College Protest polarizes the Nation
The Dow Demonstrations Polarize the University Community in Wisconsin, 1967
The faculty of the University of Wisconsin, said to run the place, has given the new Chancellor, William H. Sewell, a vote of confidence for the way he handled the peaceable student demonstration here. Sewell brought the Madison police riot squad onto campus to disperse 200 people sitting down outside a room where Dow Chemical Company representatives were holding job interviews. Dow makes napalm used by our forces in Vietnam.
Instead of clearing the building, the police clubbed, stomped and tear gassed those inside, as well as 1,500 students standing outside. . . .
On the morning of October 18, the demonstrators had proceeded in rag-tag formation to the Commerce Building, a few blocks from where the Dow men were conducting their interviews. The demonstration had an altogether festive air; reporters and cameramen clogged the entranceway to Commerce. The demonstrators had to push their way in. Finally some 200 got inside, solidly packing every bit of space on the main floor. During the morning Ralph Hansen, the campus police chief, called Chancellor Sewell and told him his force couldn't handle the demonstrators; Sewell told him to go ahead and call in the city police. Larry Silver, a graduate student in the Law School was inside the Commerce Building and reports what happened next:
"Approximately at 12:30 Chief Hansen asked to see some of the leaders of the demonstration. He knew them by name. He talked to them and they said over a loudspeaker there was going to be a deal: If Dow would leave, the demonstrators would leave. Everyone cheered with approval . . . the protest leaders then left to get confirmation of this offer from Chancellor Sewell. They returned; they announced that their meeting with the chancellor did not produce this result and that Dow would not leave. At this point Chief Hansen took the loudspeaker and ad- dressed the noisy demonstrators: This is an unlawful assembly. If you wish to avoid arrest, leave now. The halls were so packed that there was no possibility of emptying them in less than 10 minutes. Within one minute of Chief Hansen's arrest warnings, at least 20 riot police, helmeted, with clubs swinging, charged the crowd. I could see several assaulted protestors failing. As they fell, police continued to beat them. . . . There was immediate panic among the protestors; there was no place to go; they were forced to face the police lines. When people tried to leave voluntarily, they were clubbed, tripped and clubbed some more. . . . [A girl] wanted to get out. She tried to get up, but the police clubbed her to the floor with blows to the head and shoulders. At this point of the pandemonium, I was pushed back by the crowd which was trying to avoid the riot police. . . .
While this [faculty meeting the next day] was going on, Republicans who run the state legislature had whipped themselves into a frenzy. They thought Sewell was too lenient; a committee was set up to get the facts; it subpoenaed students to get the names of others. One representative suggested that future demonstrators deserved to be shot; others wanted the FBI to help find the students who had cut down an American flag from atop Bascom Hall. Among both the faculty and legislators there is a growing conviction that the demonstration was part of a conspiracy masterminded by Students for a Democratic Society and the Du Bois Clubs. The only trouble with this theory is that people who have tried to find the local Du Bois Club chapter can't find it; and SDS was against the demonstration because its members, who at the hard core number perhaps 25, felt the protest did not reach to substantive issues . . . .