Friday, August 14, 2009

Chapter 17: Enter Bernardine Dohrn, 1968 (i)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (109)

I first heard Bernardine speak in a room on the second or third floor of Ferris Booth Hall in May 1968. She was in her mid-20s and was dressed like a straight, middle-class radical lawyer. She wore a tight skirt, not jeans, and was representing the National Lawyers Guild. The Lawyers Guild had agreed to represent all the students who had been arrested following the April 30th police invasion, and Bernardine’s speech explained in a coherent way what was the current legal situation of arrested people, in the eyes of the Guild. Bernardine spoke in an efficient, unemotional way and she seemed to be more of a radical lawyer than a New Left political activist. She seemed smart. But she also seemed more middle-class fashion-oriented than bohemian or hippie-oriented in lifestyle.

Bernardine had grown up in the Chicago area, studied at the University of Chicago and worked with Martin Luther King during his 1966 open housing campaign in Chicago and Cicero, Illinois. She had moved to New York City during the year before the Columbia Student Revolt in order to work as the National Lawyers Guild’s campus organizer. Although she had traveled to many U.S. campuses on behalf of the Lawyers Guild and spoken on topics such as draft resistance law, few people within Columbia SDS steering committee circles had heard of Bernardine prior to her May 1968 appearance in Ferris Booth Hall.

As May 1968 unfolded, the student revolt in Paris’s Latin Quarter, that attracted the support of French industrial workers and nearly brought down the French government, reinforced Columbia SDS’s notion that revolution in an advanced capitalist country like France or the United States was, indeed, possible.

Michael and his community activist allies secretly planned to take over an apartment building on W. 114th St. that Columbia was in the process of emptying in order to use the apartment building space for Columbia’s School of Social Work. A rally was held in mid-May, our mass base of students marched off campus from the sundial to the site of the community’s occupation of Columbia’s apartment building and a number of students who hadn’t been arrested or clubbed during the April 30th campus bust sat down in front of the W. 114th St. building. Columbia called in City cops to reclaim its apartment building and arrest those Columbia and Barnard students or community activists who were either sitting in the street or occupying the apartment building. The cops made over a hundred arrests but were not brutal when they arrested people this time.

Mark was among the students arrested outside the W. 114th St. apartment building. At the time of the April 30th campus bust, Columbia SDS people felt that there was no need for Mark, himself, to get arrested inside one of the liberated buildings, because he could best serve the cause by continuing to speak to the U.S. mass media after the mass arrests were made. Following the April 30th police invasion, however, the Establishment’s media tried to make political hay out of the fact that, despite his militant leadership, Mark had “not even been willing to get arrested with his followers” on April 30th. To disprove this Establishment propaganda ploy, Mark felt it was necessary to submit to arrest when the mid-May seizure of a Columbia apartment building occurred.

As the cops made their arrests on W. 114th St. and pushed onlookers back towards the campus while the off-campus arrests were made, I felt that, despite our sense that revolution was possible, given what was happening in France, we really were going to get nowhere—unless we could figure out a way to overcome the Columbia Administration’s ability to keep calling in police.

Among the community activists arrested with Michael in the W. 114th St. building was an old CP activist of the 1930s named Hickerson, who appeared to be in his late 60s or early 70s. Hickerson had fought against Columbia’s real estate policies for many years and during 1968 was a popular speaker at Columbia SDS rallies because he combined a militant verbal attack on Columbia’s gentrification and expansion policies with a strong opposition to the “crimes of monopoly capitalism,” whose interests Columbia served.

Columbia SDS people (who now worked under the banner of the Columbia Strike Committee) continued to produce a lot of political literature during May 1968, in order to consolidate the New Left’s mass base; and debate continued as to what the next political goal was to be. We rejected the notion that our goal was to simply establish student power at Columbia or student control of Columbia at this time. We argued that until the whole society was changed by revolution, it was utopian to expect that Columbia could become an oasis of democracy within an imperialist society. We also argued that Columbia should serve the interests of community residents and humanity, not just the interests of students.

Influenced by the establishment of “Critical Universities” by student radicals in France and West Germany, Columbia Strike Committee people made plans to establish a “Liberation School” with “liberated classes” during the summer. In this “Liberation School” students would be offered tuition-free courses by Movement people on subjects that were relevant to the cause of Revolution. By attending our Liberation School, students would learn what education at Columbia should really be like and would come to realize why the “bourgeois education” that Columbia provided before the April 1968 revolt was nothing more than pro-capitalist indoctrination.

During May 1968, classes were cancelled by Columbia because of the student strike’s success and students were marked on a pass-fail basis for the courses they were enrolled in prior to April 23, 1968. Yet, given the magnitude of the revolt’s impact, the marks and classes of the pre-April 23rd era at Columbia seemed irrelevant to most Columbia and Barnard students.

Within the New Left, JJ’s political prestige rose dramatically as a result of the Columbia revolt because the revolt proved that--despite JJ’s pre-revolt inability to convince anyone else that immediate campus disruption, not educational forums, was the quickest way to radicalize students--JJ had been strategically correct all along.

Wearing a headband and looking like a hippie for the first time, at a meeting of the Mathematics Hall “commune” (students within each building had begun to identify themselves collectively as “communes” in the days prior to the April 30th bust) in May 1968, a former ideologue of the Praxis-Axis, Evansohn, smiled sheepishly at me one afternoon and said: “You know, JJ was right all along.”

As a result of the Columbia revolt, people now took JJ seriously as a New Left political thinker and strategist and, when he rambled on in his usual way in political debate, he now seemed to make sense and people now paid attention to him. Mark, in particular, began to follow JJ’s political and strategic lead; and he was able to then articulate JJ’s politics in a more persuasive way than JJ, because Mark’s oratorical skills were greater than JJ’s, and he possessed more charisma than JJ.

Phil Ochs visited Columbia again after the April 30th bust and gave a free concert one evening inside Wollman Auditorium, as a tribute to participants in Columbia’s student revolt. His biggest cheers came after he sang “I’m Gonna Say It Now.” The Grateful Dead and Allen Ginsberg also showed up at Columbia, following the revolt.

Chapter 16: We Shut Down Columbia University, 1968 (xii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (108)

After the first bust, I had no desire to ever become a Columbia student again. Like many other Columbia SDS people, I felt now that being a full-time New Left activist was the most meaningful and politically productive direction to move work-wise. At the same time, though, I still felt personally lonely on a romantic level.

A political vacuum existed at Columbia after the bust. We now had the numbers to shut down Columbia until the end of May and prevent classes from starting up again. But they had the clubs and guns to keep us from re-occupying the campus.

There was a rally on Amsterdam Ave. on the afternoon following the early morning bust, when the hundreds of people who had been driven away in police vans to 100 Centre St. had filtered back to the Upper West Side, after being arraigned for “criminal trespassing.” In an angry mood, over a thousand people—including many anti-war people from around the City who had not previously been active on Columbia’s campus—came to demonstrate their support of us.

On the Law School Library bridge over Amsterdam Ave., from where the speakers were addressing the crowd, somebody, without warning, suddenly asked me to speak to the crowd. Not used to speaking before such a large group, all I could quickly think of saying was “They came at us like wild animals inside the buildings. But we will continue to fight for the six demands.” Then I quickly passed the bullhorn to somebody else.

I was still uneasy about speaking spontaneously before such a large crowd and still uncertain of what the next appropriate political move in this totally new post-bust campus situation should be. In this new situation, new leaders seemed to speak with more passion and speak more effectively. So I continued to retreat somewhat from visible New Left leadership at Columbia, for awhile.

After the April 30th bust, many students at Columbia who had been going to school all their lives were at a lost about what to do, now that most classes were not in session. During May, the alliance between white radical student activists and revolutionary Black nationalist student activists, on a day-to-day level, pretty much fell apart. The white students who had been in the occupied buildings met a few times on the lawns outside the buildings they had previously occupied to debate the best ways to continue the strike and to keep the spirit of resistance going. People from outside the Columbia left scene were invited to speak at strike committee-sponsored alternative classes. For a few weeks, PL people and JJ pushed for a heavy presence on the picket lines. But most of the politically radicalized people did not appear willing to picket academic buildings since, even in the absence of much picketing, no classes were being held because of the post-bust strike’s mass support.

