Anti-War Protests and the Union Building Remembered

Students Occupy Union Building

A mini-conference titled “Days of Rage: A 40-Years’ Perspective,” will be presented from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22, at the Hotel Capstone on The University of Alabama campus.

The conference looks back at a 13-day protest at UA in May 1970. The event is free and open to the public.

The conference, co-sponsored by UA’s department of history and the Friends of History, will feature two keynote lectures: “Anti-War Protests Across America” by Dr. Andrew Huebner, and “The Uniqueness of Dissent at the Capstone” by historian Dr. Earl Tilford, UA adjunct professor of history.

Student activists who participated in those events will return to campus to talk about the rise of dissent and the events.

Roundtable participants will be: Jack Drake, former student activist, now a prominent Birmingham attorney; Dr. Carol Ann Self, a founding member of the Tuscaloosa Women’s Movement, now a clinical psychologist; Dr. Billy Field, a student activist in 1970 and now a member of the UA faculty in the Honors College and communications; Eugenia Twitty Crosheck, a student activist and participant in the disorders, now a University of Iowa administrator; Tom Ashby, a Vietnam War veteran who returned to campus and then got involved in the anti-war movement; and Wayne Greenhaw, who reported on the protests for the Montgomery Advertiser.

On May 3, 1970, radical activist and Chicago Seven defendant Jerry Rubin spoke in Foster Auditorium. That same weekend, student unrest on campuses across the nation erupted to protest U.S. military incursions into the Cambodian border region. On May 4, four young people at Kent State University were shot and killed during a confrontation between students and the Ohio National Guard.

Two days later, after several confrontations between anti-war demonstrators and students who opposed them, the Tuscaloosa Women’s Movement organized a memorial service for those killed at Kent State and in the Vietnam War. The memorial service turned into a major demonstration on the lawn of an unoccupied President’s Mansion before culminating in the occupation of the Supe Store in the Alabama Union Building [now Phifer Hall]. Later that night, Dressler Hall burned to the ground.

Subsequent student demonstrations and counter-demonstrations brought Tuscaloosa police and Alabama state troopers to campus.Two confrontations between students and police resulted in arrests.