In Minnesota, there were demonstrations and student strikes, with majorities of students walking out of class, at all the major campuses.
Even some high school students joined in the student strikes, and on Friday, May 8, some 30 grade school kids from Pratt Elementary in Minneapolis near the University of Minnesota got in on the act. According to an account in the Minneapolis Star, the group of children left class in the morning, wearing red STRIKE armbands, chanting “One, two three, four…Stop the Damned War!” while marching down University Avenue. A 12-year-old was quoted, “We want to show that students have a united front to want to get out of Cambodia and all of Asia.”
(In 1970, the Minneapolis Star and the Minneapolis Tribune were separate daily newspapers owned by the same company. The Star published evenings, Monday-Saturday, and the Tribune published mornings including Sunday. Most of the information presented here comes from those publications.)
For the most part, the protests remained fairly low-key and non-violent, but there were signs that something was bubbling up just below the surface. At Mankato State University, located in southern Minnesota, an Army recruiter’s car was set on fire and a main intersection was blocked in a melee involving some 300-400 students. In St. Cloud, located in the west-central part of the state, students from St. Benedict’s College and St. John’s University joined St. Cloud State students in blocking traffic and disarming a police officer.
At the state’s biggest college, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, the biggest demonstrations were taking place. But on the other side of the U of M campus, a fast-food hamburger restaurant was at the center of some especially intense protests.
Said Richard Held of the local FBI office, the explosive was “very well placed” to cause maximum damage, “either by accident or design.”
There was a military induction center in the building, where some 200-250 persons a day from Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin received draft examinations and were sworn into the military, making it a red hot target for the more radical elements of the anti-war movement. However it was the Internal Revenue Service office that sustained most of the damage, while the Selective Service office suffered little if any from the blast.
The blast happened about two minutes before 3 a.m. on that Monday morning, resulting in minor injuries for a night security guard, the building’s only occupant. The guard happened to have just checked the entrance where the blast occurred moments before. U. S. Marshal Harry Berglund told the Tribune that it was “incredible” that the security guard wasn’t more seriously injured, considering the impact of the explosion, noting that shock waves bounced off the three feet thick granite walls. He speculated that such a blast would have caused substantially more damage at the new federal building about three blocks away.
After much consideration, officials decided to stop the game at 9:15 and clear the stands while police searched for the bomb. The crowd of 17,697 exited the stands calmly, with no pushing, shoving or panic to speak of. The majority went to the parking lot, as was the intention of Twins officials and police, but around 3,000 fans went out onto the ball field, mingling with players from both sides, shaking hands and collecting autographs.
Stadium manager Bill Williams commented to a Minneapolis Star reporter, “I don’t know who let the fans on the playing field, but everyone should have left the park.”
Twins owner Calvin Griffith went to the dugout to inform team manager Bill Rigney of the threat situation and quickly left. The crew from WHDH-TV, broadcasting the game for viewers in Boston, left cameras trained on the field, then evacuated the press box area.
Meanwhile, there was quite a festive atmosphere out on the field as police searched the stands for a bomb that could explode at any moment. Bases were loaded with fans who had the chance to meet their heroes and have fun in a time when baseball players were still regular guys and not prima donnas with multi-million dollar contracts, and security was far less sophisticated.
Red Sox coach Eddie Popowski commented to the Minneapolis Tribune, “I’ve been in baseball forty years. First time I ever saw this. What’s this country coming to?” The fans, on the other hand, didn’t take it too seriously and many of them, especially the kids, were having the time of their lives.
Eight-year-old Andy Murphy got to meet both Twins star Tony Oliva and Red Sox slugger Carl Yastrzemski. “I didn’t mind the delay a bit,” the young fan told the Tribune. He did admit, however, that he was “kinda scared for a while.” Other young fans described the event as “neat” and boasted of not being scared at all.
The vendors followed the fans out on to the field and did brisk business selling peanuts, popcorn, beer and soda-pop during the bomb scare. One vendor quickly sold two cases of beer to fans at second base, while another commented to the Minneapolis Star, “I could have sold ten cases of beer,” but the cooler was locked up. “Everything was selling fast.” Vendor C. E. Gerold emptied his one case of Grain Belt to thirsty fans at first base in minutes, wishing he had been standing outside the wholesale stand at the moment the delay was called, as he would have then had access to more cases.
