Saturday, May 08, 2010

Kent State Repercussions Remembered

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Forty Years Ago today there was a critical incident at the University of New Mexico.

President Richard Nixon announced a U.S. military incursion into Cambodian during the Vietnam War on April 30, 1970, to interdict North Vietnamese troop movements on the Ho Chi Mien trail.

The announcement set off anti-war protests across the country, many at up to 350 college campuses.

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed four Kent State University students. Two of the victims shot were not participating in the demonstrating of the incursion.

The killings escalated and widened protests. Students at the Albuquerque UNM campus, engaged in demonstrations, marches past federal buildings, above, and ultimately causing the suspension of classes after a fight over the lowering of the American flag to half staff in front of Johnson gym and the take over of the Student Union Building, ended in governmental violence four days later, on Friday, May 8.

Local law enforcement beefed up its patrols, including the use of four man cars, this one, above, monitoring one of the marches is headed by a sergeant.

After the initial “takeover” of the SUB, there were very few students in the building. Early Friday afternoon I observed only six people in the SUB. Tensions were subsiding as the weekend approached.

However, Lt Gov. E. Lee Francis, was acting governor because David Cargo was visiting in Michigan, called out a National Guard unit from Socorro, who along with UNM Police, New Mexico State Police, and Albuquerque Police descended on the SUB. When students and other protesters learned of the law enforcement presence, they reoccupied the building.

As the first ranks of Albuquerque and State Police lined up between the Student Mall and the SUB, there were few protesters outside. Here a man collects badge numbers from Sgt. Norm Courtney and other officers.

APD Traffic Officer Fred Sweitzer with a squad of motorcycle officers are armed with riot sticks as they initially lined up facing the SUB before the crowd grew.

Officers, including APD Capt, Sam B. Romero, above left, converged fully prepared in riot gear of the day while traffic Sgt. Courtney, right, is armed with a shotgun propelled tear gas launchers.

Inside, about 150 anti-war demonstrators occupied the ballroom.

New Mexico State Police Major Hoover Wimberly read the protesters, "the riot act" ordering them to disperse. UNM and NMSP officers affected about 156 arrests. Most, if not all charges, were eventually dismissed, some upon conditional discharge; where after a plea the sentence would be dismissed after a period of unsupervised probation.

The New Mexico National Guardsmen swept up the east side of the student mall with bayonets unsheathed.

There was plenty of press coverage including KOB TV news cameraman Bill Norlander who was seriously wounded when he was one of several people stabbed by the troops. The bayonet strike missed Norlander's aorta by about a quarter inch.

What had started as a student strike ended up being a massive and excessive use of force against students who would have probably returned to class had university leaders announced that classes would resume three days later on Monday.

National Guard troops surrounded the SUB as the first line backed up by civil law enforcement, as the state police helicopter circles overhead.

Wimberly spoke with demonstrator marshals, wearing white headbands, and students in front of the SUB before a crowd that grew to thousands.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

About a half-year earlier, I covered a press conference of the Cambodian Ambassador to the United Nations who detailed an earlier ground incursion. I never saw any coverage in this country for at least a couple of years.

If you Google, US military incursion into Cambodia or US military attack on Cambodia you will find articles that admit there were secret B-52 bombing raids over Cambodia in 1969, but do not address ground attacks. In one post the "historian" suggested that Cambodian Chief of State, Prince Norodom "Sihanouk did not object to these raids." Sihanouk had been overthrown by a pro-American right-wing general in March.

This picture, above, proves otherwise that the Cambodians complained. The American people were left in the dark.

Only weeks earlier, Nixon gave his first speech before the UN's General Assembly invoking Vietnam 24 times, but not once did he mention Cambodia.

Many years later, I met more than one military veteran who admitted they were involved in the 1969 ground raids.

My Take

Four Kent State students were shot for protesting, two killed at Jackson State University in Mississippi, and nine stabbed on the UNM campus, while 24 other campuses where violence erupted. Eleven other students were killed between 1968 and 1971 protesting.

To this day, the question of why the National Guard units resorted to using deadly force in non-deadly force situations against students who, at worse might have been trespassing and or disrupting the educational institution, while claiming their First Amendment right to petition government for their redress of grievances, still eludes us.


Henry said...

