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David Correia ’75 Recalls the Campus Protests of 1970

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Many younger readers probably don’t know that after Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia in the spring of 1970, URI’s Kingston Campus shut down in protest against the Vietnam War.

It was a time of difficult choices. That spring, students had to choose whether to continue to go to classes or to stop attending them in protest of the war—and perhaps suffer the consequences.

It was a very different time and climate. In the 1960s and early 1970s, male college students received draft deferments that they would lose upon graduation or on leaving school. For many young men, that meant welcome to Vietnam.

It wasn’t until after the shootings at Kent State and Jackson State that those students who had been on the fence finally joined the protest. After debating long and hard about how to handle the situation, URI administrators, faculty, and student leaders decided to give students whatever grades they had at the mid-point of the semester. Those of us who had stopped attending classes felt vindicated. It was far easier for me to fall asleep at night.

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Yes, there was a lot going on then. The URI Administration Building was taken over by black students, who had their own issues. They held the building round the clock for a couple days. I was living in Browning Hall at the time when word came that the Administration Building was about to be taken back by the Rhode Island State Police; people were needed to help block the entrances to stop the police action.

About an hour later, I was taken from the URI infirmary to the local hospital for X-rays after getting whacked in the ribs with a police baton. The police went through us peaceniks like a hot knife through melted lobster butter.

My name appeared in the student paper, so I figure there must be a dusty file on me somewhere in the bowels of FBI headquarters. I also became a celebrity to some of the black community on campus.

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The next year I participated in May Day 1971, which was an attempt to stop the government in Washington, D.C., for one day. A few thousand kids vs. the Pentagon and the Washington, D.C., Police Department—guess who prevailed?

It was such a dramatic experience that my Browning roommate, who also attended, packed up his belongings the day after we got back and never returned to URI. He’s a math teacher in New Bedford, Mass., today.

For a look at the more romantic side of David Correia, see “URI Couples In Tune With Each Other,” page 16.

By David Correia ’75

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