In order to make the strike more mass-based, SDS people like Mark made certain ideological concessions to the “moderate” students—who were more anti-Kirk than pro-6 demands—at a big post-bust meeting of students in Wollman Auditorium. At the time, Mark’s concessions seemed like a wise way to move. During the summer, however, some of these less radical strike committee students ended up splitting off from the Columbia Strike Committee, accepting Ford Foundation money and (according to de-classified documents) even apparently acting as FBI informants, at the same time they formed the “Students For A Restructured University.”

Columbia’s campus remained crawling with undercover plainclothes cops, who would shove into students occasionally at the various spontaneous rallies that developed on campus. The plainclothes cops usually were heavier, taller and older-looking than students and they usually looked like cops--even without their uniforms on. They usually carried blackjacks or small clubs in their pockets, as well as guns, and were noticed by most students. Few had long-hair in those days.

Tony suddenly had great prestige in Columbia SDS circles, despite his PL background and left-sectarian record of the previous 2 years, because he had helped hold the Low Library student rebels together and had won the respect of newly-politicized hippie-type undergraduates, for awhile.

As a result of Tony’s influence, Labor Committee head “Lynn Marcus” and his cult members were invited to speak to Strike Committee-sponsored workshops on the South Lawn of the campus. “Lynn Marcus” was apparently a former SWP member of the 1950s who apparently worked for some Wall Street firm in the 1960s. In Spring 1968, he projected himself as a Marxist revolutionary socialist in the Rosa Luxemburg tradition. He pushed the line that the student strike at Columbia should quickly be expanded into a mass strike in New York City. When the French Student Revolt of May 1968 began to spread rapidly and attract the support of young French industrial workers, after the students battled with French cops in Paris’s Latin Quarter a few days after the Columbia bust, “Marcus”’s proposed political strategy did not seem unrealistic.

Most of “Marcus”’s followers were ex-PL people (like Tony) who had followed Tony out of PL and had apparently been meeting with “Marcus” for at least 6 months before the April 1968 Columbia Revolt. “Marcus”’s SDS Labor Committee—like PL—saw the New Left SDS as a mass-based umbrella, within which they could operate as an external cadre and from which they could recruit new organizers to hand out leaflets to a U.S. industrial working class which, they argued, was ripe for revolution. No one realized in May 1968 that “Lynn Marcus”’s real name was Lyndon LaRouche and that his “socialism” was apparently just a mask for his lust for individual dictatorial political power.

In May 1968, Dave remained a prominent SDS and Columbia Strike Committee spokesperson, along with Mark, Juan, Lew, Robby, Stu, Ted and Josie. Josie had been radicalized more, as a result of her participation in the Low Library occupation and being roughed up by the cops. But Teddy seemed to retreat into the background politically (along with the Schneiders), now that he wasn’t the Columbia SDS chairman anymore. And Teddy was now no longer very prominent on campus.

But I was still surprised one day to notice Dave and Nancy walking across Campus Walk, as if they were now lovers. Between October 1966 and April 1968, Nancy and Teddy had seemed inseparable and had seemed to be living out one of the great romances of the decade. And Nancy had seemed to be pushing for a marriage to Teddy for a long time. Consequently, it was quite a surprise for me to observe that Nancy was now apparently in love with Dave—not Teddy. And Teddy, all of a sudden, looked emotionally lost, as he walked around campus during May and June 1968, without Nancy by his side. But Nancy’s romantic involvement with Dave did not last too long.

Another relationship that seemed to start falling apart after the April revolt was Mark’s friendship with Sue. Large numbers of trendy and New Leftist women, and newly politicized Barnard women, seemed to start throwing themselves at Mark, once he became a media object and a celebrity. At the same time, a sweet Japanese-American woman from California, named Jean (who had hung around on the outskirts of Columbia New Left circles for a few years prior to the revolt), seemed to replace Sue as Mark’s most steady female companion and lover. Jean seemed more bohemian in dress and lifestyle than Sue, but I felt sad that Mark and Sue seemed to have drifted apart.

As a result of the student revolt, the police bust and the U.S. mass media publicity, the status of Columbia SDS hard-core activist men appeared to rise greatly among large numbers of newly-radicalized or trendy Barnard women. For a few months after the police bust, SDS political strategy meetings were attended by newly-involved Barnard women, who now appeared much more eager to become romantically involved with New Left men than they had been before April 1968. My dorm roommate, Stu, for instance, became romantically involved in a brief love affair with one of the trendy Barnard women, during the month following the police bust. Unattached Barnard women who had walked by the Columbia SDS table without noticing me a few months before, but who had helped occupy the buildings during the revolt, suddenly became interested in flirting with me and dating me. In the eyes of some trendy Barnard women, Columbia SDS men were now the “Big Men On Campus” and “success-objects.”

Chapter 16: We Shut Down Columbia University, 1968 (xi)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (107)

After coming home from the hospital, returning to the campus, going to sleep, and awakening and realizing that people were, spontaneously, not going to return to class until Kirk was replaced, I was still somewhat dazed. Everybody seemed to be talking Revolution. Everybody around seemed to be a New Left activist. I, personally, didn’t need to do much activist work anymore. Many new recruits were now involved with SDS. Students wanted to strike. New student leaders had emerged as mass leaders and mass orators during the student revolt who seemed better able to move a crowd than I could.

I started to read Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and spent the next few weeks writing a brief history of Columbia SDS activity at Columbia between 1967 and 1968, which attempted to analyze why we had been so successful in confronting the Establishment. Other Columbia SDS people who were newly energized by the events of late April and early May seemed to think I was retreating from New Left politics, because I wasn’t as visibly active as before the revolt, and because I was spending time writing down my thoughts on the revolt.

Yet, personally, I felt like a rock singer who had helped produce a hit record before he was 20. I also felt that people at Columbia should never let the Administration reopen the corporate university again, now that it had used its cops so brutally against its own students.

As to the next step for the New Left at Columbia, now that we had created another Berkeley Student Revolt on the East Coast, I was confused—as were most of the other Columbia SDS steering committee people. We now had the numbers to mount an effective strike. But the U.S. Establishment still had the clubs and the guns of the cops. Thousands of students had been politicized and radicalized. But once you’ve created another Berkeley, what are you supposed to do for an encore, in order to build more quickly a New Left white revolutionary movement?

Why did the use of 1,000 NYC cops to bust up the occupation by about 950 students and maybe 50 non-students at Columbia have such a radicalizing effect at both Columbia and on other campuses?

First of all, the brutality of the police invasion shocked a predominantly upper-middle-class, white academic U.S. setting that had never experienced that kind of indiscriminate police repression before. To get into the buildings occupied by white anti-war students and some non-students, the helmeted TPF had to pass through crowds of curious, sympathetic white liberal youth who might not have been committed enough to sit inside the buildings, but did not wish to see other students of their generation beaten, or feel themselves being pushed around by the burly cops. Some of these sympathetic white liberal students were peacefully sitting in front of the entrances to the buildings we were occupying, acting to both shield us from police brutality and to demonstrate their commitment to a non-violent resolution of the campus confrontation.

Many more sympathetic liberal white students, having never seen so many cops in action before on a college campus, felt the need to observe the cops closely and start chanting in protest, once the cops started to brutally do their thing. And when the cops started shoving some of the sympathetic liberal student onlookers, some of the white liberal students shoved back a little which, in turn, stimulated more police brutality.

In clearing out Hamilton Hall, the cops shrewdly avoided using the kind of brutality that might have provoked a Black mass rebellion in Harlem or an angry march from Harlem to Columbia. Fearing, perhaps, that any militant Black student resistance to white cops inside Hamilton Hall prior to their arrest might provide the cops with a pretext for seriously brutalizing or even killing SAS-led students in Hamilton, the African-American student leadership chose to accept a dignified arrest without further non-violent resistance, on tactical grounds. Hence, there was no need for police brutality against the Black students to insure that Hamilton Hall would be quickly cleared.

With regard to the white anti-war students, who did not have the kind of off-campus militant community backing that the African-American students had, there was no apparent tactical need for the cops to restrain themselves. If they had to wade through sympathetic white liberal students with clubs to clear out the buildings, so be it. If they had to beat some students inside to overcome any white student slowness about obeying their commands to stop “trespassing,” so be it.