Players, along with fans, took it all in stride. Twins catcher George Mitterwald joked with teammate Danny Thompson that the game would probably be cancelled and Thompson would lose credit for his two hits.
The clock passed 9:30. There was no explosion, but police continued the search. One fan out in the parking lot jokingly yelled “Play Ball!” when the deadline passed, to a few chuckles.
At around 9:50, with no bomb found, the all-clear was given, fans returned to the stands and the game resumed after a 43-minute delay. Through the whole ordeal there was only one injury reported. A 12-year-old boy received a cut above his lip when he ran into a steel post while chasing a friend.
At 11:45 another threat was called in from someone claiming to be from Western Union with a message that a bomb would go off but this time officials wrote it off as a crank and the game continued. The only real incident came in the eighth inning as Boston’s Tony Conigliaro hit a two-out home run, resulting in a 1-0 Twins loss.
‘Come to Minneapolis and Live Dangerously’
“My answer to all of those questions has to be a loud ‘No,’ he said. “The bomber, the barbarian, the demagogue playing with malice has no more place in our campus councils than a cobra disguised as a household pet…The amiable gentility of the community of scholars no longer prevails. The tonalities of faculty address carry the same harsh and strident overtones as those within other segments of the academic community…Student government is in a state of tumbling decline…”
On that same day, Richard G. Held, head of the Minneapolis division of the FBI, said in a luncheon speech to the Kiwanis Club at the Pick-Nicollet Hotel that police in the Twin Cities received an average of 200 telephoned bomb threats a day over a two-month period during the past summer, according to the Tribune, peaking from mid-July to mid-September. The police were obliged to respond to every one of them. Held said that police had not revealed the figures earlier, hoping to discourage even more threats. He said the bomb threats were a revolutionary tactic designed to tax police manpower.
“The revolution is here,” Held said. “It’s not coming, it’s here. There are people in our own community whose ultimate aim is to tear down the form of society that you gentlemen represent.”
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“War protesters plan ‘U’ to Capitol march,” Minneapolis Star, May 6, 1970
“Protests at colleges in state grow” by Deborah Howell, Minneapolis Star, May 6, 1970
“State campus protests low-key,” Minneapolis Star, May 6, 1970
“‘Barn’ foes ousted, buildings razed” by John Greenwald, Minneapolis Star, May 6, 1970
“Car smashes Red Barn on other side of campus,” Minneapolis Star, May 6, 1970
“Red Barn Occupation Ends as Police Move In; Dinkytown Buildings Razed,” by Molly Ivins, Minneapolis Tribune, May 7, 1970
“Barn official has ’second thoughts,’ ” by John Greenwald, Minneapolis Star, May 8, 1970
Red Barn Magic Record, Featuring the Red Barn Hungries, Red Barn Systems, Inc. 1970
“Joining the Ranks” (Pratt Elementary students join forces with Dinkytown war protesters), Minneapolis Star, May 8, 1970
“Blast Damages Put at $500,000; Federal Offices Are Dynamited, Minneapolis Tribune, August 18, 1970
“St. Paul Dayton’s Bombed; More Dynamite Is Found” by Dennis Cassano and Howard Erickson, Minneapolis Tribune, August 23, 1970
“More security at Met studied” by Dan Stoneking, Minneapolis Star, August 26, 1970
“Twins’ Feet Turn to Clay” by Dan Stoneking, Minneapolis Star, August 26, 1970
“Map leads police to buried dynamite in NE. Minneapolis,” Minneapolis Star, August 26, 1970
“Conigliaro Sinks Twins; Bomb Threat Delays 1-0 Game” by Tom Briere, Minneapolis Tribune, August 26, 1970
“Bomb threats empty buildings,” Minneapolis Star, August 26, 1970
“Bomb Calls Clear Stadium, 7 Buildings,” Minneapolis Tribune, August 26, 1970
“2 Accused of Bomb Threats; Officials Tighten Security,” Minneapolis Tribune, August 28, 1970
“‘Minnesota 8’ Criticize Bomb-Blame Assumptions,” Minneapolis Tribune, August 28, 1970
“Birch Society Member Calls Bombings Red Terror Plot,” Minneapolis Tribune, August 28, 1970
“U.S. to Help Police Curb Bombings” by Frank Wright, Minneapolis Tribune, September 2, 1970
“Police Say Bomb-Scare Rise Likely” by Greg Pinney, Minneapolis Tribune, September 2, 1970
