Night of Bayonets

I've been busy this week with a request from a graduate student in North Carolina for articles in the local paper, the Tallahassee Democrat, from March of 1969, about a demonstration by the Students for a Democratic Society, (SDS).  He had read about it in a book by former FSU president Stanley Marshall, The Tumultuous Sixties: Campus Unrest and Student Life at a Southern University, (Sentry Press, 2006).  I found 10 articles, which I photocopied from the microfilm, scanned, created chronological file names for, and e-mailed to him.

In a nutshell:  the newly hired president Marshall said he wouldn't recognize an FSU chapter of the SDS.  The SDS brought in its national secretary to speak, which led to arrests by the Sheriff's homegrown, rifle and bayonet wielding riot squad.  The SDS protested the arrests, and called for a boycott of classes, which was pretty much ignored.  The Board of Regents confirmed Marshall's decision not to recognize the SDS as an organization at state universities.  Faculty and student parliamentary bodies challenged the decision, which nevertheless stood.  Denied the use of campus meeting space, an open air protest of the Regents' decision by the SDS was poorly attended due to rain.  The action moved to UF at Gainesville, with several FSU radicals involved in events there.

When I came up to FSU in 1974, I would hear how it had been the "Berkeley of the South".  But was it really?  The "Night of Bayonets" involved less than a hundred students, out of many thousands.  David Lee McMullen, a former editor of the student newspaper, the Flambeau, posted a contrarian review of The Tumultuous Sixties at H-Net, Was Florida State Really the "Berkeley of the South" in the 1960s and 1970s?

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