This month in MPD History was a memorable one for many in 1971, as the city was besieged by tens of thousands of well organized and determined anti-war protestors; nearly all of them college students. It was known as “May Day” and was the largest, most active protest seen yet through the turbulent 60s. The events of these extraordinary four days were chronicled in an IACP produced film called “The whole world is watching.”
Demonstrators took to the streets early in the morning to block key intersections and commuter routes with the intent to “shut down the Government.” Vehicles were disabled and left blocking streets, as large groups blocked intersections and others marched on the Justice Department.
The events culminated with mass arrests and the detention of over ten thousand demonstrators. Some were held in the cell block at HQ, some in Cell block “B”, some in the U-line arena (coliseum), and others in a make shift fenced in facility at RFK stadium. MPD made more arrests than ever recorded in a single event in the U.S. and succeeded in keeping the city open. A feat done largely without injury or major damage. Life magazine covered the events, and hundreds of letters and telegrams were sent to the Department, praising MPD for its handling of the demonstrations.
The next comparable event was the 2000 IMF protests that followed on the heels of the “Battle in Seattle.” Here again, MPD was challenged by tens of thousands of determined and organized protestors and again was successful in keeping the city open and the IMF meetings going.