests. We did not want them to come out of the shops and do the same thing over and over again.” Governor Mandel, again with university administration approval, had ordered police to “take the necessary actions” to clear the area of demonstrators. The roadway was opened to traffic at 4:45 am.


Vanderbilt University – Nashville

Sunday, May 3

A teach-in on Cambodia was held Sunday night, May 3, sponsored by thirty teachers. Plans were made for a march to the Federal Building in downtown Nashville.


Case Western Reserve University – Cleveland

Sunday, May 3

Yost Hall on the campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland housed the ROTC offices. Early in the hours of Sunday, May 3 about 75 students broke in and began occupying the offices. They declared to university administration officials that they were protesting the expansion of the Vietnam war into Cambodia. They demanded that the ROTC program be dropped from the CWRU curriculum. And they would occupy the offices until their demand had been met.

That afternoon, the occupiers were visited by University President Robert Morse who issued them a dire warning. He read them a statement from the Faculty Senate that he endorsed. Occupying the ROTC officers was illegal and any student who did so would be punished, however any students who left immediately would not be punished. And the executive committee of the faculty senate would not hold a meeting to consider the students’ demands until the offices had been evacuated.

That evening some 300 students gathered outside Yost Hall in solidarity with the takeover of the ROTC facilities. There were discussions about mounting an undergraduate boycott of classes to force the administration to halt the program, but nothing was decided. Many Case students were veterans of the antiwar movement. Just the previous February, CWRU students involved in Student Mobilization Committee hosted a national anti-war conference on campus “to launch the Spring offensive to end the war.”

Oberlin College in Oberlin        

Saturday, May 2

At their May 2 meeting, the faculty drafted a strongly worded letter to the President, expressing their dismay at the expansion of the war and at Vice President Agnew’s “demagogic attacks on the press and now on our educational institutions.”

Kent State University – in Kent

Saturday, May 2

On Saturday, May 2 the protests of President Nixon’s decision to send troops to Cambodia became more voluble and more violent. In the afternoon about 500 students marched from the campus to downtown, shouting “Down with Nixon!” According to reports, they then went on a rampage, breaking windows, setting small fires, and damaging cars. Fourteen persons were arrested on disorderly conduct charges, and five policemen re­ceived minor injuries. That evening, a crowd of nearly 800 massed on the commons and marched to Lebrick Hall where they disrupted a dance, and attracted more followers.

From there they marched on the Army ROTC building, which they set afire by tossing railroad flares through smashed windows. When firemen turned up to put out the blaze, several students chopped their hoses with hatchets. The firemen left, only to return an hour later backed up by sheriff’s deputies and Ohio highway patrolmen. Later the same evening Ohio National Guard troops were ordered into Kent by Governor Rhodes.

Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom requested National Guard troops at 9:15 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses said the crowd originally numbered about 200 persons but grew as they marched from a 7 p.m. rally on University Commons through the residence hall area and into town along Main Street. County Sheriffs’ Deputies drove the crowd back with a volley of teargas.

The demonstrators headed toward nearby tennis courts where they burned a small building used to store athletic equipment. Later, some returned and reignited the ROTC building. By 10:45 p.m. the structure was a pile of charred tim­bers, and a $50,000 lose, University officials said. By 11:30 p.m. the campus and town were quiet as groups of 20 to 30 National Guardsmen kept watch at intersections in the area. All other law enforcement personnel were called off.  That night 40 persons were arrested by city police for curfew violation. Five students and several law en­forcement officers were re­ported injured, none seriously.

Sunday, May 3

Although tension continued to run high on Sunday, students were more re­strained in their protest. More than 1,000 students marched onto the Com­mons area around nine o’clock (in deliberate violation of the curfew) and confronted the guardsmen stationed there. Students apparently were given little time to provoke any action, however, as the guardsmen almost immedi­ately moved on the mass of students. They were dispersed with the use of tear gas, clubs and bayonet “butting.” At least five students were injured, two by bayonet wounds in the chest and face; and 50 students were arrested on charges ranging from curfew violation to carrying concealed weapons. There were no reports of any injuries sustained by police or guardsmen. Most students returned to their dorms or apartments, although several groups at­tempted to regroup as they headed toward the downtown area, but they were quickly dispersed by tear gas. Minor damage was reported by a few businesses, consisting mainly of smashed windows.

