The days after the vigil were tense, due in part to the presence of State Troopers on campus. What had been a peaceful memorial had escalated into something viewed as dangerous and in need of suppression. At the very least, it required attention.
May 7 – Reaction
An editorial in the Crimson-White reveals that the campus was aware of how the the previous night’s events fit into the larger narrative of nationwide protest. It also shows that many students — if the newspaper staff is any indication — could find blame all around. (Click on the image to view it at full size.)
May 8 – Teach-in
Student hecklers lining both sides of the Boulevard cheered and clapped as 21 Alabama State Trooper cars rolled in front of the new Frank A. Rose Administration Building Friday afternoon.
However, the cheers and chuckles of “It’s a parade” were quickly hushed as the student demonstrators and spectators watched the approximately 50 helmeted Troopers line up military style with their riot sticks and tear gas equipment.Doris Flora, “Protest Meet Disbands When Troopers Move In”
The students were gathered at Denny Chimes around 3 p.m. for the “teach-in,” but Col. Beverly Leigh, the University’s security director, told them he couldn’t guarantee they’d be safe:
“If you go ahead on out there, I am not going to say that nothing is going to happen. I am not bluffing.”
With the help of Glenn W. Stillion, Assistant Dean for Student Development, they were convinced to disperse.
Protesters regrouped at the Hillel Foundation, just off campus. By now a group of around 200, they discussed their options. Overall, they wanted to cause enough minor disturbances to keep law enforcement on campus and engaged — so as to keep the pressure on Mathews and the administration.
That day, a group of students presented 19 demands to Mathews, based on the list drawn up at the Supe Store. One of their demands was quickly rejected: there would be no disciplinary amnesty for the protesters.
May 9 – The Student-Faculty Coalition
Dr. Mathews met with several faculty members Saturday morning and later these same faculty members met with students who have been involved in the protest which started Wednesday.Paul Davis, “UA Students Okay ‘Truce'”
Faculty had an interesting role in the events of these tumultuous weeks. In particular, some were part of a semi-formal Student-Faculty Coalition (SFC), which had been communicating between the students and administration. On May 9, it helped broker a truce.
Mathews had suggested the “cooling off” period. In a public statement, he tried to convey his perspective:
“I want to assure all students and faculty that I am seeking to avoid the tragic situations that occurred on other campuses and to find reasonable solutions to real problems.”
In light of this, he asked that the students re-think their demands, to give up broad and impossible requests like “free the Black Panthers” and “end the war in Vietnam” and focus on presenting issues he could actually do something about.
May 10 – The truce
With the truce agreed to, Sunday was quiet, with no activities planned on campus. Students did not meet or continue public protest activity. They planned to regroup on Tuesday, May 12, to give time for Mathews to respond to their demands.
For their part, as parameters of the truce, the students asked for all outside law enforcement to be removed from campus and a return to their right to assemble and pass out literature.
May 11 – Negotiation
Mathews met with the SFC on Monday, telling them that he didn’t feel it was right to have to respond to demands under duress.
Mathews said that all should be concerned “not to respond to these problems in such a way as to give any appearance of making disruptive tactics work…”Doris Flora, “Won’t Be Pressured, UA’s Mathews Says”
Nevertheless, he talked about things his administration had already done to address concerns from women students and Black students.
He also made clear he would not be intimidated.
May 12 – The truce unravels
While at Foster Auditorium, students discussed Mathews’ reply to a list of demands presented to UA administrator during demonstrations last week.
Judging from student reaction to speakers, most of the group apparently reacted negatively to the statement.Dolph Tillotson, “Reply is Unacceptable”
When students gathered to discuss the administrative reply to their demands, they found much to complain about, including what SFC leader Hank Hawkins called the “blatant lie” that there had been continued disruption during the truce. Both Hawkins and Black student leader John Gibbons condemned Mathews’s statement.
In addition to the usual crowd of activists, Black and white, this conclave involved a broader group of students. More moderate or even conservative figures like the president of the Inter-Fraternity Council and the Student Government Association president spoke in favor of continuing the “teach-ins.”
Holding a “teach-in” may seem like an innocuous gesture, but it was a deliberate challenge to the new rules against student assembly. However, a chorus of voices in leadership advocated adherence to peaceful tactics:
“Violence is ugly. … It’s something we don’t want to get into. We’re starting to move now, and we’re going to continue to move on this campus without violence.”
This group of groups ultimately decided to disband peacefully for the night, to take up the question of what to do the next day. But whatever their decision, it was clear that the truce was broken.
“Have You Ever Seen the Rain?,” performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival and written by John Fogerty, was released on Pendulum, December 1970
- Earl H. Tilford, “May 1970: Days of Rage and Reason,” Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s, Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2014, pgs 190-208.
- “Peace and Remember Kent State” [editorial], Crimson-White, May 7, pg. 1.
- Doris Flora, “Protest Meet Disbands When Troopers Move In,” Tuscaloosa News, May 9, 1970, pgs 1, 2.
- Paul Davis, “UA Students Okay ‘Truce,'” Tuscaloosa News, May 10, 1970, pgs 1, 2.
- Doris Flora, “Won’t Be Pressured, UA’s Mathews Says,” Tuscaloosa News, May 13, 1970, pgs 1, 2.
- Dolph Tillotson, “Reply Is Unacceptable, UA Dissidents Report,” Tuscaloosa News, May 13, 1970, pgs 1, 2.