In April and May of 1972, the Nixon administration kindled a major controversy “when the president ordered the renewal of bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong (April 16) and the mining of Haiphong Harbor as well as other harbors and inland waterways in North Vietnam” [announced the evening of Monday, May 8]. This latter act kindled student protests all across the country, and certainly at my college, the State University College at New Paltz, NY, as we felt this had escalated the VietNam conflict.
The chronology on some of this is a bit fuzzy, but I know there was a demonstration in the village. Some folks drove about 5 mph on the New York State Thruway and were leafleting other drivers until a State Police escort put a kibosh on that action. I believe that was on Tuesday.
A bunch of us took a bus to the United Nations to attend a demonstration on Thursday, but the rented vehicle was so late that we missed the action. But a demonstration near the draft board in Kingston, NY was held on Friday, and the board closed in anticipation of our arrival, though it was a peaceful protest. The next day, the front page of the newspaper, the Kingston Freeman, had a picture of me and a couple other people sitting in front of the building. The quality (or reproduction) of the photo was so poor, though, that I didn’t even recognize myself.
The pivotal event that week was a demonstration at IBM Poughkeepsie on Wednesday, May 10, which building something called the IBM 360. In 1972, the idea of computers programmed to help kill people was quite upsetting to many folks; think an early version of today’s drones. In any case, there were about 360 people protesting – I don’t know if that were actually true or apocryphal.
At some point, we were warned if we walked past a certain point, we would be arrested. It was almost a dare, in its tone. As it turned out, twelve people were detained that day. One guy was charged with disturbing the peace, and his bail was set at $50. Everyone else was charged with fourth degree criminal trespass, much to the chagrin of the district attorney, who was seeking a stiffer charge; 10 of the 11 got out on $25 bail. The 11th, my friend Alice, had been arrested and convicted at a previous event, was fined $48, and had not paid it. Her bail was set at $250, and she opted not to pay it, and stayed in jail until the trial, eight days later.
Did I mention I was one of those arrested?
(To be concluded on May 17)