Time Machine

When Coe students protested the Vietnam War in downtown Cedar Rapids

Coe College students begin a general strike on the Cedar Rapids campus May 5, 1970, to protest the war in Vietnam and th
Coe College students begin a general strike on the Cedar Rapids campus May 5, 1970, to protest the war in Vietnam and the killing of four Kent State University student protesters on May 4. (The History Center)
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Fifty years ago, Coe College students called a general strike on May 5, 1970, to protest the U.S. military presence in Cambodia and the shooting deaths of four Kent State University students who were protesting in Ohio.

For the first several days, students skipped classes and gathered for speeches about the issues surrounding the Vietnam War. By May 13, they had started a 48-hour sit-in and fast in front of Guaranty Bank, where the Linn County draft board had its office.

The protest was peaceful, but some criticized the students for blocking sidewalks and traffic, as well as for their clothing and long hair. Other local residents brought the protesters coffee, cigarettes and blankets.

Terri Thompson, one of the protesters, wrote The Gazette, thanking the policemen who helped the group ensure the protest remained peaceful.

At the end of the sit-in, the students returned to campus and a big meal. Leo Nussbaum, the college’s acting president, praised their tough-mindedness, saying, “I commend you. I welcome you. Peace.”

Tara Templeman is curator at The History Center. Comments: curator@historycenter.org

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