By sending around 150 predominantly white upper-middle-class students to the hospitals with head wounds, arresting over 600 other white students and shoving or clubbing, indiscriminately, bystanders who hadn’t been politically radical before the bust, the cops blundered. You can’t inflict that kind of mass police brutality on an Ivy League campus in the U.S. and not expect large numbers of the politically impressionable youth hanging out there to respond by being radicalized for many months afterwards.

But when 1,000 cops are sent onto a campus to put down a political protest, it seems likely that—even if the cops don’t intend to be especially brutal—you’re always going to end up with some kind of bloodbath, of cops beating on students and some students fighting back. That kind of police invasion can never be done without some kind of brutality.

Once the cops were used by the Columbia Administration, the Establishment’s argument that the New Left relied on force, not reason, to achieve its political goals was no longer credible to the bulk of upper-middle-class white youths who hung out around Columbia and who were already radicalized somewhat by the failure to quickly end the war in Viet Nam and the draft.

All the old liberal ideological myths about how the U.S. operated politically no longer seemed to explain how political decisions were actually made, once Kirk and Truman called in the cops. Columbia SDS people had been arguing for a few years that Columbia was run in an undemocratic fashion to serve corporate and government interests, not student interests, and Columbia’s use of police seemed to validate the argument for many people. Neither Columbia nor the United States, as a whole, seemed to be run in a genuinely democratic fashion.

A second reason why the bust at Columbia had such a radicalizing effect was because it took place in the context of a big media fishbowl event. Everybody around the country heard about the event or watched some of the event on TV or read about the event in newspapers or magazines.

Chapter 16: We Shut Down Columbia University, 1968 (x)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (106)

By Friday, Mathematics Hall had been liberated by non-student leftists and Columbia SDS people and it quickly gained the reputation for having the most militant of the white demonstrators who were inside the buildings. JJ ended up basing himself inside Mathematics Hall, as did the Motherfuckers, who quickly had moved from Low Library to Mathematics Hall, after Mathematics Hall was liberated.

Hayden, one of the early founders of National SDS, ended up holding Mathematics Hall occupiers together during the days before the police bust. After hearing news of the student occupation of Hamilton, Hayden had appeared on campus. But he didn’t really start to play any major white radical leadership role until he was able to join other SDS people in occupying Mathematics Hall.

Like most other Columbia SDS people, I felt that Hayden’s presence in Mathematics Hall further legitimized the revolt and further certified the event as being as politically and historically significant as the 1964 Berkeley Student Revolt. I didn’t personally bump into Hayden before the bust in Spring 1968 because most of his time was spent in Mathematics Hall, except for when he spoke at a spring anti-war rally in NYC that took place on the weekend before Kirk called the cops.

Abbie Hoffman was also inside Mathematics Hall during the Columbia Revolt. But Abbie was not as prominent in SDS and Movement circles as Hayden at this time, and I can’t recall Abbie being asked to speak to a crowd during the Columbia uprising. In late April 1968, Abbie was still known only in relationship to being good at guerrilla theater, throwing money at the New York Stock Exchange, telling funny jokes at the pre-Pentagon March news conference and using humor and WBAI airwaves to get hippies to Central Park be-ins and to an anti-war yip-in at Grand Central Station, which the NYC cops brutally broke up. In late April 1968, most SDS people still didn’t realize how popular Abbie was going to get as a political leader or how massive his freak constituency would become once he was given more mass media access. We also didn’t realize how fantastic an orator and rabble-rouser he was. Although Mark was over 10 years younger than Abbie, Mark was still a more effective mass agitator than Abbie was at this time.

Each of the occupied buildings had their own political character. Black nationalist revolutionary Hamilton, led by Bill and Ray. Hippie revolutionary, white radical Mathematics, led by Hayden. White radical sectarian/white left-liberal/white New Left radical undergraduate Low Library, led by Tony and Robby. White left-liberal, politically-wavering Fayerweather Hall, led by Columbia graduate students. And white left-liberal Avery Hall, led by architecture students. Within Ferris Booth Hall’s Citizenship Council offices, the various white student-occupied buildings were coordinated by Lew, Mark, Juan and others, who would go from occupied building-to-occupied building, encouraging the mass of white left students to hold firm.

I can recall Mark and Lew each taking a turn on separate occasions arguing persuasively to the Fayerweather Hall student demonstrators that it was the Columbia Administration’s intransigence, not Columbia SDS-led Strike Coordinating Committee irrationality, that prevented a negotiated end to the revolt. Mark looked exhausted and somewhat overwhelmed, as he spoke with people in Fayerweather. But he still projected the charismatic, moralistic, Savio-like earnestness and emotion that enabled him to inspire most anti-war students who listened to him.

Yet despite Mark’s charisma and the intellectually concise, logical way Lew later explained to Fayerweather people why it remained necessary to hold firm, some anti-Mark grumbling began to develop in Fayerweather, a day or two before the big police bust. At a key point in one of the debates, a Columbia Law School student with a thick Brooklyn accent, who had never appeared in left activist circles before April 23rd, stood in front of the room and defended Mark’s leadership of the Movement at Columbia. His name was Gus.

“If it weren’t for Mark, none of us would be here,” Gus began. Then he delivered an impassioned defense of Columbia SDS’s role in the revolt, using an overdramatic rhetorical style that struck me as being somewhat archaic, too theatrical and “square,” in comparison to the usual New Left Movement activist style of oratory. Yet despite Gus’s rhetorical style and thick Brooklyn accent, his speech was extremely intelligent and effective with the predominantly graduate school audience. And his jovial, extroverted personality quickly made him a popular Movement figure for awhile.

Gus was apparently the red diaper son of a hard-core leftist Brooklyn working-class guy. Unlike the affluent red diaper baby, Ted, Gus initially chose, within the Ivy League world, to be more into careerism than radical politics. Columbia SDS’s Spring 1968 activity, however, had somehow inspired Gus to apparently carry on his father’s work and to start putting his body on the line. Being a Columbia Law School student in 1968 now seemed much less chic than being a New Left activist in 1968, for the trendy Gus.

Outside the various occupied buildings, those anti-war students who weren’t yet ready to sit inside the liberated buildings put on green armbands and vowed to remain in front of the buildings, alongside various sympathetic Columbia professors, should Kirk and Truman decide to call in police.

In the early morning hours of Friday, April 26th, Truman and Kirk did decide to call in police. When Truman announced the cops were being called-in at a meeting with the Ad Hoc Faculty Committee in Philosophy Hall lounge, a few professors shouted “Shame!”

But after the first police to go into action clubbed Professor of French Literature Greeman, who—along with the Episcopal Campus Ministry’s Rev. Starr—turned out to be the most committed New Left professor at Columbia in 1968, Truman and Kirk were pressured into cancelling the request for police to empty the buildings, in order to once again try to negotiate some kind of settlement.

Before Professor Greeman, who was standing in front of Low Library next to Rev. Starr, was brutalized by the cops, everybody inside the buildings was all tense. It looked like the revolt was going to be crushed. But once Professor Greeman was clubbed, it became obvious that any use of NYC cops by Kirk and Truman would produce a bloody scene at Columbia. So SDS people began to feel that the Columbia Administration might concede the 6 demands, including the amnesty demand. And not call cops on campus again.

If all this sounds confusing, it was all confusing. People remained in the buildings. On April 27th, anti-war protesters from the NYC anti-war rally downtown marched up to Columbia to cheer us on. During the revolt, SNCC leaders like H. Rap Brown (n/k/a Jamil Al-Amin and currently imprisoned in a Georgia jail) and Stokely Carmichael (a/k/a/ Kwame Ture) also held a press conference in front of occupied Hamilton Hall. In addition, many other left celebrities, such as Norman Mailer and Dwight MacDonald, visited the liberated campus.

Much of what happened immediately prior to the first police bust in the early hours of Tuesday, April 30, 1968, is now a blur.

The big issue was “amnesty.” The Columbia trustees did not want to give us amnesty. We were not going to leave those buildings without amnesty, because we felt we were morally justified in occupying Columbia’s buildings in support of our just demands and we did not accept the right of the U.S. Establishment to punish us. We felt that the Columbia University Administration represented an undemocratic, illegitimate authority that served the special corporate interests of a minority—not the majority interests of students and oppressed and exploited humanity.

