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The SUB’s history with anti-war protest

On May 8, 1970, after three days of occupying the Student Union Building in protest of the Vietnam War, 131 University of New Mexico students were arrested. Fifty-four years later, 16 protesters were arrested after they occupied the SUB in solidarity with Palestine amidst the war in Gaza.

The Vietnam War protests at UNM followed United States President Richard Nixon’s order to invade Cambodia on April 31, 1970, according to a UNM timeline. UNM President Ferrel Heady sent a telegram to Nixon disapproving of the invasion, according to a Daily Lobo article from May 6, 1970.

Nixon’s actions spurred demonstrations at many college campuses across the U.S. – including Kent State University, where the Ohio National Guard killed four students. On May 6, 1970, after a strike and a day of mourning for the students killed at Kent State, UNM students occupied the SUB, according to the UNM timeline.

Protesters barricaded the building, according to a May 7, 1970 Daily Lobo article.

Two days later, Heady and other members of UNM administration went to the SUB to inform protesters of a temporary restraining order requested by the Board of Regents to remove protesters from the building. Protesters then attempted to ask Heady about the University’s position on the invasion into Cambodia, according to a May 11, 1970 Daily Lobo article.

“Heady replied he refused to answer ‘any questions not related to (the temporary restraining order).’ The students booed him as he left,” the article reads.

At an April 24, 2024 Associated Students at UNM meeting, University President Garnett Stokes was asked about whether campus representatives would come to a compromise regarding the Palestine solidarity encampment at the Duck Pond that began on April 22.

“There are many perspectives on many complex issues, and our focus is on education,” Stokes said.

On May 8, 1970, New Mexico State Police Chief Martin Vigil called in 150 members of the National Guard to “help city, state and campus police oust students” from the SUB, according to the May 11, 1970 Daily Lobo article.

Ten protesters were injured by bayonets used by the National Guard, according to the article.

“The use of the Guard prompted a graduate students’ call for ousting Ferrel Heady, condemnation of the Guard’s use by the faculty and strong press reaction,” the article reads.

On April 30, 2024, protesters occupied the SUB and called for UNM to disclose their investments and divest from any that benefitted Israel. Protesters barricaded the building. UNM police officers – accompanied by NMSP – arrested 16 individuals.

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Protesters were tackled, thrown on the floor and pepper-sprayed by police. They were charged with criminal trespass and wrongful use of public property, according to court documents.

All 131 protesters in 1970 were charged with criminal trespass, according to the UNM timeline. Additionally, 20 were charged with contempt of court for violation of a court order.

“For the first time in the history of the University all of us can be brothers. I urge you to stay in the (SUB), to talk to each other, as brothers and sisters,” UNM graduate student Bill Orzen is quoted as saying in the May 7, 1970 Lobo article.

Lily Alexander is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @llilyalexander

Nate Bernard is a beat reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter @DailyLobo

Lily Alexander

 Lily Alexander is the 2024-2025 Editor of the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @llilyalexander 

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