“Three Explosions Hit St. Paul Sites,” Minneapolis Tribune, September 2, 1970
“15-Year-Old Charged With Dayton’s Blast” by Bob Lundegaard, Minneapolis Tribune, September 9, 1970
“Bomb? Don’t mention it—City mood short fused” by Jim Klobuchar, Minneapolis Star, August 27, 1970
“Victim is the unnamed St. Paul bomb suspect” by Paul Presbrey, Minneapolis Star, September 2, 1970
“Psychologists say bombers likely seek to disrupt society” by Gordon Slovet, Minneapolis Star, September 2, 1970
“Bomb Threats in 6 Hotels—Holiday Inn Evacuated” Minneapolis Star, September 7, 1970
“Blast Kills Unidentified Man” Minneapolis Tribune, September 7, 1970
“Police identify blast victim, 19” by Stephen Hartgen, Minneapolis Star, September 17, 1970
“Ramsey County Grand Jury Indicts Gary Hogan in Dayton Bombing” Minneapolis Star, September 17, 1970
“Rodney Dahlberg Sentenced for Threat to Bomb Service Station,” Minneapolis Star, September 18, 1970
“Blast Victim Lived in House Panthers Rented” by Dennis Cassano, Minneapolis Tribune, September 22, 1970
“Dynamite Is Found in Restaurant” Minneapolis Tribune, September 11, 1970
“Police Seeking Two Brothers in Probe of Fatal Explosion” Minneapolis Tribune, September 11, 1970
“5 Accused in Bomb Plot on Mantorville Building” Minneapolis Tribune, September 11, 1970
“Bomb Taken From Charlie’s” Minneapolis Tribune, September 12, 1970
“500-600 LBS of Dynamite Found in Car at 3209 Humboldt,” Minneapolis Tribune, November 9, 1970
“Police Probed 200 Bomb Treats a Day” by Bob Lundegaard, Minneapolis Tribune, December 9, 1970
“Moos Predicts More Strife on ‘U’ Campus” By Brian Anderson, Minneapolis Tribune, December 9, 1970
Minneapolis Star and Minneapolis Tribune Index, 1970, 1971
Take me out to the ballgame…
On the balmy summer night of Tuesday, August 25, 1970, a crowd of 17,697 filled the stands of Metropolitan Stadium in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington as the Boston Red Sox were in town playing the Minnesota Twins in Major League Baseball action.
With no score in the fourth inning, the big Longines clock above the scoreboard reading 9:15, stadium announcer Bob Casey suddenly came over the loudspeakers, and informed the crowd, “The Twins have been advised by the Bloomington police that there will be an explosion here at the Met at 9:30. Please leave the stadium in an orderly fashion.”
The simmering spring turned into a sizzling summer. Then in August, things boiled over. On August 1, an estimated four or five sticks of dynamite detonated in a 20-gallon drum at the T.J. Eich used car lot on Central Avenue NE in Minneapolis at 3 a.m., damaging a small frame building on the lot.
The incident looked like a simple case of hooliganism, but things looked a whole lot more serious in the early-morning hours of August 17 when a blast of up to 24 sticks of dynamite went off under the steps of the Old Federal Building on Third Street and Washington Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, built in 1911, demolishing a section of the historic granite structure and causing an estimated $500,000 worth of damage. According to the Minneapolis Tribune, chunks of granite up to 300 pounds were hurled into the street from the explosion, with smaller pieces traveling up to 450 feet. Nearby buildings suffered extensive window damage from the blast, including the Pick-Nicollet hotel a quarter-mile away.
The blast also damaged Mrs. Mosby’s car, parked on the street, smashing all the windows and severely denting the entire right side of the vehicle. The explosion was powerful enough to cause damage to homes within a four-block area, according to news reports.
The only victim was the man carrying the explosives, but the questions remained, who and why. He couldn’t easily be identified because, according to Deputy Police Chief Gordon Johnson, “We have damn little to identify.”
Some ten days later the victim was confirmed to be 19-year-old James W. Lawson, Jr., a 1968 graduate of Washburn High School, who was alleged to have had ties to the Black Panther Party, having been found to have lived for several months in a home occupied by Panthers in Des Moines, Iowa. But it remained a mystery where he was going and why he had the explosives. Minneapolis police said they were unaware of any Black Panther chapters in the Twin Cities.
