University of Illinois Becomes A Battlefield Scene (1970)
CHAMPAICK, Ill. (LNS)–It started with a small, peaceful rally Monday, March 2. Within four days, the University of Illinois campus here had become a scarred battlefield, an occupied, curfewed zone-a Day After.
The outburst of student rage, which eventually saw thousands of people battling with every size, shape and brand of cop the state could muster, and which caused 900 National Guardsmen to be brought onto the campus, was sparked by the Monday rally called by the Radical Union to protest the presence of General Electric recruiters on the campus. At the rally, students who had been working at the GE plant in Danville, 30 miles away, explained GE’s double-edged profiteering: its underpayment of its own workers and; as the nation’s second largest defense contractor its lucrative involvement in the deadly exploitation of the Third World.
After the rally several hundred demonstrators moved to the Electrical Engineering building where GE was recruiting on the third floor. They found all entrances guarded by police — one could visit the GE men by appointment only.
Fifty students pulled down a fire escape and surged up to the third floor where they scuffled briefly with police. One cop was knocked out by a well-swung bookbag. Several people were arrested inside the building, others were clubbed and arrested outside. GE recruiting stopped for the day.
That afternoon the Board of Trustees of the university cancelled conspiracy lawyer Bill Kunstler’s speaking engagement for Tuesday night, branding him a clear and present danger to the campus.
An angered crowd rallied in the Student Union at 7 p.m. and then, 5,000 strong, they swarmed through the campus hitting selected targets. Two-thirds of the windows of the huge oval Armory which houses the University Of Illinois ROTC program were broken. Windows in the Administration Building, the Chancellor’s office, the Electrical Engineering Building, the Math Department and three nearby rip-off stores were also smashed.
Four hundred university, Champaign, Urbana and State police exercised little control over the crowd, merely picking up (with the assistance of frat men and jocks) isolated students here and there. By midnight when the crowd dispersed, they had arrested 24 students on charges including mob action, criminal damage, criminal trespass, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
After a fairly peaceful Tuesday — with the campus swarming with hundreds of police and National Guardsmen — the students came to campus Wednesday to learn that General Motors, Standard Oil, Lockheed and U.S. Steel were recruiting on the third floor of their own Student Union. (Students later found out that Dow Chemical had been recruiting secretly the same day in another building.)
Three hundred students moved up to the third floor and sat-in in the corridor.
Some recruiters came out from behind their locked doors and left the building. When Champaign and State police were called in, the sit-inners tried to leave peacefully, but the cops began pushing people down the stairs. One student tried to save his friend from arrest and got a six-inch split clubbed into his skull for his efforts.
A crowd of 2000 people milled around the campus Wednesday afternoon, alternately confronting police and retreating or being clubbed back. Several people were seriously hurt. The windows of the nearby Bell Telephone Company were smashed.
After the 10:30 p.m. curfew, police rounded up three busloads of curfew violators, pulled demonstrators out of dormitories and private houses, and refused to let injured people into the school’s medical center., A 13 year old boy was run over by a police car during the wipeup operation. Wednesday saw 147 arrests.
The National Guard is still in Champaign. You still have to be off the streets at 10:30. It isn’t over yet.
Source: Madison Kaleidoscope 3/18/70
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