Listen MPR 50th: Remembering Vietnam War protests at the U of M
Listen From the archives: MPR's Bob Potter reports from an anti-war protest in 1972
Listen From the archives: MPR's Bob Potter speaks at live event in 1992
Throughout 2017, Minnesota Public Radio will celebrate 50 years on the air by sharing highlights from our archives, connecting Minnesota's past to its present. | This story originally aired in 1972 and was revisited by the reporter in 1992.
It's a reporter's job to inform the world what is happening at these protests, while not getting involved themselves. But as MPR reporter Bob Potter learned during an anti-war protest in 1972, there's still danger in being a spectator.
During the Vietnam War, student protests were held on college campuses all around the country. The biggest and most violent anti-war demonstration in Minnesota happened on and around the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus.
Minneapolis police clashed with students when they tried to take over the University Armory and block traffic on nearby streets.
Potter covered the demonstration on May 10, 1972. In a recording, he described what was happening around him, beginning with the sound of students assisting a man who had been sprayed with Mace.
"A policeman is more or less indiscriminately shooting Mace at people who are walking underneath the bridge," Potter reported. "He also sprayed Mace on a person who tried to jump up on the bridge."
Potter continued to describe what he saw: officers beating students with clubs, people in white coats searching for anyone in need of medical assistance and law enforcement officers shooting gas canisters into the crowd.
After avoiding one of the canisters, Potter found himself in the middle of the protest where he was confronted by an officer.
"Get out of here," the officer can be heard saying on the recording.
Potter answered with a single word, "Press," which is followed by a crunching noise and then silence.
In 1992, Potter was part of a group of longtime MPR employees who gathered in front of a live audience to tell stories about the early days of the company. He described that moment from the protest, and in retrospect found some humor in what happened to him.
"He just took my glasses, and he ripped them off the bridge of my nose, threw them down on the ground and sprayed my eyes with Mace," Potter said. "And that wasn't so bad. But the real dangerous part was having to drive back from the University of Minnesota campus to downtown St. Paul. And I didn't see a heck of lot better then than I do today."
To listen to his original report, and the 1992 speech, click the audio player above.