Later that Sunday, in an unrelated incident, a DFL (Democratic Farm-Labor) primary candidate for First District Congress named B. A. Lundeen of Dover, MN was arrested for carrying a stick of dynamite into the studios of KSTP-TV on University Avenue, where he was trying to get on an interview program. A station official refused to have him on the show, and called police. Lundeen said he was “trying to demonstrate how simple it is to obtain dynamite and walk into buildings with it,” according to the Tribune.
Meanwhile, on that same afternoon, the studios of WCCO-TV in downtown Minneapolis as well as a Snyder Bros. drugstore in the Glenwood Shopping Center were evacuated due to phoned-in bomb threats. No bombs were found in either location.
The next morning, on Monday September 7, multiple bomb threats were phoned in to six downtown Minneapolis hotels—the Andrews, the Dyckman, the Sheraton-Ritz, the Curtis, the Leamington, and the Holiday Inn Central. According to that day’s edition of the Minneapolis Star, “The Holiday Inn was evacuated when police found two packages in a back stairwell. The packages, officers discovered later, contained empty beer bottles. The other five hotels did not evacuate.”
TERROR ALERT: 1970
The Strange Summer of Bomb Threats in Minnesota
© 2017 by JEFF R. LONTO
There was plenty of reason to take the threat seriously. Just a few days earlier a small bomb left in the wastebasket in a restroom at the downtown St. Paul Dayton’s department store exploded, seriously injuring a woman and causing structural damage. A few days before that, the downtown Minneapolis federal building was heavily damaged in an overnight bomb blast. Meanwhile, bomb threats were becoming a daily occurrence in the Twin Cities and across the country. An explosion in a crowded stadium could have been catastrophic.
The sources of these bomb threats were not fundamentalists from other countries, but fellow citizens, some with political or personal axes to grind, many more from the mentally ill and the attention seeking. It was a crazy, turbulent time, even in the so-called flyover country of the Midwest.
A Simmering Springtime
Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, MN,
August 25, 1970.
In the aftermath of the big night of bomb threats, Minneapolis Star columnist Jim Klobuchar surveyed the mood of people out and about in downtown Minneapolis, where there was a noticeable increase in security due to the bomb threats and because of a Women’s Liberation demonstration going on, in an article that appeared on the front page of the evening newspaper on August 27, 1970, under the headline, “Bomb? Don’t mention it—City mood short-fused.”
“Imagine. Come to Minneapolis and live dangerously. Who would have thought it?” said Mrs. Ann Meldahl, a downtown shopper who Klobuchar described as a “suburban matron.”
As 1970 drew to a close, officials were not too optimistic that things would calm down anytime soon. On December 8, Malcolm Moos, University of Minnesota president, spoke at the College of St. Catherine. “The calm of fall, 1970, seems transient to me,” he said, according to the Minneapolis Tribune. He said he had been asked “a thousand times” since school started if the situation was calmer, if students had turned inward, if the worst was over.
On August 25, the night of the bomb scare at the Minnesota Twins baseball game at Metropolitan Stadium, a rash of threats were called in to numerous Twin Cities businesses and buildings, including an apartment complex, a nursing home, the Foshay Tower, the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Building, the Bureau of Engraving, the Minneapolis Public Library downtown branch, a Donaldson’s department store in downtown Minneapolis, the Univac plant in St. Paul, the Grain Belt brewery, and the studios of WCCO-TV, among other places. No actual bombs were found, although several of the buildings were evacuated.
Back at Met Stadium on that hot August night, an anonymous caller phoned Bloomington police at 8:30 p.m., informing them that a bomb will go off in the ballpark at 9:30. The call was traced to a pay phone on the first deck of the stadium.
Three days later, on September 10, a man left a suitcase with a waitress at Hans Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis at about 10:30 p.m., asking her to watch over it for a while. The waitress jokingly asked if it was dangerous. The man assured her it wasn’t, and that it was “just clothes.” The Minneapolis Tribune reported the next morning, “She placed the suitcase in an adjoining dining room. A short time later, she said, customers were alarmed by a muffled bang from the dining room.
“She called police, who ordered the restaurant evacuated and who sped the suspicious valise to [an] open field. Streets were closed off along the route to the field. Bomb squad officers said the bag contained four to six sticks of dynamite, containing half a pound each.”
