Weeks of protests erupt in Seattle, beginning on May 1, 1970, against U.S. entry into Cambodia and later also to protest the killing of four Kent State students.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 5/01/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2308

On May 1, 1970, protests erupt in Seattle following the announcement of President Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) that U.S. Forces in Vietnam would pursue enemy troops into Cambodia, a neutral country. The focus of protest activity is the University of Washington, but anti-war protests and disruptions also sweep downtown. Student strikers dominate the campus radio station and newspaper, and Seattle police are accused of using excessive force.

Following is a summary of the cataclysmic events of May 1970.

Friday, May 1, 1970:

  • Some 1,000 anti-war protesters, generally peaceful, march in downtown Seattle to protest the Cambodia military action. Two windows are broken, nine persons are arrested, and police use clubs to push marchers back onto the sidewalk.
  • Protesters vandalize the University of Washington Air Force ROTC building.

Saturday, May 2, 1970:

  • An arsonist is arrested at the University of Washington after setting small fires in Thompson Hall causing $750 in damage.

Monday, May 4, 1970:

  • National Guardsmen fire on a student demonstration at Kent State University in Ohio. Four students are killed. They are William Schroeder, Alison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, and Sandra Scheuer.
  • A coalition of University of Washington student organizations call for an all-campus student strike against the war in Vietnam and the killings at Kent State.
  • A police officer reports hearing ricocheting bullets at the University of Washington and a small dent is found in a police car.

Tuesday, May 5, 1970:

  • More than 7,000 anti-war protesters march from the University of Washington and block the I-5 Freeway.

Wednesday, May 6, 1970:

  • Some 10,000 anti-war protesters march from the University of Washington to downtown. After a rally at the Seattle Municipal Building, many block the I-5 Freeway at Cherry Street for a time. Police force them off with tear gas.
  • Seattle Acting Mayor Charles M. Carroll proposes a day of reflection.

Thursday, May 7, 1970:

  • University of Washington anti-war protesters disrupt classes and urge students to strike.
  • After protesters fail to block campus entrance gates, they cause unrest in the University District by breaking windows and throwing rocks. Police are bussed into the University District to restore order.
  • Plainclothes police "vigilantes" beat civilians in University District.

Friday, May 8, 1970:

  • Mayor Wes Uhlman (b. 1935) closes I-5 express lanes to allow their use by 15,000 protesters who march from the University of Washington to the Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle.
  • University of Washington cancels classes for the day as a memorial to students killed at Kent State.
  • Acting Police Chief Frank Moore condemns the "vigilantes" who roamed the University District the previous night.

Saturday, May 9, 1970:

  • King County Democrats endorse African American Carl Maxey over incumbent Senator Henry M. Jackson and call for the impeachment of President Nixon.
  • Radio station KUOW allows air time for student strikers.

Sunday, May 10, 1970:

  • Several thousand University of Washington students vote to strike unless their demands to end the war are met.
  • Some 200 protesters march from 2nd Avenue and Lenora Street to Seattle Center.

Monday, May 11, 1970:

  • Future Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Dave Horsey and five other student journalists quit the UW Daily to protest editor Bruce Olson's "misuse of newspaper" in his support of protesters and strikers. Publisher William Asbury asks that his name be removed from the newspaper masthead.
  • Protesters briefly occupy three campus buildings.

Tuesday, May 12, 1970:

  • Student strikers occupy the empty Air Force ROTC building and set up strike headquarters there
  • Student strikers declare radio station KUOW "Radio Free Seattle."

Thursday, May 14, 1970:

  • Seattle Black Panther Captain Elmer Dixon takes the Fifth Amendment 17 times during questioning by the House Internal Security Committee in Washington, D. C.
  • Civil Rights leader Reverend Ralph Abernathy condemns the Cambodia incursion in a speech in Seattle.

Friday, May 15, 1970:

  • African American Vietnam veteran Larry Eugene Ward is shot and killed by Seattle Police as he runs from a bomb he has set at a Central Area real estate office.
  • The University of Washington's annual ROTC review is held off-campus for the first time in 41 years, to avoid protests. The event involving 700 students is held at Fort Lawton and is closed to civilians except those with tickets.
  • Two demonstrating students, James Green and Phillip Gibbs, are killed at Jackson State University in Mississippi, and University of Washington cancels classes for the day as a memorial.

Monday, May 18, 1970:

  • Some 60 protesters (mostly African Americans) briefly occupy the offices of Seattle University's president. Six are arrested.

Tuesday, May 19, 1970:

  • University of Washington rejects call for campus referendum on the war in Vietnam.
  • University of Washington limits air time on KUOW by Radio Free Seattle.
  • Acting Seattle Police Chief Frank Moore admits that plainclothes officers were in the University District on May 7 and that he has "reason to believe some of these [tactical squad] people took some physical actions that they at least over-reacted" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).

Thursday, May 21, 1970:

  • Six anti-war protesters are arrested for vandalizing the Seattle University cafeteria.
  • University of Washington obtains an injunction against the Seattle Liberation Front to prevent them from holding a rock concert on campus.

Friday, May 22, 1970:

  • Protests halt the coroner's inquest into the police shooting of Larry Eugene Ward
  • Six of the Chicago Seven (defendants in a federal prosecution charging conspiracy to disrupt the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago) attend a rally for the Seattle Seven (defendants in a federal prosecution charging conspiracy during protests at the Federal Courthouse in Seattle).

Monday, May 25, 1970:

  • University of Washington faculty, staff, and students stage a "child-in" to press for a day care center.
  • Seattle Police release a "confidential" directive allegedly from the Seattle Liberation Front describing how to close down the University of Washington by crippling telephone, electrical, and radio service and contaminating water supplies. The Seattle Liberation Front denies knowledge of the three-page document.

Wednesday, May 27, 1970:

  • Coroner's jury votes that Larry Eugene Ward died "by criminal means." This results in official efforts to reform the nineteenth century inquest system.
  • Seattle Police Officers adopt a pig mascot and the slogan "Pride, Integrity, Guts."

Thursday, May 28, 1970:

  • Seattle Police Officers' Guild issues a statement about the Ward inquest saying, "This inquest commenced by playing to a full house wherein the mob of revolutionaries and opportunists were the producer, director, actor and critics" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).

Friday, May 29, 1970:

  • Help Eliminate Lawless Protesting (HELP) attracts 3,000 to a downtown rally in defense of Seattle Police actions.
  • Building contractors at the University of Washington discover sabotage at Bloedel Hall under construction. The damage could have resulted in structural failure had it not been discovered.

Sources:

Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), pp. 285-287; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 1, 1970, p. 1, B; Ibid., May 2, 1970, p. 14; Ibid., May 5, 1970, p. B; Ibid., May 6, 1970, p. 1, 6; Ibid., May 7, 1970, p. 1; Ibid., May 8, 1970, p. 1, B; Ibid., May 9, 1970, p. 1; Ibid., May 10, 1970, p. 5; Ibid., May 11, 1970, p. 1; Ibid., May 12, 1970, p. 1; Ibid., May 13, 1970, p. 1; Ibid., May 14, 1970, p. 5; Ibid., May 15, 1970, p. B; Ibid., May 16, 1970, p. 1; Ibid., May 20, 1970, p. 5; Ibid., May 22, 1970, p. B; Ibid., May 23, 1970, p. 3; Ibid., May 26, 1970, p. 5; Ibid., May 29, 1970, p. 1; Ibid., May 30, 1970, p. 1.
Note: This essay was corrected on December 11, 2003.


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