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April 30, 2015

May 4, 1970

By May 1970 CWRU was no stranger to anti-Vietnam war protests. Teach-ins, leafletting, demonstrations all had happened before. But the deaths of four students and wounding of nine by National Guardsmen at Kent State University, less than 40 miles away, produced a new intensity.

This timeline is an overview of some of the events on campus during the seven days beginning May 1, 1970. It was constructed from contemporaneous accounts of student protestors, university administrators and faculty, and campus news media. All sources are available for research in the University Archives. As is often the case during rapidly changing, emotionally charged events, first person accounts vary.

Friday, May 1
In response to President Richard Nixon's April 30 announcement that American troops had been ordered into Cambodia posters appeared on campus calling for a mass meeting on Saturday.

Saturday, May 2
An open meeting was held in response to expansion of the war to Cambodia.

Sunday May 3
Around 1:00 am approximately 50 people, including students, forcibly entered Yost, demanding an end to the ROTC program. The Air Force ROTC offices were housed in the basement of Yost.

Early Sunday morning CWRU President Robert Morse met with the students.

At 9 am the Faculty Senate Executive Committee issued a response to the students' demands: the Faculty Senate would not be convened to discuss the ROTC program while Yost was illegally occupied; continued occupation of Yost would subject students to penalties; those leaving the building immediately would not be subject to criminal charges.

At mid-day President Morse issued a statement about Cambodia.

During an 8 pm mass meeting in front of Yost Hall participants decided to call a student strike to abolish the Case Air Force ROTC program.

Monday May 4
By mid-morning all but a handful of those occupying Yost had left. Departments in Yost, including Mathematics, Career Planning and Placement, and others were reported operating as normal.

At noon a rally on the Case Quad near Strosacker started. Reports estimated the crowd at 1,000 or more. At some point news that students at Kent State University had been shot by Ohio National Guardsmen was received. By 2:00 the group began moving to Thwing. Originally a small group, which grew to 500, blocked the intersection of Euclid Avenue and Adelbert Road from about 2:30 to 4:30. After several warnings, the protesters were dispersed by Cleveland Police on foot and horseback. Both the Case Tech and The Observer reported one person was arrested.
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Monday night, in memory of the Kent State students, a candlelight silent procession was held. Participation was reported at between 2,000 and 4,000. Following the procession four symbolic graves were installed near Thwing.
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Tuesday May 5
During a noon meeting on the Case quad a number of demands were issued: that the university strike; that President Morse issue a statement condemning the war and calling for withdrawal of all American troops; that the university provide free facilities for anti-war activity; that the campus ROTC program be abolished; that the university end military research and investments in corporations profiting from the war; that there be no reprisals against strike participants.

The Faculty Senate held a 4-1/2-hour meeting broadcast live by WRUW, the campus radio station. Expressions of sympathy were extended to Kent State University and Ohio Governor Rhodes was urged to establish an impartial review board to investigate. It was recommended that ROTC be “abolished as a formal part of the curriculum... That ROTC activities on the campus should be limited to the status of extra-curricular clubs..." Undergraduate and graduate students were offered options for completing the semester's work. They could finsh their courses and take final exams or terminate classes on May 5 and take a pass-fail or letter grades based on work completed through May 1.

By Tuesday night Thwing had become the de facto strike headquarters.

Wednesday May 6
At noon another rally was held in front of Strosacker. Meetings continued at Thwing.

During the day parking lots and the receiving dock were picketed to block deliveries to prevent university “business as usual."

At 3 pm a memorial service for Kent State students was held in Emerson Gym.

That night the ROTC supply room in the basement of Yost Hall was firebombed. Damage was estimated at $5,000.

Thursday May 7
Parking lot pickets continued.
President Morse issued a statement affirming that the campus would remain open.

Organizing continued throughout May and June. A substantial portion of students opted for the early completion of the semester and left campus shortly after May 5. Commencement ceremonies for Case Institute, Adelbert, Mather and Cleveland colleges were held, undisrupted, on May 28. Thwing continued to serve as the 24-hour protest headquarters until June 4, when the university began enforcing the normal closing hours. Seven, including three students, refused to leave and were arrested for trespass on June 5. At their July 21 trial all pleaded no contest and were found guilty. At the university's recommendation, sentences and court costs were suspended. No fines were levied.

Letters, praising and condemning the university, were sent to President Morse. His replies pointed out that "despite difficult events we have remained open, independent, and non-violent."

Posted by jmt3 at April 30, 2015 01:02 AM

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