The bomb was transported in a specially equipped truck to an open field in Northeast Minneapolis and was exploded at 12:30 a.m., just fifteen minutes before it was set to go off by a timing device, according to a bomb squad officer.
The next night, another briefcase bomb was discovered at another downtown Minneapolis restaurant, Charlie’s Café Exceptionale. The briefcase had been left at a checking counter at about 10 p.m. The bomb inside was found to have contained 20 half-pound sticks of dynamite, and was exploded in the same Northeast Minneapolis field as the one from the previous night. The restaurant was filled with about 400 diners, according to the Tribune, when employees calmly told the guests there was a bomb threat and asked them to leave.
Most thought it was just that, a threat, and calmly waited across the street, “chatting and joking, until authorities came out with the briefcase. ‘They found one! They found one!’ someone shouted, and the diners began fleeing to a safer distance,” the Tribune reported. Few returned to the restaurant after the evacuation.
The threats weren’t just happening in the Twin Cities. On the same day the Tribune reported on the first restaurant bomb threat, the paper also reported that five young people were accused of plotting to blow up the Dodge County courthouse in the southern Minnesota town of Mantorville.
For a while there seemed to be a break in the bomb threats as cooler weather set in. But then on November 9, 1970, the Minneapolis Tribune reported that about 500-600 sticks of dynamite were found in the trunk of a 1961 white Cadillac parked in front of a home on the 3200 block of Humboldt Avenue South in Minneapolis on an early Sunday morning. According to the report, the car had been sought by police since an incident the previous Friday when narcotics and a live hand grenade were found at a house a few blocks away on 22nd and Fremont Avenue South.
According to the newspaper account, “At 1:45 a.m. police with loudspeakers asked residents to leave the area. Officers went to the doors of some homes to convey the message. About an hour later, the bomb had been transported in a special truck for carrying explosives, and the persons were told they could return to their homes.
“Although police requested residents to get away from [the] vicinity, many residents gathered on the street corners to watch the activities.”
‘The Revolution is not coming. It’s here.’
Destruction at Twin Cites area Red Barns
Red Barn newspaper ad from 1970.
The year 1970 was a cultural crossroads in the United States. The population was becoming more war-weary as the nation’s involvement in the Vietnam War continued on with no end in sight. The young male population was subject to the draft, and many of them were coming home from the war with permanent injuries and a host of other physical and psychological problems, and the weekly death toll was becoming close to astronomical. Meanwhile, anti-war protests on college campuses and elsewhere were becoming more frequent and oftentimes more intense, culminating with the killing of four protesting students by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. Richard Nixon was President of the United States and Spiro Agnew was Vice-President, two men who represented The Establishment in the worst way in the eyes of much of the young adult population.
The week of the Kent State shootings happened to be a week of protests across the country at college campuses and other places against U.S. military policy in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam and Cambodia, where the war had recently escalated, and the Kent State shootings added to the tension.
Five days later, on Saturday, August 22, a single two-pound stick of dynamite exploded in a metal wastebasket in the women’s rest room of a Dayton’s department store in downtown St. Paul, at 5:10 p.m. on a Saturday, less than an hour before the store was to close for the day. Store customer Mary Peek, a 48-year-old woman from St. Paul Park, had the misfortune of being the only person in the rest room when the explosion happened. She was seriously injured by metal fragments from the wastebasket in her leg and abdomen. The room was filled with smoke as two men went in and carried her out, and a store employee called police. She was taken to St. Paul-Ramsey Hospital, where she was described as being in critical condition.
The incidents continued. On a rainy, early Sunday morning of September 6, at around 3 a.m., a man literally blew himself to bits while carrying some twenty pounds of plastic explosives that had accidentally detonated, on the 2000 block of Fifth Avenue South in Minneapolis. The blast seriously damaged the house he happened to be walking past, demolishing a front porch and blowing fragments of wood and glass through a first floor window.
“I thought it was a hard clap of thunder. Then I heard my kids screaming,” resident Sophia Mosby told the Minneapolis Tribune. Debris flew over the head of her 16-year-old son, who escaped injury. A daughter and grandchild sleeping upstairs were also unhurt.
John Colonna, the 24-year-old Dayton’s employee who called police, told a Minneapolis Tribune reporter that he was standing about fifty feet from a lobby adjacent to the rest room when the explosion occurred. “I didn’t even think it was an explosion. I thought somebody tipped something over…It sounded like a display case tipping over. It sounded like a loud clap.” Around half a dozen people were in the adjacent lobby, the Tribune reported, but none were injured.
