“War Foes Here Attacked By Construction Workers”

Reference: George Mason University

The New York Times
May 9, 1970

Helmeted construction workers broke up a student antiwar demonstration in Wall Street yesterday, chasing youths through the canyons of the financial district in a wild noontime melee that left about 70 persons injured.

The workers then stormed City Hall, cowing policemen and forcing officials to raise the American flag to full staff from half staff, where it had been placed in mourning for the four students killed at Kent State University on Monday.

At nearby Pace College a group of construction workers who said they had been pelted with missiles by students from the roof, twice invaded a building, smashing windows with clubs and crowbars and beating up students.

Earlier the workers ripped a Red Cross banner from the gates of Trinity Church and tried to tear down the flag of the Episcopal Church.

“This is senseless,” said the Rev. Dr. John Vernon Butler, rector of Trinity parish. “I suppose they thought it was a Vietcong flag.”

Twice Father Butler ordered the gates closed against menacing construction workers.

Inside the church, doctors and nurses from the New York University Medical Center had set up a first-aid station, treating 40 to 60 youths who had been beaten by the workers.

The Mayor issued a statement saying that “a mob came perilously close to overwhelming the police guard at City Hall.”

He added his “deep regrets” that the day of memory for the four students killed by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent had been defiled by violence.

The police said that six persons had been arrested and that 19 persons, including four patrolmen, had been injured. However, Beekman-Downtown Hospital alone reported that 23 persons had been brought by ambulance from the Wall Street area suffering from cuts and bruises, none of them serious.

Fighting Erupts
It was about five minutes to noon when Wall Street suddenly erupted in a melee of fist-fighting that entrapped thousands of employees headed for lunch.

Starting at 7:30 am, hundreds of youths, mostly from New York University and others from Hunter College and city high schools, gathered at Broad and Wall Streets in a demonstration demanding the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam and Cambodia, the immediate release of all “political prisoners in America” and the cessation of military-oriented work by the universities.

All accounts agree that the demonstration was without violence until the construction workers reached the scene.

The construction workers, most of them wearing brown overalls and orange and yellow hard hats, descended on Wall Street from four directions. A thin line of policemen had blocked off the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial at Nassau and Wall Streets, from about a thousand students who were sitting on the sidewalk and pavement listening to speakers denounce the war abroad and repression at home.

The morning was chilly, with a light rain. But toward noon the sky lightened and the day became warm and humid. The students were in a good humor; they cheered a Broad Street lawyer, Charles F. Appel, 56 years old, who told the youths: “You brought down one President and you’ll bring down another.”

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