I think a lot of people in this discussion are combining the 1970 UNM shut down over the Kent State tragedy with the 1971 Roosevelt Park thing I've watched people do this repeatedly as I've told this story over the years. BTW, there were no riots at UNM although the National Guard did bayonet 14 or 15 people, some quite seriously, for the crime of not getting out of the way quickly enough. One was Journal reporter who was injured seriously.
Good clarification of two different events.
excellent link about UNM Kent State protests
The Roosevelt Park riot as I remember it happened on a Sunday. I had gone for a long midday bike ride. When I got back to my house on Maple, just up the hill form the Campus market—now DG’s—I discovered that my roommate had drunk all the beer and sodas. I rode south across Central , right by Jack’s, over the hill, and headed for my favorite convenience store called CeeVee Liquors. As I rode up the hill I saw black smoke. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got over the hill. There was a melee’ in the park and a police car was on fire. CeeVee Liquors was closed up tight.
I rode up to the east end of the park and watched it for at least an hour. It was pandemonium and I don’t remember ever seeing a policeman except in cars that were driving by. People were saying that the cops had assaulted some young people and that’s what started the riot The police later claimed that some teenagers had thrown rocks at them when they took some beer away from some minors. While at the east end I saw several people running by with weapons and one guy even had a rifle. After a while one of the SDS types I used to see at UNM rallies came up with a bullhorn and started talking about Vietnam and Kent State. People started to boo him and some Brown Beret’s eventually took over the bullhorn.
At this point the focus turned back to the police and their treatment of Hispanics. The mood escalated and talk turned to heading downtown to the police station. As people started gathering and walking west I rode back to my house and grabbed my camera. I decided to take Grand Ave. downtown hoping to beat the crowd to the new police station on Roma. I got there ahead of the crowd and I could hear them coming north on 4th or 5th from Central. Before their arrival not a single cop was to be seen. In the whole time the rioters were there no one came out of the building. A group of people rocked a police van until the turned it over and it was heading toward dusk.
The rioters got no response from the authorities and they were losing momentum. This is when they all started moving toward Central and the looting of stores began. I rode west on Roma a little and south toward May’s Music because a friend of mine worked there and I knew Bernie May. Bernie was sitting just inside the entry of his store with a shotgun in his lap. I don’t think anyone looted his place that night but I did witness looting at Fedway, Cook’s Sporting Goods and many other downtown stores.
I had run out of film so I rode home. As I remember it, the news the next day reported that the rioters eventually moved back up to Roosevelt Park and that sometime that night CeeVee Liquors was burned down and a bunch of cars at Galles Cadillac on Central and University were vandalized. I believe the next day there were other incidents further up in the northeast heights near Hoffmantown but I’m sketchy on that part.
In the aftermath of this event, the most striking thing to me was how the story moved away from the facts. The conventional wisdom around town became that this riot was caused by anti-war protestors. The talk in the smug Anglo community at that time was of outside agitators and Communists, the usual nonsense that surrounds dissent. I think Albuquerque just couldn’t bear to admit that it had experienced a genuine race riot.
These photographs now belong to the Center for Southwest Research at UNM.
I had an elderly neighbor who owned a women's clothing store downtown (Little's?) that was looted in riots about that time. She said she quit the business soon after because she was so traumatized. Another aspect of the story.
Yes, I have an indirect connection to these events. My Father, Dennis Liberty, was one of the Student Marshals during the Riots.
This was not a "riot". This was a riot with all the awfulness that goes with one. There are many perspectives to this very unpleasant event in Albuquerque's recent history and the Center for Southwest Research at UNM does, indeed, have a good collection of information, although it is incomplete.
I interviewed my Father about this in 2010 when this post first appeared on DCF.
It's funny how this topic has burbled back to the surface on the Discussion threads. I don't even remember if I commented ages ago.
I've known your dad since 1968. I was an art student too