The 1968 riot and takeover on the Columbia University campus is still a rotting sore that ruins the day. The matter drowns in infamy and many wish it soon to be forgotten — much like the student strike of 1932 that took over the campus — but if we hope not to repeat the mistakes of the past, we must remember them, share the facts of the moment, and preserve the truth into the future.
It is interesting that, just as during the campus strike in 1932, the 1968 riot centered on athletics at Columbia university.
I was able to purchase the historic images you see in this article, and I’m sharing them all with you now to help set the definitive timeline of what happened in Morningside Heights in the Spring of 1968 — and why the riot happened, and how Columbia, still to this day, wrestles with the hard matters had at hand half a century later.
Some of the dates and captions may seem off — I offer them to you directly as they appear in situ — no editorializing or changing of the information has occurred.
Some ghosts never die — they remain, haunting you, forever; not from the shadows — but from the bright sunlight of College Walk.
New York: Statue of Alexander Hamilton looms above students outside Hamilton Hall during a protest rally at Columbia University April 24th. Hanging from the balcony are photos of Stokely Carmichael and a Viet Cong flag. Acting dean Harry S. Coleman and two other Columbia officials have been barricaded inside the building since April 23rd. One target of the student sit-ins is the university’s plan to construct a gymnasium in a Harlem park, which Negro students contend will deprive residents of a recreation area.
Is photography a crime? There is a keen website dedicated to answering that question when it comes to recording the public activities of the police — Photography is Not a Crime! — and we need more sites like that one dedicated to freedom and transparency.
I don’t know who it was that told me about the unwritten and unspoken rule of the road — if you saw a police officer sitting and waiting to catch people going quickly in the opposite direction, and you saw people coming in that direction that you were encouraged, if not obligated, to warn the drivers headed toward the speed trap by flashing your headlights a couple of times.
On the television and in movies, the police are not always shown to be the most competent people around. They pine for donuts and can easily be confused when they confront criminals, leading to said criminals getting away. After watching the Police Academy movie series, in which the police were depicted to be nearly entirely incompetent (and yet surprisingly successful when there was a need) I reached the conclusion that the police should not be taken seriously. Fortunately, I have had a good life of positive and less than positive experiences with the real police to know exactly how serious they are.
A man slowly ascends the stairs of a tall building. He has an assault rifle strapped to his back and carries a megaphone in one hand. When he gets to the roof he looks down on the hundreds of people walking down the street and calls for their attention. He watches carefully as they gather around in the street below and when just enough people are listening he lifts the assault rifle in one hand and puts the megaphone to his mouth and says, “Ladies and gentlemen… I own an assault rifle illegally!” Within minutes he is arrested and nobody is surprised. Why then would someone do the online equivalent and provide photographic evidence to the world, including the police that eventually arrested said someone?
We trust the members of civil service to do everything in their power to help and protect us. The firefighters of our communities risk life and limb to put out the most lethal fires. The emergency medical technicians save countless lives, even if at the risk of their own. Of course, the police stop some of the most heinous crimes and put the most vicious murderers and criminals away in jail. We are too familiar with what happens when the police give up on crimes. The problem occurs when the police officer that is put there to protect us ends up being the criminal that needs to be put away.
We are in the crest of a crime spree in New York City and I’m wondering why this is happening now. Is the economy finally so poor and far-reaching that the forgotten and misbegotten are now finally rising up from the streets to take back what was lost in this economic downturn?
A 400 percent increase in murders in tony Williamsburg; a 400 percent increase in rapes in Sheepshead Bay and a 250 percent increase in killings in Washington Heights are all troublesome statistics that have Mayor Michael Bloomberg and police officials concerned.
“We worry every day about trying to make this city safer,” Mayor Bloomberg said Monday.