A half century ago today on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, Wisconsin was the first seriously violent demonstration against the war in Vietnam, which resulted in 76 injuries. It brought a resounding end to the naïve idealism of the "Summer of Love" atmosphere that had gripped Madison and other parts of the country earlier during 1967, the peak year of flower power hippie love movements. A hail of tear gas and billy clubs brought such views to a hard end in Madison on October 18,. 1967.
The protest was not initially violent. Students attempted to block other students from interviewing for jobs with Dow Chemical Company, which manufactured napalm. These interviews were being held in what was then the Commerce building, today Ingraham Hall, which then housed the Business School, now in Grainger Hall. The hallway was narrow and when police came in to break up those blocking the doorway to the interviews, scuffling broke out and some initial violence. As pretesting students left the building, full-scale violence broke out as the police began using tear gas and billy clubbing students. Some observers claim they were provoked to do this by students chanting insults ("pigs") and making Nazi stiff armed salutes at the police, some of whom were WW II vets.
The reaction to this violence by the police against students (in later demos students would fight back and throw objects and so forth, but not that day; it was all one-sided) was major shock by the rest of the campus population, with a 1700 person march to the State Capitol three days later to protest the police actions. A leader of that march was Paul Soglin, now in his third round of serving as mayor of Madison, and rumored to be contemplating a run for governor of the statre.
A recently put together account from six different witnesses/participants of varying views is here. A much more detailed account can be found in the best-selling book by David Maraniss, They Marched into Sunlight. David walked into the demonstration thus personally witnessing it, without having been involved in the effort to block the interviews. His book also tracked events in Washington and Vietnam at that time, with the latter focusing on the ambush that was covered at the end of the fourth episode of the recent Ken Burns documentary on the war. According to Maraniss, this ambush convinced LBJ that winning the war was not possible, although he would not say so publicly then.
My own involvement with the demonstration resembled that of Maraniss. While I had held hawkish views on Vietnam several years earlier, I had become gradually less supportive and more critical as time passed, becoming fully opposed to the war about a year prior to this demonstration after I read histories of French colonial rule in Vietnam that convinced me it was a nationalist cause with the US simply having taken over the role of the French. However, at the time of the Dow demonstration, I was not for blocking students from interviewing for jobs with Dow, so did not participate in the opening part of the demonstration (described in some detail in the link provided above). I walked into it as I was heading for an intermediate macroeconomics class (taught by Peter Lindert, an economic historian still active and now at UC Davis) that was to be in the building across the street from the Commerce building, then called the Social Science Building, now Sewell Hall (ironically named for the liberal sociologist, William H. Sewell, who was then chancellor of the campus and called in the police to the demonstration). The open air violence occurred largely between the two buildings and I had my first taste of tear gas (not my last), although I managed to avoid getting billy clubbed.
This would open up an inevitable divide between me and my conservative and hawkish father, who was Director of the Army Math Research Center that would get bombed on August 24, 1970 by the New Year's Gang, resulting in the death of a physics grad student. My father's office in Sterling Hall was very near where the Dow demo took place, and all enraged and tear gassed I went to his office to complain about the police actions, only to learn that he fully supported them. And so it went.