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Eleven Bayonetted and 131 Arrested at Student Union Building

Eleven Bayonetted and 131 Arrested at Student Union Building


Well into the Vietnam war, the social tension was palpable in the Spring of 1970. The 1968 election of President Nixon was meant to bring an end to the war that was still raging two years later. In a decision meant to end the war in Vietnam from a supposed position of strength, on April 31st, 1970, Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia on the pretext of communist supply lines and troop movements through the Cambodian side of the jungle.

However, to the public, this invasion seemed like an escalation. For the days of May 1st to May 3rd, protests on college campuses erupted in opposition to the violation of Cambodian sovereignty and the continuation, and now, expansion of the Vietnam war. In response to social unrest, on May 4th the Ohio National Guard was called to Kent State, killing four students.

At UNM, students were also protesting. Jane Fonda, a famous anti-war protester, visited UNM campus to help students organize. She joined students on Tuesday May 5th for the march on Heady’s house at midnight. On Wednesday May 6th, there was a strike of mourning dedicated to the victims of Kent state by both students and faculty. Ferrel Heady, the President of UNM, wondered if closing the campus would be necessary considering a violent protest that had broken out at the flagpole at the Stanford Street entrance the same day, resulting in the stabbings of three students. In response, at about 3pm, students occupied the Student Union Building due to the feeling of having their voice being censured. (DL 5/7)

On Friday, May 8th, in a conference call among regents with President Heady in attendance, the Regents themselves agreed that the correct course of action would be to file in court for the removal of the students from the SUB, citing threats of damage to the building. However, later in the day, the Regents and President Heady came to an agreement allowing the SUB to continue to be open with the protesters, however a miscommunication ensued with law enforcement, so they never got the message.

At 8:45am, William Orzen went to the Student Union and informed the protesters the Regents intent to file for removal of the students An hour and fifteen minutes later, having had advance notice from the conference call, Heady went to the Union in order to ask the protestors to leave before the court filing took place. After Heady’s plea, the protestors debated staying, with a large contingent of 300 protestors leaving to instead march on the Federal Building in downtown Albuquerque.

However, in defiance, 131 protesters stayed, and at the time of 6pm, State Police Chief Martin Vigil called up the National Guard that was placed on alert by Governor Cargo earlier in the week.  Vigil then entered the union, read aloud the order of the court, and then ordered the National Guard to clear out the occupiers. All 131 protestors were arrested, along with 11 individuals who were bayonetted, one of whom included KOB correspondent Bill Norlander.

At the hands of Professor Leonardo Garcia-Bunuel, who was the Physician on duty, and his team of medical student volunteers and ex medics from Vietnam, they gave the 11 injured participants care in a makeshift trauma unit in the Zimmerman Library. The melee in the SUB was so chaotic that the stretcher bearers were almost bayonetted themselves.

The following week all 131 occupants were charged with Criminal Trespassing, with 20 of them additionally charged with contempt of court for violating a court order. (DL 5/14)

The following day, on Saturday, May 9th, an emergency Faculty Senate Meeting was called to order by President Heady at 1:38pm. In an atypical four hour and 52-minute session, the faculty were struggling with how to resolve the situation on campus. Most faculty supported and made motions to denounce the deployment of the guard. Some argued about issuing a denouncement of the student occupiers who defied the order, some would’ve rather cheered at their courage.

Christopher Beaudet, History, 2021

Further Reading:

Blake, Michael. 1970. "The Selective Enforcer." New Mexico Lobo, May 14: 8.

Durrie, John N. 1970. "Senate Faculty Meeting Minutes." Senate Faulty Meeting. Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico. 669-789.

Horn, Calvin. 1981. The University in Turmoil and Transition: Crisis Decades at the University of New Mexico. Albuquerque: Rocky Mountain Publishing Co. .

Lucas, Eric. 1970. "5 Students Accused In Stabbing." New Mexico Lobo, May 7: 2.

New Mexico Lobo. 1970. "City, State Police Clear Union Friday." New Mexico Lobo, May 11: 4.

—. 1970. "Students React to Kent Killings." New Mexico Lobo, May 6: 2-5.

—. 1970. "Travelstead Permitted Union to Remain Open." New Mexico Lobo, May 7: 2.

—. 1970. "UNM CLOSED." New Mexico Lobo, May 7: 1.

—. 1970. "Vigil Admits Guard Call." New Mexico Lobo, May 12: 2.

Robinson, Everett. 1970. "Free University Information." New Mexico Lobo, May 14: 2.

Stern, Susan. 1970. "Fonda Talk Precipitates Plans for All-U Strike." New Mexico Lobo, May 5: 1.

United Press International. 1970. "College Protests Sweep Nation." New Mexico Lobo, May 4: 4.

—. 1970. "Gunfire Kills Four Students." New Mexico Lobo, May 5: 1.


 Picture: By the Daily Lobo 5/11/70, Guards advance with Bayonets