Inside the buildings between the clubbing of Professor Greeman and the April 30th early morning invasion of 1,000 cops to clear the buildings, life became more repetitive. Life became a mixture of endless debates, waiting in line to go to liberated co-ed bathrooms or to receive some food to eat—which, because of our inherited and internalized male chauvinism, was usually prepared by Barnard women—and trying to find time to sleep. I began to feel there was little more to debate and it became more boring to just wait around inside the buildings.

Politically, though, the longer we held Columbia’s buildings, the more politicized and radicalized students inside the buildings tended to become. So if the Columbia Administration had decided not to call in the cops--yet also not to give in to our demands and, instead, just wait us out-- Columbia SDS people would have been willing and able to keep Columbia shut down until June.

But such was not to be the case. The Columbia Administration asked the “liberal” mayor of New York City—John Lindsay—to order his cops to clear us out of the buildings. And, overnight, a mass base for the New Left Revolution was created on the Upper West Side, and the Columbia New Left replaced the Berkeley Left as the student movement’s vanguard. SDS was put on the map, historically and mass media-wise, and, for a few years, "SDS" became a household word in the United States.

Chapter 16: We Shut Down Columbia University, 1968 (ix)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (105)

There was a march of a few hundred Harlem supporters across Campus Walk to support the students inside Hamilton Hall. At first it looked like force would be used by right-wing students to keep the African-American demonstrators off-campus, but the right-wing jocks decided to retreat. “The gym goes up—Columbia goes down!” was one of the main chants. Another chant was “Beep! Beep! Bang! Bang! Ungawa! Black Power!”

Before the demonstrators from Harlem arrived, there were rumors on campus among white students, Columbia administrators and Columbia professors that the Harlem demonstrators might try to burn Columbia down. But, as it turned out, the march was quite peaceful, even though the mass spirit was militant.

There were all-white male meetings of Columbia professors inside Philosophy Hall lounge, in which these politically naïve professors unsuccessfully tried to develop a proposal for a negotiated settlement. Mark later accurately described the Columbia professors’ attempts to resolve the campus crisis as “bull-shit,” causing many morally arrogant Columbia profs like Professor Silver to become very offended. But I felt that Mark was right. All the verbal talk of the politically naïve, anti-communist, white racist Columbia professors during the student revolt seemed to amount to little more than bull-shit. The issue was whether the Columbia trustees were going to concede the 6 democratic demands of the New Left Movement and the community or whether they were going to use brute force to try to drive us from the buildings we had liberated, and which we felt now belonged to the people of New York City and Columbia and Barnard students—not to the white corporate Establishment.

Columbia faculty members never understood this simple fact. All they were concerned about was trying to figure out some kind of meaningless verbal formulation that would persuade their students to withdraw from the buildings, return to academic business as usual, and stop putting their bodies on the line to fight the Establishment. They didn’t seem to realize that in 1968 there was a war going on in Viet Nam that made it immoral for students to do anything other than shut down Columbia until the IDA ties were cut and all the other demands were won. The faculty jokers didn’t realize that Columbia was not sacred to anyone whose salary check did not arrive from Columbia. They didn’t realize that most people in New York City in 1968 who knew anything about Columbia’s institutional policies had come to hate Columbia.

I dropped by a few times, myself, to observe some Ad Hoc faculty meetings in Philosophy Hall but quickly realized that they were irrelevant to what we were trying to accomplish inside the occupied buildings.

By the third night of the revolt, I was basing myself inside Fayerweather Hall, because you could go in and out of there without difficulty, and I was too restless to want to just stay in one place during the revolt.

It was in Fayerweather Hall that I met Louise. She was a graduate student in Columbia’s English Department with long brown hair, who had attended Bryn Mawr as an undergraduate. Like most of the other graduate students (who spent much of their time inside Fayerweather Hall debating whether or not Columbia SDS’s primarily undergraduate leadership was too uncompromising in not being willing to accept anything less than winning all 6 demands), Louise had not been involved in campus New Left politics prior to the occupation of Hamilton. Like most of the other Fayerweather Hall graduate school rebels, Louise had been too busy working on her PhD to be involved with Columbia SDS people before April 1968.

But unlike most of the other women Columbia graduate students who had become politicized, Louise seemed willing to get romantically involved with younger undergraduate Columbia College men. After one lengthy debate inside one of Fayerweather Hall’s largest classrooms, in which much time was spent having to argue against a red-haired woman graduate student named Rusty (who had gotten her BA from the University of Chicago) and her anti-SDS, left-liberal, right-opportunist politics, Louise touched me in a friendly, comradely way.

But I was hesitant about responding to her willingness to make the first move socially in relationship to a younger man. In 1968, there were still social taboos around the New Left, with regard to women being the initiator of love relationships and younger men becoming involved with older women like Louise. Instead of being praised for being straightforward and emotionally open with Movement men who were younger than her, women like Louise ended up being foolishly put down by some Movement men or rejected by others. Yet when I think of Fayerweather Hall during the Columbia Student Revolt, mixed in with my memories of the endless debates, the sleeping on hard floors, the smoking of joints, the sharing of food, the bumping into a whole set of new friends, the dancing, the sense of community and comradeship in a combat-type situation, the ‘new age” wedding of Andrea and Richard in the middle of a generational war and the generalized love vibrations, I think of Louise.

By the third day of the revolt, the right-wing Columbia students, wearing their suits and ties, had organized themselves into a misnamed “Majority Coalition.” Encouraged by the more politically right-wing administrators like Dean Coleman, the non-intellectual, status-seeking, materialistic, pro-war “Majority Coalition” students started to stand around the buildings that had been liberated by the white anti-war students. Their intention was to try to prevent food from getting into the occupied buildings. A few of the Majority Coalition-types, impatient with the Columbia Administration’s failure to call in cops to clear out the buildings quickly so that classes could resume immediately, attempted to re-take Fayerweather Hall once, but they were too outnumbered to be effective.

Because the more visible the Majority Coalition became on campus during the revolt, the more Barnard and Columbia students polarized in support of the New Left in reaction to a visible right-wing presence, I did not feel particularly disturbed by the Majority Coalition-types. When they outnumbered leftists in a dark alley, they were dangerous, because they could not defend their political views verbally, yet were willing to physically attack left-wing students who were politically sharper in debate. But around Columbia, there was never any danger that the more intellectually-oriented Columbia SDS’s mass base would ever be smaller than the “Majority Coalition”’s mass base. The political demographics of the Columbia and Barnard student body were always in our favor, even though the Establishment media tried to give more media publicity to the right-wing students, as the revolt continued.

Chapter 16: We Shut Down Columbia University, 1968 (viii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (104)

Throughout the week of turmoil, WKCR radio broadcast news of the revolt constantly—on-campus and off-campus. The Establishment’s mass media also had correctly focused-in on Mark as the revolt’s white radical spark plug and he was doing a great job speaking in front of the TV cameras. But on the second or third day of the revolt, Mark temporarily resigned as Columbia SDS chairman.

The reason why Mark resigned was because of what happened at an emergency Columbia SDS steering committee meeting in Ferris Booth Hall. Ted, Peter Schneider, Dave and other old Praxis-Axis people—while excited by the depth of politicization on campus—were against Columbia SDS people occupying as many more campus buildings, in support of the Black students, as they could. Instead, Ted, Schneider, Dave, Nick and other Praxis-Axis people proposed that Columbia SDS—in the middle of the developing revolt—start knocking on dormitory doors, do dorm canvassing, hand-out informational leaflets and hold more dorm lobby meetings to explain the New Left politics behind the student strike that Columbia SDS was calling.

Mark, however, argued that Columbia SDS people seizing more buildings would do more to both win the demands of the revolt and encourage Columbia and Barnard students to strike, than any more dorm canvassing would do. Mark argued that, given the occupation of Hamilton and Low and the constant threat of a police bust, now was not the time for “business-as-usual” radical educational work. And that it was totally ridiculous not to focus on engaging in more militant action, since “militant action, not dorm canvassing, is what has gotten us so far during the past few weeks.”