I have read with great interest your blog on the university protests and agree with your feelings expressed at the end of the blog and share your questioning of why the National Guards resorted to using deadly force in non-deadly force situations. I was on the Kent State campus that fateful day in May and still have vivid memories. To be honest I was not aware of what transpired on the campus of the UNM. It is hard for me to believe that the troops on the UNM campus used bayonets on the students. While I’m not in any way shape or form a conspiracy theorist I have a belief that Nixon sent word to the Adjutant Generals of the National Guards that deadly force could be used at the discretion of the local guard units.

fdu9 said...

I am in my 60's now and have lived in peaceful Australia since 1971, thanks to Nixon's excesses. There's wisdom in Weird Al's palendrome "No X in Nixon" to which I add "It's a f***king swastika!" That May I was at UNM dressed in a conservative outfit because I was a student teacher at Sandia High School and had been advised to cut my beard OFF and my hair back to an RFK look. I am convinced it saved my life. My little clique of "Art Paintin', Dope Smokin', War Hatin', Song Singin'" hippies and anti-war activists, 6 of us were on that porch of the SUB facing the History Bldg drinking coffee when those trucks full of Guardsmen (all country boys who HATED hippies and who had joined the Guard to stay out of VietNam)reversed up onto the pedestrian mall. 70 yr old General Jolley had told these grunts that there were Molotov Cocktails being thrown and snipers on the roof of the SUB. They exited the Army trucks with such haste that two of them were nicked by unsheathed sharpened bayonets wielded by their fellow 'WeekEnd Warriors'. We could not believe our eyes and ears at first. My next-door neighbour was the most seriously wounded with a gash in his upper thigh inflicted by a Private aiming for his genitals. You can see his picture in the 3-vol 1970 UNM yearbook lying on a makeshift strecher/table, drenched in blood, grimacing with pain but together enough to hold a defiant fist aloft as he was hurriedly carried towards an ambulance. I recall one Albuquerque and two Gold Cross ambulances being stopped from leaving by Guardsmen holding 2 or 3 bayonet points against each of the (3 x 4 = 12) tyres. There were two NG Sergeants (middle-aged and clearly experienced) vainly, at first, trying to call the young Privates into some semblance of Discipline and Order, and by then the milling confused students had also regrouped and began that ferociously loud chant, "Pigs Off Campus!!!" Never had we felt that sentiment so clearly and righteously. UNM Law School students began spreading the word that they would be at the old Employment Agency building to take depositions from eye witnesses to this Hitlerian, Nixonian unwarranted attack on peaceful students. I was what's called an Army Brat, and was born in Germany in '47, my brother in Tokyo in '54, and I was always told, even though I never lived in the USA until 1963, that I was an American despite my mother and birthplace being German. Father's first USA posting was not even truly American, it was the then "humbled but undefeated" (that's what our History teacher taught in the still whites-only school in Augusta) Confederate state of Georgia. Within weeks of arriving there, I KNEW to a moral certainty that I was going to get my free B.A. and split for some Commonwealth country. Dig it, how can you not love a country where the second largest town in Queensland is called Surfers' Paradise? A UNM alum living there wrote sarcastic letters-to-Editor of Albuq Tribune whenever there was yet another story of an unwarranted shooting by NM Pigs, pointing out that Aussie cops, like the Bobbies in England, didn't even carry pistols. May 1970 put that last straw on my camel.
Hate mail and death threats (from you Tea Partyin', Repugnican votin', Heston's cock-suckin', Maz-lum hatin' bristle haired NRA luvvin' embarrassments to the once great reputation of the USA) will be forwarded to Sarah Palin even though that president-in-waitin' of y'awls cain't hardly read nor write none. I thank you. 'Doc' W.

Al said...

The definitive book on Kent State is James Michener's book titled simply "Kent State." It explains a lot about why what happened happened. Don't comment until you have read it.

Thomas Shields said...


Thomas Shields said...

Read it. Very good up to a point. Michener ' s private views come thru loud and clear. He hated any kind of dissent by anyone towards the US government or armed services (he spent the 2nd WW living a life of paradise in the Pacific). The good old USA was built on dissent. I noticed that the flag of NM has the depiction of 2 murderers and players and rapists. A Conquistador and a pioneer who stole this land from the Indians.