Then at 7:05 p.m., after the store closed, a large leather satchel was found in that lobby, about 20 feet from the rest room, containing ten two-pound sticks of dynamite, each wired to a cap and an alarm clock timing device set to go off 25 minutes later. An Army bomb crew dismantled the device immediately, the Tribune reported.
It was speculated that the first device was used to draw as many law enforcement officers to the rest room as possible, only to be victims of the much larger second blast, had it happened.
Ten days later, the Tribune reported there were three separate explosions hitting sites over in St. Paul. According to the report, the biggest explosion was from a bomb inside a loading dock at the Burlington-Northern Railroad building on East Fifth Street, damaging a freight elevator and metal staircase, injuring one man.
There had been an earlier blast under the Second Street viaduct, between Wabasha and Robert streets, injuring a pedestrian, and some pipes were damaged in a small explosion at a Gulf Oil Company storage yard on Fairview Avenue.
In that incident, 15-year-old Gary Hogan, described in the Tribune as a “bespectacled youth,” was injured at the site of one of the explosions and was taken to St. Paul-Ramsey hospital, where he was questioned by police and FBI agents. He soon became a suspect in the Dayton’s store blast and was arrested. Eventually, he was tried as an adult, and after jury deliberations that lasted a week, was convicted in 1971 of arson and attempted murder, and sentenced to twenty years at the penitentiary in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
In the wake of the explosions came numerous bomb threats every day for weeks, most of them phoned into Twin Cities area businesses and police departments, resulting in what would ultimately be needless evacuations and extensions of law enforcement manpower.
Many of the threats, interestingly, were phoned in by women. Among the incidents reported by Minneapolis newspapers, 51-year-old Mrs. Blanche V. Scribner plead guilty to a charge of telling police a bomb would go off at Stillwater State Prison, while 29-year-old Maebelle Bowens plead not guilty in connection to a bombing attempt on the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company downtown Minneapolis offices. 24-year-old Louise Hoff called St. Paul police, telling them their headquarters would be bombed. She was charged with drunkenness in addition to making a telephone threat. Mrs. Adrian Speer, age 37 and a resident of The Towers apartment complex, called Northwestern Bell Telephone Company and told them a bomb had been planted on the 24th floor of the complex. The telephone company “locked in” and police were able to trace the call to her 23rd floor dwelling in the same building.
In other incidents, 33-year-old Richard C. Larson was charged with threatening the Anderson Window Corp. plant in the suburb of Bayport, leading to an evacuation of the factory. Paper-Calmerson & Company of Roseville was evacuated twice in one day due to phoned-in bomb threats, the first occurring during the night shift, with about fifty people working, the second during the day shift with about 500 people working. And police in the suburb of Brooklyn Park received a phoned-in threat against a Standard Oil service station in that city by a nearby resident with a history of mental illness. The 23-year-old man soon decided to “come clean” about making the threat after watching a Billy Graham Crusade on television.
Meanwhile at the ol’ ballgame
Students had been occupying buildings on a block along Southeast Fourth Street in Dinkytown, a commercial district near the campus, that were slated for demolition so a Red Barn outlet could be built. The site had been occupied since April 1, when it was announced that the franchise would be built in that location.
Red Barn was a nationally-franchised fast food chain with restaurants that looked like red barns and featured hamburgers, chicken and french fries, catering to kids and families with advertising featuring Muppet-type characters and the slogan, “When the hungries hit…hit the Red Barn.” There was already a Red Barn outlet near campus on Southeast Oak Street.
In the early morning hours of May 6, about five weeks after the occupation began, police decided to bring an end to it for once and for all. Occupiers had been tipped off that there would be a raid and were ready for confrontation. Beginning with a helicopter circling overhead at 3:45 a.m., law enforcement from Minneapolis and Hennepin County swooped in wearing full riot gear, forcefully removing some forty protesters occupying the site. The buildings were bulldozed immediately afterward to prevent any further unauthorized occupation. A total of 27 were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly in the confrontation.
Hours later, two Red Barn restaurants in the area were attacked by vandals in retaliation. Front and side windows were smashed by thrown rocks at a Red Barn on East Lake Street in Minneapolis, and a car was driven through the front windows of the Red Barn on Oak Street, although the driver, who called himself “a student of life,” claimed he did it to avoid hitting a pedestrian.