Mark, as usual, turned out to be correct. But the Praxis-Axis people had argued that more building seizures by Columbia SDS would decrease support for a student strike and leave no New Left cadre outside of buildings to do the necessary radical educational work to both pull-off a successful strike and create more revolutionary consciousness among our mass base. And their arguments had sounded more plausible than Mark’s at this time. So, by about a 70 to 3 vote, Mark’s proposal to take more buildings was voted down. Only JJ and one other Columbia SDS person voted with Mark. I, myself, mistakenly fell for the Praxis-Axis argument that it wasn’t necessary for Columbia SDS to hold more than one building in order to maximize its political impact and bargaining power. After the vote went against him, Mark said with disgust: “I resign as chairman of this fuckin’ organization.” Then he stalked out.

Ted, Dave, Nick and the rest of us all shrugged. Then people went ahead with the process of planning for the writing, printing and distribution of more strike leaflets, and the planning of a mass meeting of strikers and an intensified dorm canvassing drive. I can recall feeling quite confused. The Praxis Axis seemed to make more sense at this time. But there also seemed some validity in Mark’s argument. And it seemed foolish for him to resign the Columbia SDS chairmanship, just because a vote went against him once, since he had been doing such a great job.

As it turned out, however, events moved so rapidly that Mark quickly agreed to reassume his Columbia SDS chairmanship post and continue being the white spokesperson for the media. The mass of Columbia SDS people and supportive students turned out to be much more interested in seizing more buildings, than in doing more dorm canvassing.

Although Columbia’s graduate students were generally more politically and personally conservative—and less personally desperate and angry—than its undergraduates, the effect of the mass media publicity was to cause the left-liberal “trendy” graduate students to occupy Fayerweather Hall. Around the same time, white left-liberal School of Architecture students occupied Avery Hall. The revolt seemed to be expanding.

With so many buildings occupied, there was no longer any need for the African-American students to hold Dean Coleman hostage as a bargaining chip, and he was allowed to just leave his office in Hamilton Hall. Everybody in Columbia SDS steering committee circles—even Praxis Axis people—realized that, finally, the mass of New Left students on campus had moved beyond the need for more dorm canvassing. We had collectively not been audacious enough during the first two days of the revolt and had, initially, underestimated the speed of campus radicalization produced by the firm stand of the Black students in Hamilton Hall and the subsequent mass media publicity generated by that stand and by our willingness to open up a second front in Low Library. Plans were made by SDS people to “liberate” another building, Mathematics Hall.

Chapter 16: We Shut Down Columbia University, 1968 (vii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (103)

Meetings were being held all around the campus. Non-student leftists from Manhattan and around the country were getting eager to jump into the scene and join the fight against the Columbia Administration.

Hundreds of previously apolitical and politically apathetic Columbia and Barnard students, as a result of the mass media attention and the disruption of classes, were now willing to come to Columbia SDS mass meetings and forget about their academic work or their personal-relationship problems for awhile.

Columbia SDS people rejoined “Tony and his 20 disciples” in Low on the night of April 24th. I spent one night inside Low Library, after running in-and-out of other buildings and around campus, helping to do all the political tasks that large numbers of people were sharing.

Inside Low Library, much of people’s energy went to arranging for food to be brought in-and-out, discussing political strategy in endless meetings and just sitting, talking and napping. There was a lot of time just spent waiting, but you also became personally closer to the people you sat-in with and new friendships were formed easily.

One of the top administrators at Columbia—a guy named Fraenkel—spoke with Mark, Lew and a few other Columbia SDS people in the rotunda of Low Library and tried to scare us into surrendering. After Mark raised some objections to his negotiating proposal, Fraenkel said in an angry tone: “Look, Mr. Rudd! You’re through at this University! There’s no way you’re ever going to be let back into Columbia! So why are you trying to prevent the other students from being reasonable?”

Lew and Mark both snickered and started to smirk after Fraenkel’s outburst. And Fraenkel left Low Library a few moments later.

By the night of April 24, 1968, some “Motherfucker” anarchist people from the Lower East Side were among the people sitting in Kirk’s office and they were helping to harden the spirit of resistance there. They also had good concrete suggestions as to how Kirk’s office could best be barricaded.

Seeing the non-student Lower East Side hippie “Motherfuckers” (who were mostly in their mid-to-late 20s) mingling with the slightly younger Columbia and Barnard students, made me feel more certain that the Columbia Administration would have more difficulty getting the anti-racist whites to leave Low by a few verbal promises. The white non-students had joined us inside Low Library because they wanted to strike a blow against a U.S. ruling-class corporate establishment that they hated vehemently. Unlike the more privileged white Columbia and white Barnard students (many of whom had never had to work 9-to-5 in corporate offices for more than a summer), the white hip non-student radicals from the Lower East Side felt that off-campus America was a death culture and that work-life after college in the plastic 9-to-5 world represented slavery and psychological death for white leftists. Hence, they were ready to trash Low Library if Columbia SDS people had chosen to give them our tacit approval. But this we did not do.

Between the night of April 24th and the police invasion of April 30th, what happened exactly remains a blur in my mind, for the most part, with the exception of a few significant events and scenes.

I can recall contributing to an endless tactical debate on the evening of April 24th in Kirk’s office, by saying the following: “Our collective power is that as long as we stay here, the only way Kirk can get us out is by creating an embarrassing scene of police dragging us out. Just like the cops had to drag students out of Sproul Hall in Berkeley in 1964. We have to stay here and show Kirk that if he doesn’t give into our demands, there’s going to be an embarrassing scene at Columbia.”

After the first day of the revolt, the Black student leaders in Hamilton acted autonomously and there developed an uncertainty among some Columbia SDS people about whether they would end their occupation once gym construction was stopped and amnesty was granted to all Black students, but before Columbia’s IDA ties were severed. As it turned out, although the Columbia Administration quickly agreed to stop construction of the Jim Crow gym, it was never willing (or legally able) to offer amnesty just to the African-American students alone. So there was never any incentive for the African-American students in Hamilton Hall to drop the anti-IDA demand and make a separate peace.

Chapter 16: We Shut Down Columbia University, 1968 (vi)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (102)

As the early morning hours passed, news that the cops were arriving on campus reached us inside Kirk’s office and people had to decide whether to stay seated in the office and submit to arrest, or whether to leave Low Library before the cops came. Most of the white students in Low Library on the morning of April 24th felt like I did: Why get arrested in Low Library, when we could be more productive in organizing students on campus to support the Black take-over of Hamilton Hall if we were out of jail? About 20 students, however, led by PL and Columbia SDS Labor Committee leader Tony, chose not to flee when news came of the cops’ arrival on campus. When the NYC cops started knocking on the door to Kirk’s office, Mark, myself and everybody else—except the 20 students that Tony had won over—began to exit through the open windows of Kirk’s office. From the ledge outside his windows, most of us jumped down or lowered ourselves to the grass, and headed back to our dorm rooms or off-campus apartments to get some sleep.

Surprisingly, the cops who entered Kirk’s office were not ordered to arrest the remaining 20 students who continued sitting there. All the cops did was remove a valuable painting from Kirk’s office. In retrospect, Tony and the students who remained in Low on the morning of April 24th, despite the arrival of the cops, had made the correct move in calling Kirk’s bluff of a quick police bust. Were it not for their refusal to leave on the morning of April 24th from Kirk’s office, Columbia SDS people would not have been able to re-join them en masse in Kirk’s office by the evening of April 24th, when it became evident that no separate bust of the white radicals was going to quickly take place.

After leaving Low Library and heading back to my Furnald Hall dorm room, I collapsed on my bed for a few hours. When I awoke and bought a copy of the New York Times and read through Spectator, I realized that Columbia SDS had finally made a political impact historically and that Mark, like Savio, was going to be a New Left mass media object and celebrity. I hurried over to Hamilton Hall to see how the Black student occupation was going.