Kent State University President Robert I. White released at statement Sunday which said classes will be held as usual this week. His statement included claims that the university’s disruption had been caused by “radical elements.”

‘‘Kent State University has been disastrously hurt,” the statement said. “The hopes of the campus are in jeopardy and whether or not any part of the loss can be retrieved depends upon responsible actions of  the university community. We must show the nation that Kent State University has more to it than the ugliness it has just been shown.”

“We can be grateful for the efforts and response from so many members of the stu­dent faculty and city com­munities as well as the various security operations. These efforts helped temper an explosive situation.”

Finally, White stated: “… by order of the governor, soldiers of the Na­tional Guard will remain in control of both the city and University until its leader­ship decides their departure is safe.”

No official damage estimate had been released Sunday evening, but damage to store windows downtown and to other University pro­perty was listed by officials at several thousand dollars.


University of Wisconsin in Madison

Saturday, May 2

About 90 University of Wisconsin students traveled in two buses from Madison to Milwaukee on Saturday, May 2, to join demonstrators marching to protest the political repression of the Black Panthers. The Madison buses were met on the outskirts of the city by the Milwaukee police tactical squad and “escorted” to the 1 pm rally site, Water Tower Park. The protests on Milwaukee’s east side centered on the upcoming trials of Panther leader Bobby Seale as well as three local Panthers known as the “Milwaukee Three,” held on high bail and facing attempted murder charges.

A number of militant speakers addressed the crowd of several hundreds, with a lawyer for the Milwaukee Three, Sander Karp, being first up. Karp called the three “the toughest revolutionaries I’ve ever seen,” and described the harsh conditions of their imprisonment, which included a denial of medical care for one of them, Booker Collins, who had an injured arm, and a ban on communication between them and the outside.

Jeannie Wiseman from the Revolutionary Youth Movement told the crowd, “This march is not to get into trashing.” She said, “This is our east side commun­ity and we cannot afford to randomly destroy and be busted here. We need to build an army, a people’s liberation army. We will keep Bobby Seale from the electric chair even if we have to shut off all the electricity to do it.” The Revolutionary Youth Movement or RYM, was one of the organizations formed during the breakup of the massive SDS organization the prior fall. Next up was Lovetta X, a member of the Committee to Combat Fascism – formed after the Milwaukee Black Panther party was forced to dissolve, said that “if Bobby Seale is killed, the U.S. is gonna go!” She emphasized the need to build an army.

When the march began, participants ignored the march permit rule that they were required to stay on the sidewalks and cross streets only at intersections, as a large section immediately spilled onto Farwell Avenue, the main route. Unmarked police cars filled with tac squad members and two motorcycle cops then drove into the crowd, forcing many to jump to the sidewalk. Police then escorted some 350 marchers as they chanted, “Free Bobby Seale!” and “Free Bobby, Free the Three, Overthrow the Bourgeoisie!”

Madison student Mike Rosen was arrested for allegedly spitting at an undercover police photographer. A brief scuffle broke out with police when several marchers tried – unsuccessfully – to free Rosen. Before the march ended at Juneau Park, police again drove their vehicles with sirens blaring into the crowd in an effort to keep the demonstrators out of the street. During the brief rally at the park, a speaker urged Milwaukee high school students to go on strike that Friday. After the rally broke up and people filtered back to Water Tower Park, they were followed by police, who arrested two more people.

Carleton College – Northfield

Sunday, May 3

Wanting to respond to the American in­vasion of Cambodia with some kind of protest action rather than a “silent assent”, 150 students and faculty at Carleton College met in First Willis Sunday night, May 3. Plans up for discussion focused on a march to Minneapolis, a student strike, nonviolent civil dis­obedience, community canvas­sing and education.

