Past Tense Oregon: 45 years ago, bloody anti-Vietnam melee broke out at PSU
http://www.oregonlive.com/history/2015/ ... ncart_2box
_" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
As mid-May approached in 1970, tensions were heating up on the Portland State University campus.
The deaths of four students at Kent State University, shot by Ohio National Guardsman during protests on that campus on May 4, had become a rallying cry for those opposed to the Vietnam war all over the nation. And PSU was no different.
Anti-war marches had been taking place in Portland even before Kent State and afterward, students decided they would go "on strike" to show their anger and their displeasure over the shootings, the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and the invasion of Cambodia. PSU was just one of hundreds of campuses in the United States where students took similar actions.
At PSU, students set up barricades in the South Park Blocks, classes were cancelled and demands were made.
After several days, talks began between students and administrators. Part of the concern over the barricades stemmed from the fact that in 1970, many of the walkways now on campus were then still streets, open to vehicle traffic. The barricades were disrupting that traffic, which was one of the reasons Portland police took at interest.
Finally, after several discussions, students began taking down the barricades on Monday, May 11, and things seemed to be going well until police demanded they also remove a "first aid" tent that had been set up.
Students claimed they had a city permit for the tent and refused to follow police orders. Hundreds reportedly stayed near the tent and linked arms.
That's when the police bureau's Tactical Operations Platoon took action and violence shattered the evening.
The next day, The Oregonian reported the following:
"Protesters hurt in Park Blocks Clash"
A story built on the observations of six reporters and photographers on the scene appeared on the front page of The Oregonian the next morning, along with a photo of police advancing on the group.
It described how officers had demanded that the students clear the area and while most did, about 150 refused.
When the students held their ground, the "platoon" moved in with riot sticks and began clubbing students, who fought back with rocks.
The story described the climax, which took place about 6 p.m., as follows:
"Then the TOP Squad moved in...and formed a wedge. Protest leaders formed a circle – three and four persons deep – to face police.
"Lt. Brouillette gave the order to disperse. About 100 persons refused. He then ordered the TOP Squad to "Charge." Within moments, the first ten heads were bloodied."
Before the confrontation was over, 31 protesters and four officers were injured, though none critically. Several were taken to local hospitals.
The next day, a group of about 3,500 people marched on City Hall to protest the police action and make demands on then-Mayor Terry Schrunk. In addition, about 600 faculty members at the university passed a resolution condemning the police action.
The story again received front-page play, a large photo and a prominent headline in the following day's edition of The Oregonian. But interestingly, one other story was played higher on the page. It was a story by the Associated Press datelined Saigon. The headline was:
"First American Troops Withdrawn From Cambodia"
The incident was the subject of a story in 2010 by Melissa Steineger in the Portland State Magazine. Several more photos accompany her story.
The protest and police action were also the subject of a dissertation by Dory Hylton, a student in the 1990s at the University of Oregon.
In her research, Hylton found that a Multnomah County grand jury found evidence that the police used excessive force, but no officers were charged and "in the end, the case was closed."