"I am a law abiding citizen. Why don't you shoot these commie-loving, long-haired hippy freaks? How can you let them get by with this?"
The above picture and caption is from My Story:Portland State University - May 11, 1970 by Tom Geil, a photo essay of the events that took place 43 years ago here in PDX.
What started earlier in the prior week as a protest against the police and killing of students on May 4th at Kent State, had turned violent before my very lens on May 11, 1970. I was stunned, and for the first time in my sheltered life I experienced the hate that can erupt over into uncontrollable rage.Follow the above link to view his story and the pictures.
As a freshly discharged veteran (got out on March 30, 1970) and having nothing better to do, I wandered down to PSU on that day. Most of that time is a faded memory except May4th, which was/is my birthday which I share with the murders at Kent State. I was on the periphery of all the action and when the pigs (yes, that's what they were) moved in, I moved out. I had not yet solidified my peacenik leanings and was not as assertive as I have become by a long shot. If I remember correctly, I left and went fishing.
Anyhoo, here in Little Beirut, on May 11th, the shit hit the fan. On the 40th anniversary the PSU newspaper ran this recap, 1970: Memories of confrontation.
At Portland State, classes were cancelled for two days and protesters barricaded the Park Blocks (still open to car traffic at the time) for speeches and demonstrations. After a week of "rap" sessions with Portland State administrators, the protestors agreed to dismantle the barricades.A follow up article 1970: Memories of confrontation (Supplement) has some memories sent in by those that were there.
For several hours, dissenters helped city crews remove the barriers. But when police demanded that a large first aid tent also be removed, the protestors—claiming the tent had a valid city permit—refused.
Tensions accelerated and eventually police in wedge formation marched through the seated protestors using batons. Some 31 protesters were taken to area hospitals; all but four were treated and released. Four police officers were also treated for minor injuries.
Doug Weiskopf '71, one of about 25 students involved in protests throughout the year, recalls that at first, as students helped dismantle the makeshift fortifications, "there was a spirit of good will and humor. We were even joking with the cops."
But when police decided to remove the tent, Weiskopf says, everything changed. "The mood of the crowd got very sullen. A guy shouted out 'f_ _ _ you.' It was kind of like an electric charge went off. Everyone took hard lines."
Weiskopf along with what he estimates as several hundred students sat down in front of the tent and linked arms. The Tactical Operations Platoon—a newly formed police unit assigned to riot control—marched up in wedge formation. "We thought that they would arrest us," says Weiskopf. Instead, "they came right over the top of us and just started playing the xylophone on our heads."
Many Portland State alumni wrote and called to share their memories of the violent clash between Portland Police and student demonstrators on May 11, 1970. Protests against the Vietnam War, the shipping of nerve gas through Oregon, the imprisonment of Black Panther Bobby Seale, and most notably, the infamous shooting deaths of four students at Kent State, came to a head that spring day. Here are accounts sent by e-mail that did not appear in the print version of the spring 2010 issue of Portland State Magazine.Linked in the supplement are more pictures by Edwin Collier and Mark Stanley.
Not only did I miss all the fun, I didn't catch any fish.
Aging bitter Vietnam Veteran
Repentant ex member of Murder Inc.
Southeast Asia Division