A hard rain was falling on the campus. Campus life was obviously disrupted by the student revolt and there seemed to be much confusion. Large numbers of disgruntled right-wing students were gathered in the courtyard in front of Hamilton Hall, angry over their inability to attend class. Desks and chairs and wastepaper baskets were shoved against the front doors of Hamilton Hall from the inside, to form a barricade. The African-American students controlled who could and could not enter the building. Columbia SDS people took turns throughout the day standing in front of Hamilton Hall in the rain with a bullhorn, acting as a kind of white shield for the Black students inside Hamilton, although the African-American students really didn’t need white radicals as a shield as long as they maintained their community contacts. The Harlem community—not the white New Left—was the real external shield of the Black students in Hamilton.

On the 2nd floor of Hamilton, one or two male African-American students coolly looked down and out over the crowds outside the building from an outside balcony, but did not attempt to speak to the half-supportive, half-hostile crowd. In front of the building, Sokolow spoke at length through the bullhorn for the first time, trying to develop more white support for the revolt. His speech was clever. Like Stu, he blossomed as an orator during the revolt, although he never became as skillful or entertaining as Mark.

“As far as the IDA research goes. It’s not dirty because it’s secret. But it’s secret because it’s dirty. And it’s dirty because it helps the Pentagon murder millions of Vietnamese,” Sokolow said.

Sokolow was a very short, mustached guy who wore wire-framed glasses. The son of an Upper East Side corporate lawyer who did legal work for his law firm's CBS client (and who was a Robert Kennedy liberal-type Democrat), Sokolow had gone to prep school in Manhattan and tended to dress more often in a sport jacket and shirt and tie than in jeans (although Sokolow, in later years, no longer recalled himself wearing a sport jacket on campus as frequently as did I). But he was very intellectual. A sophomore in April 1968, he was an English major who had become quite radicalized during his first two years at Columbia. Although his father was wealthy and Sokolow sometimes took cabs instead of the subway to get around Manhattan, he worked part-time in the Butler Library as a sophomore, making sure that all books that left the Burgess-Carpenter library had been checked out.

During the 1967-68 academic year, I had become friendly with Sokolow because he was very enthusiastic about his commitment to New Left radicalism, very intellectual and extremely hard-working. He became a hard-core Columbia SDS activist who chose to spend his time doing Movement work (no matter how menial) on campus rather than spend it pumping out term papers or being into academic careerism. Sometimes, his enthusiasm hurt his organizing because, when talking with liberals, he would hammer away verbally at them in such a heavy way over an intellectual point of contention that, while winning the argument, he turned them off to the New Left by his vibes and his intellectually domineering approach. I thought Sokolow’s best quality was the moral outrage he felt at the System and at Columbia.

During the day of rain after Hamilton was first seized, Columbia SDS also handed out leaflets around campus explaining why the Columbia revolt was justified and calling for a mass meeting in Wollman Auditorium. Columbia’s campus was now completely politicized and polarized, and Establishment mass media cameras were everywhere.

Instead of seriously negotiating with the African-American students in Hamilton and immediately agreeing to the fairly moderate 6 demands, Kirk and Truman and the Columbia trustees refused to end the revolt quickly, by negotiation. As a result of this delay, more and more students began to polarize on campus in support of the New Left, more Harlem residents began to polarize in opposition to Columbia and more mass media attention began to focus on Columbia’s anti-democratic institutional policies.

Chapter 16: We Shut Down Columbia University, 1968 (v)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (101)

There was some concern among some of the white students inside Hamilton Hall about a possible “threat to Dean Coleman’s life” if the Black students were left alone inside Hamilton Hall. This concern stemmed from a combination of white racist paranoia and rumor-mongering. During the evening of April 23rd, some non-student Harlem young men had joined the Black students in Hamilton and rumors were being spread that Black non-students—not Student Afro-American Society people—now controlled the demonstration. Another rumor being circulated was that Black non-students had brought guns into the building in preparation for self-defense in response to a police bust. Despite these rumors, I saw no indication that there were ever any guns brought inside Hamilton or that Student Afro-American Society people ever relinquished control of their sit-in/occupation.

After Mark’s surprise announcement, all the white students quickly ran to whichever part of the building they had dumped their sleeping bags, blankets or guitars at and gathered en masse down in the lobby. Many white students were tense and emotionally freaked-out. A few white students were crying, but the more politically and emotionally mature African-American students looked cool and determined, as Columbia SDS people led our demoralized band of 300 to 400 white anti-racist students out of Hamilton Hall and up to Low Library, in the early dawn hours.

About a third of the white left demonstrators immediately returned to their dormitory rooms or off-campus apartments to get some sleep, after being told to leave Hamilton Hall. The rest of us quietly walked across Low Plaza and towards the right entrance of Low Library, in order to occupy Low Library. When the first SDS people got to the glass door and tried to enter, they found the door was locked. Frustrated, some of the SDS people then picked up a wooden bench and—using it as a battering ram—slammed it into the glass door, in order to get inside Low Library. After the glass broke, I heard some gasping among the white students behind me on the plaza. About one-third of the white students who had been expecting to occupy Low Library with SDS turned around, and went back to their dormitory rooms and off-campus apartments, as soon as they heard the glass break.

I shook my head with disgust and thought to myself: “They’re only into fighting institutional racism when property doesn’t get damaged. Typical white liberals.” Then I went into Low Library and waited in the rotunda, until about 100 of us were all gathered together, and Mark began to speak to us:

“The reason why we had to leave Hamilton is that the Black students felt that we weren’t solid enough. They’ve chosen to make their stand in Hamilton Hall. And they’re ready to die.

“I’m not ready to die yet. But I think we can continue to support the Black students by holding this building.

“For many of us, our academic careers at Columbia are over. But before the police are called in, we have to decide what we’re going to do.”

There was some concern expressed about the possible fate of Dean Coleman. And even Robby, who would later become very hard-line politically, felt that Dean Coleman might get killed if cops were sent into Hamilton. After a few minutes of discussion, a consensus emerged that sitting down in the rotunda was tactically stupid, because the space around us was so large that when the cops came to arrest us they would be able to clear us out in no time, by just forming a circle around us. We therefore decided to take over Columbia President Kirk’s office. His door was closed and locked, but somebody figured out a way to get in. Then the 100 of us went inside the office.

It was the first time any of us had been inside the office of an Ivy League university president and it felt good to be there. I immediately began to pull open the drawers and files of Columbia President, IDA Director and Mobil Oil Director Kirk to see if I could discover some more dirt on Columbia to reveal to the people of New York City. I was curious. And I felt that people in New York City had a democratic right to go through the office files of Columbia’s President.

Surprisingly, as soon as I began to gleefully go through Columbia President Kirk’s office files, the white students around me started to look frightened.

“What are you doing?”

“Leave those files alone. We’re here to make a political statement, not to vandalize his office!”

There were just a few of the comments that greeted me when I started to do some more research inside Kirk’s office. I couldn’t believe my ears at first.

“We have a right to know what’s in these files,” I argued.

“It’s Kirk’s private property. We have a right to sit-in here, but we don’t have the right to go through his private files,” another white anti-racist student replied.

I was flabbergasted. Were these, indeed, the same students who, under Black student leadership, were willing to hold Dean Coleman hostage for many hours?

Since no other students in the portion of Kirk’s office where the files were kept were willing to join me in going through Kirk’s files, and I was getting bad vibes from the other students, I stopped going through Kirk’s files. Within a few days, however,--as white anti-racist resistance to the Columbia Administration hardened and people began to lose their bourgeois hang-ups about Columbia’s “property rights”—other students completed the search of Kirk’s files. Copies of some choice documents found their way into the Rat underground newspaper. The photocopied documents from Kirk’s files would reveal additional dirt on Columbia University expansion activity, its IDA ties and intra-Establishment conspiring.

Chapter 16: We Shut Down Columbia University, 1968 (iv)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (100)

By the late evening inside Hamilton Hall, although the steering committee was continuing to meet and had agreed on the 6 demands, it was becoming apparent that tactical divisions between the Black radical students and the white radical students were developing. The more apolitical Barnard and Columbia African-American students who hadn’t bothered to even attend the noon rally had, by now, joined in the demo at Hamilton and the SAS leaders had used the phone effectively to gather community support rapidly in Harlem. Harlem community residents were already starting to send food parcels to the African-American students.

