The end of the turbulent 1960's was more than welcome by the police department. Chief Krasny praised his officers for the way they handled the many protests that engulfed the city during this period. Not only had the 60's brought protests, drugs, riots and anti-police sentiment to the city, but also John Norman Collins and the Co-Ed Murders. Many hoped that the 1970's would bring a close to this turbulence but unfortunately this was not to be.
The sixties were a chaotic time on the University Campus and the early seventies continued where the sixties left off. The war in Vietnam was still ongoing and the hippie movement was full swing. Many of the protestors that found their way to Ann Arbor were not U of M students, but radicals that came to the U of M campus due to the liberal atmosphere.
The first riot of the decade took place on February 18–19, 1970, right in front of the police department. A General Electric recruiter was at the West Engineering building recruiting for potential employees. Since General Electric was a Department of Defense contractor during the Vietnam War, a protest was held in the building and 100 people were expelled.
Later that evening a crowd of 1000 gathered on the Diag to listen to speakers protest the Vietnam War and the campus recruiting of students by companies that made weapons used in it. The speeches were over by 8:30 p.m. and the crowd began marching from the Diag through the university and then to city streets. In the crowd were two undercover Ann Arbor Officers, marching with the crowd, gathering intelligence. Scores of officers patrolled the streets in the hope of breaking up the crowd.
The crowd swelled to over 2000 people and as they marched to city hall they damaged many different buildings with rocks and bottles. Eventually they made their way to city hall, where the police were waiting. Command officers feared the crowd was going to take over city hall as rocks and bottles flew towards the officers. At that point the decision was made that these protestors would not take over the building. Lt. Minick gave a simple order, “get them” and with that the officers charged the crowd. Many of the protestors were on the receiving end of the nightstick swinging officers, who no doubt were frustrated with years of abuse heaped on them by the “hippies.” I have been told that this was the only time where the command officers did not order the officers to “restrain” themselves, when dealing with the protestors.
When the riot was over, 18 people had been arrested, a dozen persons injured, including five officers and the streets were littered with rocks, bricks and broken bottles. Chief Krasny stated, “No one is going to take over this city by violence. These are not playful groups of innocent college students. They're anarchists out to destroy this society. We intend to stop them.”
Many people, including the governor, were disturbed by the riot and the violence that accompanied it. Governor William Milliken commented on the riot stating, “Peaceful dissent ought to be encouraged, but I deplore violence. Eighteen arrests in Ann Arbor would seem to me to be evidence of the degree of violence.”
Because the marchers had targeted city hall, building security was tightened for days. All of the doors leading into city hall, except one, were locked. Manned patrol cars were placed in the parking lot and flood lights were placed around the building.
Chief Krasny also assigned 10 officers to patrol the campus on foot in an effort to “prevent trouble.” He stated the officers were assigned on campus in an effort to attempt to stop “a brewing confrontation” between student radicals and other students who opposed the disruption of classes.
It did not take long for another confrontation to take place between the students, activists and police, after another student march turned violent. On March 19, 1970, over 800 marchers were protesting their dissatisfaction with the university's position on minority enrollment. The rally was called by the Black Action Movement (BAM), whose leaders called for the student and faculty to join them in their continuing protests against university admission policies.
As the crowd gained numbers and marched from Regents Plaza, police were called to monitor the demonstrators as they marched to the Administration Building.
Protestors began smashing out the windows to the building and many of them entered it. They were informed that police were on the way to make arrests and most of them left. The confrontation began to turn ugly when officers arrested one demonstrator and placed her in a patrol vehicle.
Over 200 fellow demonstrators screaming “let her go,” blocked the path of the patrol car as the officer tried to pull out of a driveway near the Michigan Union. Other officers moved in to push the crowd back as the protestors began throwing rocks, bricks and bottles at the officers.
The officers responded in force by charging into the crowd in full riot gear, using their riot batons to clear the way for the patrol vehicle. While able to free the patrol vehicle, officers were not able to disperse the crowd.
Eventually the event was allowed to run its course and the crowd dispersed with no further violence. Many people, including officers, were injured by the rock throwing, although none seriously. A number of patrol cars were heavily damaged with windows being smashed out of them and sugar poured into the gas tanks. Four people were arrested on charges ranging from assault to malicious destruction of property.
Another riot took place on April 22, 1972, as protestors committed $5000 worth of damage to the University's ROTC Building. A group of 2000 marched to the building and 250 entered it, setting fires, smashing furniture and breaking windows. The rioting was done in response to the increased U.S. bombing of North Vietnam.
After leaving the ROTC building, the crowd, now numbering about 800, decided to march down Washtenaw Avenue to U.S. 23, where they were going to stop freeway traffic to “bring the war home to the honkies.”
The marchers reached the expressway where they overflowed into both lanes of highway traffic. Traffic in both the north and southbound lanes was shut down. Chief Krasny requested assistance from the Michigan State Police and Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Harvey commandeered 30 recruit officers that had literally just graduated from the recruit academy, deputized them, some of whom were from other jurisdictions, and led them to the scene.
Ann Arbor Officers, assisted by these rookies, cleared the expressway as the crowd fled from the nightstick wielding officers. The crowd then gathered back onto Washtenaw, where they were eventually dispersed and driven from the area.
In another bizarre protest which occurred during June of 1972, 35 people were arrested for digging craters on the Diag. These craters were dug in a symbolic gesture to simulate bomb holes left by U.S. Forces in Vietnam.
After the arrests the Human Rights Party of Ann Arbor charged that the officers arresting the “dig-in” protestors used excessive force in doing so. This was an all to common theme surrounding these protests.
The Human Rights Party believed the protestors were pushed and shoved to the ground then struck with clubs and shovels. Rainbow People's Party Member David Fenton stated, “People think these were nonviolent arrests, but they weren't.”
Councilman Gerald De Grieck, of the Human Rights Party, blamed city council for the police brutality as, “Council does not take a hand in running the police department. They leave all that to City Administrator Larcom and Chief Krasny.”
Councilwoman Nancy Wechsler, also a Human Rights Party member, was critical of the report on the incident and demanded more questions be answered by Chief Krasny. De Grieck stated he was gathering photos of the arrests, which he said would show police brutality. These acts of brutality were never proved, however.
The student unrest eventually died down with the end of the Vietnam War. Looking back on the turmoil, Ann Arbor Officers exhibited enormous restraint during these very difficult times.