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Statement of Williams Hall Occupiers

[ Document in Box 46, Folder 1695, Hahn Collection ]

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I. The reasons for the occupation were twofold:

1. to protect the decision of the University Council

2. to avoid any destructive violent action by students who were alienated by that decision.
The occupation stood in support of the SGA proposal, which provided a specific political stance and incorporated various options for a student with regard to completing academic requirements. The University Council decision did not relate to the central issues involved; that of the invasion of Cambodia, that of the killings at Kent State, and that of the individual to express his concern through participation in the national strike without academic penalty.

Completely in opposition to anarchistic revolt, the occupation was conducted along purely democratic lines. All decisions were reached through a concensus of opinion, and only after exhaustive debate.

II. In reference to the occupation, a list of demands was compiled, revised, and passed unanimously.

FROM THE OCCUPIERS OF WILLIAMS HALL, May 13, 1970:
We have occupied this building because of the unresponsive attitude of the VPI administration towards the SGA Strike Proposals. Conditions for the return of the building are:

1. We demand that the University Council approve and implement the proposals of the SGA concerning the student strike immediately.

2. We demand amnesty for:

a. all persons involved in occupying Cowgill Hall May 11
b. the persons involved in the earlier action at the Student Personnel Building, including removal of any disciplinary measures already handed down.
c. for all students and non-students involved in this action, that is
1. the occupiers of this building, student, non-student, and faculty.
2. to all persons involved in demonstrations, supporting actions, and rallies before, during, and after our occupation -- especially members of the corps of cadets and athletes.
3. for all university employees who may strike in our support.
3. We demand that no University employee lose any pay because of our occupation or because of the strike.

4. We will not vandalize the building or any of its contents.

5. We personally wish for a hard strike. We are supporting the SGA's soft strike, because we believe the SGA is the representative of all of the student body, and our concern is a fair consideration of all viewpoints.

III. The occupation of Williams Hall began after the University Council decision was announced on the steps of Burruss Hall. Williams Hall was not locked and those involved entered without force. The few people in the building at the time were asked to leave the building if they so desired. Chains were put on all the doors and desks were piled up to block all but the front door. Entrance and exit was possible at all times through first floor windows.

The math office was used as a communications center and the Graduate Assistants' office was used to ditto our list of demands. At no time was any personal or University property within these offices damaged, and only necessary material was used. Two centers were set up, one as a food center and one as a medical center.

Various materials were on hand in these centers. Candles and matches were available in case of a power blackout. Water was stored in bottles in case the water was shut off. Vinegar and cotton was available in case of teargassing. Rubbing alcohol was also available in case of injury and there was no more than one bottle in the building. At no time were these materials considered for destructive purposes, especially in the area of fire bombs and other such incendiary devices.

Democratic discipline was evident in the decision that, when the occupation first began, no drugs would be allowed in the building. This democratic discipline also applied to decisions not to turn on lights in classrooms (when at all possible) to avoid being visible targets for outside action. Also, any food available in vending machines was bought and no attempt was made to break into the machines. In terms of general trash, there was continual clean-up until the last period of occupation, when there was no possibility for clean-up.

IV. The people occupying Williams Hall were under the impression that no action would be taken against them until the time that the occupation would disrupt classes. This assumption was made on the fact that Mr. McKeefery relayed to a faculty member that students must open communications with him (McKeefery) to discuss demands and that no action would be taken against the students until after 8:00 am. This assumption was reinforced when Dr. McKeefery returned a call to Williams Hall and told a student that if all persons evacuated the building before scheduled classes began for the day no one could be identified.

By 2:00 am the list of demands of the occupiers was common knowledge and the occupiers wished to begin communication with the administration, however, at 5:00. The phones were cut off and no communication was possible.

At approximately 6:30 am Mr. McKeefery arrived outside the building with escorts and attempted to talk through a bullhorn to students in and around the building. The students outside began chanting and following Mr. McKeefery around the building. Mr. McKeefery was not heard by students in or outside the building.

Mr. McKeefery then left and, after ten minutes, State Police with riot clubs and dogs began breaking down the outside rear door without asking the students to voluntarily leave. Police then began to drag students from the building and threw them into moving vans. Mr. McKeefery advised students as they were being carried out that they were summarily suspended from the University.

An injunction against the University is presently being filed in federal court to reinstate all students involved until they are given a fair hearing.

V. Throughout the occupation of Williams Hall, an atmosphere of nonviolence, both to persons and property, prevailed. No threats of a violent or destructive nature were ever made by the occupiers. When the building was forcibly entered by police all but a few were quietly sitting on the first floor of the building presenting the universal peace sign and singing "We Shall Overcome". No aggressive resistance was offered. Although there were isolated incidences of a violent nature, this was not representative of the group as a whole.

After being removed by moving vans and paddy wagons to the Montgomery County jail, no disruptive activity occurred.

Mutual courtesy on the part of those arrested and the Mongomery County Sheriff's Office prevailed and this no doubt contributed to the reduction of the bail and the possibility for release on personal recognizance.

Nonviolence, as much as can be expected under such circumstances, was the total commitment of those involved. There was nonviolence throughout.

Protest Commitee of 107


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Last Updated: April 9, 1997