The number of white anti-racist students in Hamilton Hall had also grown, after the mass media publicized the sit-in and holding of the dean as a hostage. But many of the white students inside Hamilton seemed to be there more as trendies than as serious political activists. The Columbia and Barnard African-American students in Hamilton seemed serious, disciplined and all business. Columbia SDS’s mass base in the building seemed frivolous and more into a partying, sleep-away camp, hippie-anarchist mentality and undisciplined.

Within the steering committee meeting, a division appeared between Columbia SDS and SAS leaders over whether classes in Hamilton Hall should be shut down for students on April 24th or whether the sit-in should not interfere with Hamilton Hall classes. Ted and other Columbia SDS leaders still felt in the late evening hours of April 23rd and early morning of April 24th that too many white students at Columbia would be alienated from the New Left and polarized to support the Columbia Administration, if we prevented them from going to class, by completely shutting down Hamilton Hall. Bill and Ray argued that, if the white leftist students were really serious about winning demands and really politically solid, they should have no qualms about shutting down Hamilton Hall classes completely, until the demands were won. And now was not the time to be worried about “not alienating” Columbia students.

In retrospect, the Black radical students were correct about it being necessary to shut down classes at Hamilton Hall in order to have any chance of forcing concessions from Columbia. But in the late evening of April 23, 1968 and early morning hours of April 24, 1968, most of the white students in Hamilton Hall were confused about whether the sit-in and holding of Dean Coleman hostage should be expanded into an occupation and total shut-down of Hamilton Hall.

People were allowed to walk in-and-out of Hamilton Hall on the evening of April 23rd. I can recall talking inside Hamilton Hall that night to the hostile right-wing Professor Schilling, whose term paper assignment had led me to discover Columbia’s IDA ties. Schilling had left an outdoor gathering of a few hundred hostile right-wing students in front of Hamilton Hall, in order to try to use his right-wing logic inside Hamilton Hall to persuade us to give up our bargaining chip of being inside the building—in exchange for a promise of negotiation.

To determine democratically what Columbia SDS’s formal position should be on the Black students' call to shut down classes in Hamilton on April 24, 1968, a packed early morning emergency meeting of a few hundred white anti-racists was held in one of the larger classrooms of Hamilton Hall, which began with Mark chairing.

People were confused and divided. And most speakers—unlike Mark—seemed to feel Columbia SDS shouldn’t support the African-American students' call to prevent classes from being held in Hamilton. Mark seemed to be showing the strain of the day’s events on him. Because the head of Columbia’s Student Homophile League—one of the first gay liberation student organizations to appear on U.S. campus in the 1960s—was wearing a suit and tie and had not been involved in leftist political activity before, Mark irrationally focused on his presence at the emergency meeting of white demonstrators. Knowing only that the mustached and short-haired Student Homophile League head was dressed like a preppie-tweed, looked like a Young Republican and looked only vaguely familiar, Mark suddenly pointed him out and yelled: “You! You’re an Administration informant! Get out of here!”

Before anyone could tell Mark that the Student Homophile League head was probably just a newly-radicalized student and not necessarily an informant for the Administration, Mark had verbally bullied the guy out of the building.

While the debate over whether to back the Black students' call to shut down classes dragged on and on, Mark was suddenly called from the lecturer’s podium. Bill and Ray wanted to speak with him, Ted and Nick, immediately. In the debate, Ted had been one of the most persuasive opponents of shutting down Hamilton Hall.

“If we prevent classes from being held, we end up defining the student constituency SDS wants to radicalize and organize as the enemy. We don’t have to alienate our student constituency in order to maintain a militant sit-in and win the six demands,” Ted had said. Within a few days, even Ted, himself, had realized that this argument reflected an excessively cautious tactical sense. But in the early a.m. hours of April 24, 1968, it sounded plausible to most people and was only being opposed by a few white anti-racists because the Black student leadership, which seemed more politically mature than the white New Left student leadership, had challenged us to shut down classes.

Not seeing another SDS person who he felt could chair the disorderly meeting while he, Ted and Nick met with Ray and Bill, Mark tried to persuade me to start chairing the meeting. But not feeling confident that I could keep the debate going in a meeting that included confused white left-liberals, as well as confused SDS people, I declined to take over from Mark as the emergency meeting chairperson. Mark then spotted Halliwell, the Regional SDS organizer and Columbia Russian History graduate student, who agreed to chair the rest of the meeting. Mark left and the debate continued. But about 5 minutes later, Mark, Ted and Nick returned. And with a sad look, Mark said the following:

“The Black students want us to leave the building. They don’t think we’re solid enough. They feel they can get more community support if only Black students are in Hamilton Hall. They’ve chosen to make their stand alone here and we have to respect that choice. They’ve suggested that, if we want to continue to support them, we should open up a second front by occupying another building on campus.”

Most of us were momentarily stunned. We did not wish to leave our Black brothers and sisters alone to face a possible police bust, since most of us, initially, mistakenly assumed that the presence of white students—not the threat of Harlem’s mass anger—was what prevented the Columbia Administration from ordering the arrest of its Black student protesters. Many of the white anti-racist students were emotionally hurt by the Black students' decision to ask them to leave Hamilton Hall, because part of the attraction of the demo for them had been its inter-racial, early Civil Rights period nature. But given the anti-militant, divided tone of the early morning general assembly white student debate over whether to support the African-American student desire to prevent classes from being held on April 24th, it was also obvious that Columbia SDS’s mass base was too wavering a group of people at this time for the Black students to politically risk having within the same occupied building.

Chapter 16: We Shut Down Columbia University, 1968 (iii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (99)

Dean Coleman was a tall, non-intellectual, athletically-oriented, good-natured white bureaucrat who had previously been the Columbia College Dean of Admissions. Aside from his interest in a career as an academic administrator, he appeared to be not that deeply interested in either the fate of Columbia University or in such “non-university” matters as the war in Viet Nam or IDA. Yet because Dean Coleman saw nothing wrong in just carrying out the orders of Columbia Vice-President Truman with regard to disciplining student activists for political reasons, he quickly became another symbol of administrator complicity in the attempt to repress Columbia SDS on campus.

When he returned to Hamilton Hall after lunch and found the 500 of us in the lobby in front of his office, Dean Coleman refused to debate the issues with us. Instead, he walked back into his office, unaware that once he was inside his office he was going to be held hostage until Wilson was released by the cops.

In the first half-hour of the April 23rd sit-in in Hamilton Hall’s lobby, student activists who were most eager to speak to the crowd—like Stu—began to emerge as mass leaders. Part of the time was also spent singing Civil Rights Movement freedom songs. After Coleman had walked into his office and the consensus was that he was being held hostage, Bill and Ray started to take control of the demonstration from the more confused and divided Columbia SDS people. Mark would get the crowd laughing from time to time, like when he rhetorically asked the crowd: “Is this an indoor demonstration?” And the crowd then answered “Yes” in unison, with laughter. But during the first few hours of the demo, especially, only the Student Afro-American Society “heavies” seemed to have a clear, unified sense of how to direct and organize the demo, based on their clearer understanding of how the Black student occupation of the Howard University Administration Building, earlier in the spring term, had been carried out.

A Hamilton Hall demonstration steering committee was formed with Bill, Ray and Cicero representing the Student Afro-American Society, Mark, Ted and Nick representing Columbia SDS, Juan and a Columbia Citizenship Council bureaucrat from Minneapolis named Zift representing Citizenship Council and a guy named Jonathan representing the unaffiliated liberal students. Within a few hours, both the bureaucratic Zift and the unaffiliated liberal Jonathan had resigned, however, because of the growing militancy of the demo. But Juan stayed on the demonstration steering committee and his politics pretty much blended into Columbia SDS politics by the second day of the student revolt.

The Hamilton Hall demonstration steering committee started to meet in one of the classrooms to discuss strategy, while the rest of the demonstrators started to prepare for a long sit-in. People went outside to bring in food and more student support, and telephone calls were made to the local TV and radio stations and newspapers to bring in more media publicity. Telephone calls were also made to community people to bring in more community support from Central Harlem and West Harlem.

