U of MD Ignites: 1970
Entering 1970, the University of Maryland had been largely bypassed by the activism of the 1960s. There had been an active Students for a Democratic Society chapter on campus, but no mass demonstrations had been held.

The intensity of activity began to pick up the previous fall when a protest against a university prohibition on housing Vietnam War protesters resulted in four arrests. In mid-March 1970, 100 had picketed a nearby draft board.

The first large-scale protest occurred when two professors, Peter Goldstone and Richard Roeloff, were denied a renewal of their contracts. Several hundred students seized Skinner Hall March 23 for 13 hours before police were called to arrest the demonstrators. Eight-seven were arrested in the early morning hours of March 24.

The Skinner protest continued for several more weeks with brief building seizures and protests against administrative actions and criminal prosecutions.

On May 1, the campus erupted into a series of massive antiwar demonstrations sparked by President Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and the shooting deaths of four students by the National Guard at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4 and two students killed by state police during demonstrations at Jackson State University in Mississippi on May 14.

The National Guard twice suppressed the Maryland demonstrations. Three weeks of mass demonstrations resulted in dozens of arrests, injuries to students, police and National Guardsmen and campus bans against individuals.

In the course of the demonstrations, the Air Force ROTC offices were ransacked, windows broken in more than a few buildings, U.S. Route 1 blockaded numerous times by students and tear gas fired by police into several dormitories and fraternities. A graduate assistant was shot and wounded with buckshot believed to have been fired by Prince George’s County police or deputy sheriffs.

The Administration Building was ransacked and narrowly escaped being burned to the ground. An antiwar professor, Edgar Beall, and several students entered the burning building and put the fire out. Beall, however, did not earn the school’s gratitude as the University fired him in 1978 and the case became a national cause for the American Association of University Professors that was eventually settled out of court.

The National Guard occupation continued until classes were completed, with Guardsmen posted in some classrooms of those taking final exams.

These images were not part of the original Washington Area Spark collection and have been added to give context to the time period. They have been scanned from an original photograph.
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