ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Students walking along the University of New Mexico mall, east of the Student Union Building, might not realize that on May 8, 1970 — 50 years ago almost to the day — that very stretch of walkway, was bloodied as nearly a dozen were bayoneted by members of the New Mexico Army National Guard during anti-Vietnam War protests.
Hospitalized for two weeks, former teacher John Dressman was stabbed in his thigh, an injury that cut into his femoral artery.
Former KOB-TV reporter and photographer Bill Norlander was bayoneted in his chest and arm. “I was thinking I’ll just stand there and let these guys go by and I’ll film them walking past me, only I didn’t realize they saw me as part of the problem.”
Stephen Part, then a writer for the Daily Lobo, recalled that “anybody who had a camera or could write was sent out to cover it – sort of all hands on deck.”
He was bayoneted in the back as he bent over to help another injured person.
The UNM protests, which had been going on for five days, were the result of a series of events, said Dianne Layden, 76, who was a teaching assistant in the English Department and a Ph.D. student in American Studies.
In addition to the ongoing war in Vietnam, protesters were angry about President Richard Nixon’s decision to extend the war into Cambodia, Layden said.
Then on May 4, Ohio National Guard members fired into a crowd of demonstrators at Kent State University, killing four. That same day, actress and peace activist Jane Fonda gave a fiery talk to about 700 students on the UNM campus. She and the students were denied a request to speak with then-UNM President Ferrel Heady.
Two days later Layden was among several hundred students who conducted a sit-in strike inside the Student Union Building that lasted 48 hours. By this time, UNM classes were canceled.
On May 8, Layden and hundreds of others held a protest march, walking from UNM, west to Robinson Park at Eighth and Central. When they rejoined the sit-in strikers, “maybe 4:30 or 5 p.m., local police officers came in with a restraining order to have the SUB evacuated,” she said. Many complied, but others, including Layden, did not. A Journal story from the time said 122 people were booked into the city-county jail Downtown.
As the arrested strikers were escorted out of the SUB through doorways near the northwest side of the building, truckloads of New Mexico National Guard soldiers were arriving on the east side of the building. Bayonets fixed to their rifles, they began a south-to-north mall sweep.
Then-Gov. David Cargo maintained that he dispatched the National Guard at Heady’s insistence; Heady, however, said he did not want them.
Dressman, a 22-year-old new teacher in Santa Fe at the time, was visiting his girlfriend, now his wife, a UNM student who lived just blocks from the mall. He grabbed his camera hoping to get “dramatic photographs.”
From a raised seating area outside the SUB cafeteria, Dressman saw a guardsman running toward him. He jumped about four feet to the ground below, “where a couple of other soldiers broke rank and came running after me,” he said.
Dressman parried one rifle thrust toward his upper torso and then turned “to get the hell out of there,” but not fast enough. He was stabbed from behind in his thigh.
Losing blood quickly and nearly unconscious, students helped him to a makeshift clinic set up in Zimmerman Library and staffed by medical personnel from the Bernalillo County Medical Center, now UNM Hospital.
Bill Norlander was one of several people injured during the anti-Vietnam War demonstration in May 1970 at the University of New Mexico.
A tourniquet was placed around his leg before he was transferred to the hospital, where he stayed for two weeks and received numerous blood transfusions. Doctors repaired his femoral artery, saving both his life and his leg.
Covering the protests for KOB-TV, Norlander, now 76, saw the arrival of the National Guard soldiers. His camera and tape recorder were clearly marked with the KOB-TV logo as he began filming; nevertheless, the soldiers pushed forward in a line, jabbing at him with their bayonets.
“There were about six holes in the shirt I was wearing, but only one strike got me in the chest and another got me in the left arm.” The chest puncture was not as deep as his arm injury, “which went nearly all the way through,” he said.
Students helped Norlander to the field clinic in the library, where he was bandaged and sent by ambulance to the hospital for stitches.
One of his biggest regrets, besides being bayoneted, “was in the excitement I had run out of film in my camera,” Norlander said. “I kept on shooting but didn’t get any footage.”
Part, now 74, was a writer for the Daily Lobo and a graduate student working on a master’s of fine arts degree in photography.
“When I first got to the mall, looking north there were families pushing strollers and people walking dogs. I was sort of at the center, and when I looked south I saw the National Guard had pulled up in (troop carrier) trucks and was unloading.” Others also noticed and “began getting the heck out of there.”
As the soldiers swept through the mall, Part said he witnessed a guardsman strike a civilian in the chest with the butt of his rifle, which was particularly unnecessary because the man was on crutches and had a leg in a cast. When someone came to help the man up, a guardsman bayoneted the good Samaritan in the elbow, creating a blood-spurting wound, he recalled.
Part was retreating when he noticed that the man with the elbow injury collapsed into a nearby flower bed. Part pulled out a handkerchief to wrap around the man’s elbow. As he was bent over, he felt a bayonet stab in his back, just above the hip.
He walked to the makeshift clinic and was transferred to the hospital for stitches.
Part subsequently developed his photos and delivered them to the Daily Lobo, which ran them prominently.
In later years, Part became an Albuquerque Public Schools social studies teacher, retiring about two years ago from La Cueva High.