Nobody knew exactly what was going to happen. But after it became clear that cops were not going to be sent to clear us out of Hamilton Hall quickly because our numbers were large and more students, media people and community and civil rights activists were joining us, the white anti-racist students started to bring sleeping bags, blankets and guitars from their dormitory rooms into Hamilton Hall. The Citizenship Council offices in Ferrris Booth Hall started to pump out leaflets in support of the sit-in on its mimeograph machine. The Columbia student FM radio station—WKCR—started to broadcast around-the-clock coverage of the revolt—after New York Post editor, James Wechsler (who had led a student strike, himself, at Columbia in the 1930s) put news of our holding the dean hostage and of the sit-in on the ’s late afternoon edition’s front page.

After its initial meeting, the Hamilton Hall demo steering committee reported back to the sit-in with a list of six demands, and the demonstrators approved of their demands by cheering. These six demands became the six demands of the Columbia Student Revolt and were, more or less, as follows:

1. Stop the construction of the Columbia gymnasium in Morningside Park;
2. End all Columbia ties to the Institute for Defense Analyses and that Columbia President Kirk and Columbia Trustee Burden resign from IDA's Executive committee;
3. End the ban on indoor demonstrations at Columbia;
4. All future disciplinary action decisions be made by a student-faculty committee;
5. Drop all charges against all people arrested at the gym site; and
6. Amnesty for the IDA 6 and for all the participants in the current sit-in and demonstration.

In retrospect, the Columbia Revolt was really about just winning 3 essential demands: 1. No “Jim Crow” gym be built in Morningside Park; 2. No more ties to IDA; and 3. No criminal or disciplinary reprisals against any revolt or strike participants. The reason why the Columbia Administration chose to eventually call in police to clear the campus on April 30th was that Kirk and Truman were willing to stop gym construction (because they feared Harlem’s mass anger) and to cut Columbia’s ties to IDA (because it related to the unpopular war in Viet Nam), but they were unwilling to give Mark amnesty.

Somehow the U.S. Establishment felt that the national security of the United States and the security of all Ivy League universities would be threatened if Mark were given amnesty in Spring 1968. And because large numbers of students would not end their sit-in unless everybody—including Mark—was granted amnesty, the Columbia Administration never even got to the point where it felt it was realistic to publicly offer every student amnesty, with the exception of Mark. Mark had somehow touched a vital nerve of the U.S. Establishment’s university system with his style of confrontational politics, and this university system now wanted Mark banished from the Ivy League.

Chapter 16: We Shut Down Columbia University, 1968 (ii)-Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories (98)

There was a deeper mood of mass anger and militancy in the first group of demonstrators who we met at W. 116th St. and Morningside Drive. What had happened was that the front of the SDS demonstration that had raced down to the gym site had started ripping down the fence surrounding the construction site. The New York City cop who was guarding the gym site had radioed for reinforcements and, when the additional cops came, they foolishly began shoving around the mostly white male Columbia students.

When the cops tried to arrest a demonstrator, the white Columbia students—both left-liberal and SDS hard-core—instead of just meekly letting the cops take the demonstrator away, tried to prevent the arrest and shoved back at the cops. Although the cops managed to take the Columbia sophomore they had grabbed away—an anti-war guy named Wilson (who was then living with my old roommate Tom in the same Furnald Hall dorm room that I had lived in as a sophomore when I discovered Columbia’s IDA connection)—the gym site demonstrators were enraged. And Columbia Student Afro-American Society activist Bill (who was also involved in the scuffling with the cops) was surprised and emotionally touched by the militant way the anti-racist white student radicals seemed willing to fight back against Columbia’s city cops, in order to protect Harlem’s land.

Mark had correctly realized that it made more sense to bring the mass anger back up to Columbia’s campus quickly, and quickly confront the men who were responsible for both the decision to build the gym and the use of cops—the Columbia Administration—instead of getting trapped in another off-campus brawl with cops—after new police reinforcements arrived to clear the gym site out of demonstrators, totally. He stood up on some point of elevation at the gym site. And, after outlining the tactical options, he supported the mass consensus to return to the campus where, as Mark realized, there were large numbers of additional New Left supporters from the rear of the original march towards Low Library. Mark now showed that he could spontaneously lead and hold together masses of people, when unpredictable obstacles to their mass motion appeared.

Fighting against Columbia’s policies of institutional racism, complicity with the U.S. war machine and repression of student activism was a helluva lot more exciting than sitting in a typical all-male Columbia classroom. And for the first time at Columbia, hundreds of new Columbia and Barnard anti-war students had finally gotten hip to this fact.

The arrested student—Wilson—was a good-natured, bright, tall guy with glasses who, although feeling threatened by the draft, had been more into smoking grass, listening to rock music and hanging out with his hippie-anarchist Columbia and Barnard friends than being that active in Columbia SDS. If the April 23rd demo hadn’t appeared in advance to be the big dramatic confrontational event that it would actually turn out to be, I doubt that Wilson would have made any special effort to be at the demo, despite his New Left sympathies. By singling out Wilson for arrest, instead of somebody who was in the Columbia SDS hard-core, the cops unintentionally further radicalized people. By arresting Wilson, they indicated that any Columbia student who protested against the gym was fair game—no matter how apolitical.

United as one demonstration on W. 116th St. and Amsterdam Ave. again, 500 of us marched back to the sundial and Mark got up on the sundial and started to speak again in a humorous, easygoing way: “The way I see the situation, we've got about four hundred or five hundred people who'll do anything now. On the other hand, I don't know if we've got four hundred or five hundred people who'll do anything tomorrow--but I think you do. I don't think four or five hundred people can close down the university."

Cicero, the Student Afro American Society head, then was asked to speak to the crowd and he said: “SDS can stand on the side and support us, but the black students and the Harlem community will be the ones in the vanguard. Black people alone will decide whether or not they want the gym to be built. It’s not up to you to tell Harlem whether the gym should be built.”

Because Cicero seemed to be equating the white New Left students who opposed the gym construction with the white Columbia Administration that approved the gym construction, the crowd did not cheer his speech and was on the verge of getting demoralized and confused again.

What raised the crowd’s morale again, however, was that Bill rushed to the sundial after Cicero had finished speaking and—luckily for Columbia SDS—Bill praised the white anti-racist students’ militancy, in a revolutionary nationalist rap:

"Okay, I want you to check something out. I thought up until this stage of the game thaat white people weren't ready. But I saw something today that suggests that maybe this is not true. Maybe you are ready. Because when the deal hit the fan, you were there, you were with me. It was almost soulful.

"If you're talking about revolution, if you're talking about identifying with the Vietnamese don't need to go marching downtown. There's one oppressor--in the White House, in Low Library, in Albany, New York. To strike a blow at the gym, you strike a blow for the Vietnamese people. You strike a blow at the gym and you strike a blow against the assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You strike a blow at Low Library and you strike a blow for the freedom fighters in Angola, Mozambique, Portuguese Guinea, and Zimbabwe, South Africa.

"All you need is superior organization and superior commitment so that you're not acting like an incoherent mob. Need I say more? I don't want to get arrested for sedition," Bill said in a spirited way.

The crowd cheered Bill enthusiastically. Most white anti-war Columbia and Barnard students would not have sustained their militant anti-racism without the encouragement of Bill. Black radical activist approval appeared to be psychologically required before the mass of anti-war students would fight against institutional racism at Columbia.

After Bill’s great charismatic and spontaneous speech, Mark then proposed that we march into an administration building at Columbia and take a hostage until Wilson was released by the cops:

"We don't have an incoherent mob, it just looks that way. I'll tell you what we want to do. We want to win some demands about IDA, we want IDA to go. We want the people under discipline to get off of discipline. We want this guy who got busted today to get the charges dropped against him. We want them to stop the fucking gym over there. So I think there's really only one thing we have to do, and we're all together here, we're all ready to go--now! We'll start by holding a hostage.

"There's one part of the administration that's responsible for what happened today--and that's the administration of Columbia College," Mark concluded in an easygoing way.

The demonstration cheered in support of Mark’s proposal that we take a hostage in Hamilton. Then somebody shouted “Seize Hamilton!” and Mark shouted, "Hamilton Hall is right over there. Let's go!"

Instantaneously, demonstrators then started to run at a fast pace to the lobby of Hamilton Hall. Within a few minutes, led by Mark, Bill and Ray, 500 of us were standing in front of the door to the office of Columbia College’s Acting Dean in the first floor lobby, waiting to talk to Acting Dean Coleman.