Vietnam War Protests, Marquette University
Backstory and Context
On May 4th, 1970 at Kent State University when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protestors resulting in the death of four students. The incident sparked outrage across the country, and numerous college students began to protest in response. Like most major universities, Marquette saw its share of demonstrations in the immediate aftermath of the Kent State Shootings. On May 6th the student senate passed a resolution calling for a nonviolent strike. Father Raynor also called a special mass in the morning, which was followed by numerous presentations from Marquette faculty regarding nonviolence. Later a rally of around 2,000 students moved from Lalumiere Hall to Wisconsin Avenue, where they encountered Milwaukee Police in riot gear. While this demonstration ended without incident, firebombs had been set off around the campus by protestors, causing minimal damage. The following days saw sporadic demonstrations in the streets, numerous bomb threats (including the discovery of an “authentic looking device” in McCormick Hall), and broken windows at various buildings. By the fall semester of 1970 demonstrations on campus had largely stopped, with only occasional isolated incidents, the most notable of which came in September when demonstrators harassed Nuclear Scientist Edward Teller following a speech he gave at the Chemistry Building. Teller was a famed nuclear scientist who had worked under Robert Oppenheimer on the Manhattan Project and was one of the leading figures in the development of the hydrogen bomb. Teller was a particularly controversial figure due to his pro-nuclear advocacy, including his support for the buildup of the United States’ nuclear arsenal. Due to his ideology Teller was often the subject of much scrutiny among antiwar activists.
The second half of the 1960s was one of the most tumultuous in American history as the country was engulfed in numerous protests over a myriad of causes, primarily in support of civil rights and opposition for the Vietnam War. College campuses were often a hotbed for such demonstrations due to the ideological nature of the institutions. Opposition to the Vietnam War in particular evoked high emotions that occasionally resulted in direct confrontations between protestors and state employees (Police, Military members, the National Guard, etc.). While the Kent State Shooting Protests were some of the most volatile on Marquette’s campus, they certainly were not the only demonstrations. The earliest protest occurred in 1967 when students led a sit-in at O’Hara Hall (later moving to Brooks Student Union) to protest the presence of recruiters from Dow Chemicals on campus. Along with the general outrage at the war itself, students also protested the presence on campus of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Many who opposed the war also opposed the fact that a Catholic university would have an ROTC program on campus, as they saw the ROTC as contradictory to Catholic values. Tensions built towards a series of incidents on campus between April 15th and April 22nd, 1969. On the morning of April 15th, nearly 100 protestors marched into the old gymnasium where the Army and Navy ROTC Departments were located. The protestors called for the immediate termination of the university’s ROTC program. The following day more demonstrators prepared to march through the gym, but dispersed after Milwaukee Police arrived. Smaller demonstrations continued in the following days, until on April 22nd several demonstrators unsuccessfully attempted to block ROTC members from entering the gym before dissipating once the Milwaukee Police were alerted. They then moved towards the Joan of Arc Chapel, and around 4:00 p.m. sixty or so students barricaded themselves inside the chapel where they continued to call for an end to the university’s ROTC program. Milwaukee Police, responding to a reported bomb threat in the chapel, eventually burst through the barricade and arrested sixty-eight students as 100 to 200 demonstrators watched outside the chapel. In response to this arrests some 150 students protested outside of O’Hara Hall late into the night. In the weeks following the incident opponents of the Vietnam War continued to demonstrate throughout campus with demands such as amnesty for those arrested at the Joan of Arc Chapel, the resignation of Father Raynor, and the termination of the ROTC at Marquette, none of which were conceded.
Marquette University Special Collections and University Archives