At one point, Professor Cy Schuster proposed that a representative be sent from Carleton to a Student Mobilization meeting being held in Washington, DC the next day, May 4. The DC meeting was to coordinate nationwide protest activi­ties. The group agreed and elected student Mike Krueger to go, with donations being collected on the spot to finance his trip.

The meeting also settled on holding an all school rally and meeting the next day, Tuesday, as well as deciding to work towards a statewide march in the Twin Cities, either to the capitol or a federal building. Of course, no one knew at that moment that the very next day, Monday, May 4, would cause such a catastrophic jolt to the campuses that any plans would be trumped. Professor Paul Wellstone proposed a student strike, one that would help to politicize the sleepy campus and education people on the issues. A vote on a strike was put off until after Tuesday’s events. Wellstone would, of course, years later, become a US Senator for Minnesota for a decade and then meet a tragic death when a plane he was in crashed in 2002.


University of Texas – Austin

Saturday May 2 – Sunday, May 3

Over two dozen Austin antiwar leaders – including many from University of Texas –  met over the weekend to decide on some kind of militant action in response to Nixon’s expansion of the war. In the end, they dared to do something they had never done before – sponsor an antiwar march that would take to the streets on Tuesday, May 5. For years, the Austin City Council had refused parade permits and student protesters had always marched on the sidewalks to avoid arrest. A march route was planned out – it would run around the campus and end up at the West Mall for a rally. Leaflets for the event began being prepared and distributed – although no mention of the plan to march in the streets was mentioned. Students gathered on the Union patio on Sunday and burned Nixon in effigy.


University of Nevada – Reno

With tensions high and con­flict eminent, a unique situation developed on campus which saw “cowboy” and “hip” elements rapping with each other for the first time. The situation began with Nixon’s decision to send Ameri­can troops into Cambodia. Plans were laid during the weekend by the liberal element on campus to stage a protest against the Cambodia invasion in the upcoming week. Organizational meetings were held Saturday and Sunday, signs were painted and leaflets drawn up.


University of Washington – Seattle

Sunday, May 3rd

The nationwide student strike to protest President Nixon’s dispatch of American troops became a reality after a meeting with editors from eleven colleges at Columbia University. They declared that “classroom education becomes a hollow, meaningless exercise,” when the world was engrossed in mass violence.[27] They urged undergraduates, faculty, administration and staff to participate. The protest was set to begin on Monday, May 4, and end on Friday, May 8.  Then, on Saturday, a mass demonstration in Washington D.C. was to occur. Along with their demand that Nixon remove troops from Cambodia, committee members also called for an end to the “political oppression” of the Black Panther Party and other dissident groups.[28]


Stanford University

Sunday May 3

Around 1,000 students voted for their non-violent strike to last until the war in Southeast Asia is ended. They also voiced demands for:

  • Immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops in Vietnam and Cambodia;
  • The release of “political prisoners;”
  • An end to ROTC and defense-related research on campus.

Calif Institute of Technology (CalTec)

Saturday, May 2

On May 2, officials witnessed the first anti-war protest ever staged at the 1,500 student campus. About 250 students held a peaceful rally to demonstrate their opposition to U.S. policy in Southeast Asia. After the rally, 75 students marched to the Pasadena Post Office to dramatize a “mail-in.” 300 cards were mailed to President Nixon and another 1,200 distributed throughout the community.


Soon to be published, 1970: Rebellion in May, A Narrative of the National Student Strike, by Frank Gormlie. Cover design by Forrest Seguin.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ted B May 2, 2020 at 6:35 pm

Strange to think that the Southeast Asian trouble/sadness, was only 25 years removed from WWII. Sure to learn a lot from your publication, as I was in grade school during this time.


Sam May 3, 2020 at 8:07 am

You’re stupid if you think Vietnam war is the same as wuhan virus


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