May 8, 1970 – the Day the Anti-Vietnam War Movement Came to Point Loma

by on May 8, 2020 · 2 comments

in History, Ocean Beach, Peace Movement

This poorly-reproduced photo of the NEL demo was the only known photo of the event, published in the San Diego Union.

Exactly 50 years ago today, May 8, 1970, the anti-Vietnam war was thrust upon the sleepy neighborhood of Point Loma.

4,000 mainly college students showed up in the early hours of that day on Catalina Boulevard and created a passive resistance march and blockade of the gates of NEL, the Naval Electronics Lab (since renamed). NEL was known for its war-related research and the action was seen as a blow against the Vietnam war by thousands of trying to jam up the gears of the war machine.

Nixon had just invaded Cambodia instead of winding down the war, as he had promised. Protests at colleges and universities blew up across the nation. Protests at Kent State in Ohio turned deadly when National Guardsmen fired into crowds of unarmed demonstrators, killing four and wounding eleven others.

Fifty years ago this day, the entrance to the military facility was effectively blocked by the sheer numbers of students walking across the boulevard, bringing business at the Lab to a halt for several hours. No disrespect was shown drivers, there was no violence, no arrests were made, — just a solemn slow-moving mass of people circulating in front of the entrance — San Diego Police officers hung back, their numbers entirely dwarfed by those of the protesters.

The heavy picket line did slow down traffic considerably; cars were backed up the length of Rosecrans for miles much of the time, as well as on Catalina. Reports were received that some NEL workers were as much as 6 hours late. Many never made it that day.

In the evening of May 6, striking students from college campuses all around San Diego county wanted to show their unity in opposing the war; the idea was to stage one joint action to protest the widening US involvement by targeting one prime military facility. At the planning meeting attended by hundreds of students from SDSU, UCSD, Cal-Western, City College, the community colleges, a few high schools, various ideas were thrown about, until almost by universal acclamation, the target was decided: the Naval Electronics Laboratory up in Point Loma.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie May 8, 2020 at 1:31 pm

John McAuliff said in a comment to our Letters, May 8, 2020 :

Great piece on May 1970. We have organized a webinar on the National Student Strike, Kent State, Jackson State and the Chicano Moratorium. It takes place 3 p.m. ET, noon WT, Saturday, May 9. Details and registration here


Terry A June 6, 2020 at 9:20 am

I was at this protest in 1970 in Point Loma. So glad I find this website. It was different times then. I fought against the draft for my husband as his number was low in the lottery. We were basically draft evaders as many were in that time.


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