--from the front page of the New York Times , May 9, 1970
The "hardhat riots" made front-page news in the New York Times on the day after they took place. The full text of the article appears below.
Helmeted construction workers broke up a student antiwar demonstration in Wall Street yesterday, chasing youths through the canyons of the financial district in a wild noontime melee that left about 70 persons injured.
The workers then stormed City Hall, cowing policemen and forcing officials to raise the American flag to full staff from half staff, where it had been placed in mourning for the four students killed at Kent State University on Monday.
At nearby Pace College a group of construction workers who said they had been pelted with missiles by students from the roof, twice invaded a building, smashing windows with clubs and crowbars and beating up students.
Earlier the workers ripped a Red Cross banner from the gates of Trinity Church and tried to tear down the flag of the Episcopal Church.
"This is senseless," said the Rev. Dr. John Vernon Butler, rector of Trinity parish. "I suppose they thought it was a Vietcong flag."
Twice Father Butler ordered the gates closed against menacing construction workers.
Inside the church, doctors and nurses from the New York University Medical Center had set up a first-aid station, treating 40 to 60 youths who had been beaten by the workers.
The Mayor issued a statement saying that "a mob came perilously close to overwhelming the police guard at City Hall."
He added his "deep regrets" that the day of memory for the four students killed by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent had been defiled by violence.
The police said that six persons had been arrested and that 19 persons, including four patrolmen, had been injured. However, Beekman-Downtown Hospital alone reported that 23 persons had been brought by ambulance from the Wall Street area suffering from cuts and bruises, none of them serious.
It was about five minutes to noon when Wall Street suddenly erupted in a melee of fist-fighting that entrapped thousands of employees headed for lunch.
Starting at 7:30 am, hundreds of youths, mostly from New York University and others from Hunter College and city high schools, gathered at Broad and Wall Streets in a demonstration demanding the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam and Cambodia, the immediate release of all "political prisoners in America" and the cessation of military-oriented work by the universities.
All accounts agree that the demonstration was without violence until the construction workers reached the scene.
The construction workers, most of them wearing brown overalls and orange and yellow hard hats, descended on Wall Street from four directions. A thin line of policemen had blocked off the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial at Nassau and Wall Streets, from about a thousand students who were sitting on the sidewalk and pavement listening to speakers denounce the war abroad and repression at home.
The morning was chilly, with a light rain. But toward noon the sky lightened and the day became warm and humid. The students were in a good humor; they cheered a Broad Street lawyer, Charles F. Appel, 56 years old, who told the youths: "You brought down one President and you'll bring down another."
Then came the moment of confrontation. The construction workers, marching behind a cluster of American flags, swept the policemen aside and moved on the students. The youths scattered, seeking refuge in the lunch-hour crowds.
The workers sought them out, some selecting those youths with the most hair and swatting them with their helmets.
There did not seem to be more than 200 construction workers, but they were reinforced by hundreds of persons who had been drawn into the march by chants of "All the way, U.S.A." and "Love it or leave it."
On reaching the Federal Hall National Memorial, the workers at first pushed halfheartedly against the police line. "All we want to do is put our flag up on those steps," one worker said quietly to Inspector Harold Schryner. "If you try, there'll be blood to pay," the inspector replied.
But within two minutes the workers had surged over the memorial's steps, planting American flags on the statue of George Washington. Then they outflanked the police, driving demonstrators before them and hitting the youths with their helmets.
A Staged Assault?
From his 32d floor office at 63 Wall Street, Edward Shufro of the brokerage firm of Shufro Rose & Ehrman watched through binoculars two men in gray suits and gray hats who, he said, seemed to be directing the workers.
"These guys were directing the construction workers with hand motions," Mr. Shufro said.
At Exchange Place, Robert A. Bernhard, a partner at Lehman Brothers, tried to protect a youth from assault by a worker. The worker grabbed Mre. Bernhard hard, and pushed him against a telephone pole.
A man who came to the aid of Mr. Bernhard was himself attacked by a worker and struck with apair of pliers. Bleeding from a head wound, the man was taken to Beekman Downtown Hospital.
Near City Hall, a Wall Street lawyer, Michael Berknap, 29, a Democratic candidate for the State Senate, was beaten and kicked by a group of construction workers yelling "Kill the Commie bastards." He was treated at Beekman-Downtown Hospital with his right eye completely closed, a large welt on his head and five bootmarks on his back.
Mr. Berknap said the police had stood by and made no attempt to stop the assault.
"These people are rampaging and the police are not arresting them," he complained.
Among the student demonstrators taken to Trinity Church for first aid was Drew Lynch, a teacher in the Human Resource Administration's Brooklyn street program.
Mr. Lynch had both eyes blackened and was bleeding from the mouth. He said "at least four" workers had pummeled him to the street, then kicked him.
"A policeman finally grabbed me by the collar, dragged me away, and said: 'Get out of here'" Mr. Lynch said.
The workers led a mob to City Hall, where an unidentified mailman went to the roof and raised the flag that Mayor Lindsay had ordered lowered to half staff for the slain students. The crowd cheered wildly.
But moments later an aide to Mayor Lindsay, Sid Davidoff, stalked out on the roof and lowered the flag again.
The mob reacted in fury. Workers vaulted the police barricades, surged across the tops of parked cars and past half a dozen mounted policemen. Fists flailing they stormed through the policemen guarding the barred front doors.
Uncertain whether they could contain the mob, the police asked city officials to raise the flag. Deputy Major Richard R. Aurelio, in charge during the absence of Mayor Lindsay, who was at Gracie Mansion, ordered the flag back to full staff.
Two plainclothes policemen, Pat Mascia and Bob Rudion, and the City Hall custodian, John Zissel, walked out on the roof and struggled with the flapping lanyard.
As the flag went up, the workers began singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." A construction worker yelled to the police: "Get your helmets off."
Grinning sheepishly, about seven of the 15 police who were on the City Hall steps removed their helmets.
Meanwhile, a group of workers had charged Pace College, across the street from City Hall Park, angered by a peace banner hanging from the roof. Some of them gained the roof of the modernistic four-story building, seized the banner and brought it down to the street, where it was burned. Others smashed windows in the lobby of the college and beat some students.
The scuffle over the flag at City Hall was accompanied by chants of "Lindsay's a Red."
"Stop being juveniles," a Lindsay aide, Donald Evans, admonished a construction worker. "What do you mean, being a juvenile?" he replied, punching Mr. Evans on the chin.
One of the construction workers said that not only were the workmen organized but that also in at least one case they were offered a monetary bonus by their contractor-employers if they would take time off from their work to "break some heads."
According to the same construction worker, who said he wished to remain anonymous for fear of his life, he called the police at 8:30 am yesterday and warned them that "construction workers are out for (...)
The worker said: "then they came back and said that everyone had to go out Friday-all the workers from the World Trade Center, the U.S. Steel building and 2 Manhattan Plaza-and break some heads."
The attack on the peace demonstrators was so well organized, this construction worker said, that on at least two occasions during the day, "I turned around and happened to see men in business suits with color patches in their lapels-the color was the same on both men, and they were shouting orders to the workers."