As a hot, sweltering summer rolled in, tensions mounted. Mainstream public opinion was turning against U.S. action in Southeast Asia and anti-war youths seized the opportunity. STOP signs in neighborhoods throughout Minneapolis were spray-painted to read STOP WAR and the circular “peace” symbol was drawn, painted or etched on any available surface. At the same time, the raised fist became the fight symbol for the movement.
August Blows Up
She added, “The only suspense I ever had before shopping in the Minneapolis loop was whether I was going to break my neck walking on the Nicollet Mall.”
An official from the Bureau of Engraving, a private printing company that had been one of the bomb threat targets, said, “All we do is print. Somebody must have been going through the telephone book and came to this bureau. They must have figured we were connected with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the CIA or some outfit like that. We don’t know anything about making money and we have nothing to do with the draft.”
Said a clerk at Donaldson’s department store, somewhat in jest, “I was almost afraid to hit the no-charge key first thing this morning because no telling what’s going to come out of the cash register.”
The next morning, the Minneapolis Tribune reported, “A check made Thursday afternoon revealed that about 400 bomb threats have been reported in the Twin Cities since Aug. 17, the day the old Federal Building was bombed. Minneapolis police said that about 30 threats a day have been made in the past 11 days. St. Paul police said that about 50 to 100 threats have been made in their city.”
The article went on to report that it wasn’t just the cities, but the suburbs as well receiving bomb threats. Coon Rapids police said there were three bomb threats on just the previous day. In Maplewood, the police chief reported there were five threats, all of which happened the day after the Met Stadium evacuation. In Columbia Heights, the police chief said there had only been one bomb threat, adding, “but then, school doesn’t start until Monday.”
Meanwhile, fingers of blame were pointing in all directions, as demonstrated in three separate articles in that same edition of the Tribune, from August 28, 1970. Francis X. Kroncke, spokesman for the Minnesota 8, a group of students charged with attempted sabotage in raids on three draft offices, challenged the notion by the “police and press” that so-called student radicals were responsible for bomb threats, at a news conference.
“We would like to suggest that the bombings might be acts of right-wing elements or paramilitary groups,” he charged, saying that those groups might be attempting to discredit radicals in much the same manner as “bosses supported bombings and other acts of terrorism to discredit unions in their early history,” according to the newspaper article.
He said conservative groups “readily accept the 50,000 dead Americans in Vietnam, and a few dead citizens for the sake of publicity against the radical community is not above their sense of brutality.” He conceded that some members of the militant left might be responsible for some of the bombings but if they were, they were driven to it “after years of non-violent protest.”
In an article placed next to that one in the Tribune, a member of the right-wing John Birch Society, at his own news conference, said the bombings were “the result of a coordinated communist plan of terror,” and charged that the civil rights and peace movements “are now run completely by the Communist Party” and that it was “a prelude to attempts to overthrow the government.”
In yet another theory, in the same paper, Darrel Myers, Socialist Workers Party candidate for Fifth District congressman, blamed the “ruling class” for the bombings and threats, adding that other candidates for the congressional seat “have kept silent about the 20,000 planeloads of bombs dropped monthly” on Vietnam and Cambodia.
As the calendar changed over to September, the chaos was far from over. On September 2, 1970, the Tribune quoted patrolman John Frazer, a member of the Minneapolis police bomb squad, to a group of downtown businessmen, “This is a national trend that is increasing by the month and we’re just beginning.” He pointed out that New York City had a total of 3,000 bomb threats in 1969, but in the first five months of 1970 there were 5,700 threats. “We’ve always been a year or a year and a half behind the East and West Coasts,” the policeman said.
Meanwhile, two psychologists gave their opinions about all the bombings and bomb threats to Minneapolis Star reporter Gordon Slovut. “The bombers want to ‘disrupt’ society with the bombings and a ‘believable’ number of fake bomb threats so that society breaks down, making it possible for the bombers to change things more to their liking,” the September 2 article said. “Just what the bombers want, neither psychologist was certain.
Starke Hathaway, professor emeritus of clinical psychology at the University of Minnesota was quoted, “Nowhere in the world—not in the days of anarchists in the United States, Saigon, or modern Israel—have terrorist bombings completely disrupted a society.”