City Pages

The Dinkytown Riots: Reflecting on the most violent time in U history

Educated, idealistic, disillusioned, U students sparred with police from seven counties and the National Guard over an eight-day occupation of Dinkytown in protest of the Vietnam War.

Educated, idealistic, disillusioned, U students sparred with police from seven counties and the National Guard over an eight-day occupation of Dinkytown in protest of the Vietnam War.
Michael J. Hannaher

By the spring of 1972, American troops were knee-deep in the jungles of North Vietnam, planting mines in Haiphong Harbor and fragging enemy soldiers with Minnesota-made bombs, while young people burned draft cards and drenched recruitment centers in blood.

Richard Nixon, who’d promised to end the war, instead escalated American involvement. Demonstrations erupted after each new offensive.

There was also a war at home in the Twin Cities. Seventy-one-year-old Monte Bute, now a sociology professor at Metro State University, was then an anti-war foot soldier in the bloodiest protests to ever hit the University of Minnesota.

“You had to be there at the time. People considered themselves a movement,” Bute says. “It was a time that poverty, injustice, domestic issues particularly in neighborhoods really were at the fore. You saw yourself as part of this massive effort to transform America.”

Minneapolis, it turned out, was ripe for a revolution. A new housing development, now known as Cedar-Riverside, was turning people out of their homes. Though the new high-rise was for federally subsidized low-income housing, residents called it gentrification and rallied in protest on May 9, 1972.

They were met by a second group of protesters – anti-war activists – from the U. The students were angry with the U’s complicity in defense research. The two demonstrations collided, merging into a crowd of about 2,000 people.

Bute, who had a megaphone, good tactical sense and a bit of a stage presence, slid naturally into a leadership role. When demonstrators got word that the Minneapolis Police were being sent in, they decided it would be a good opportunity to confront them.

“As I look back, I don’t remember another time of being taken over so much by so much adrenaline and having to think on your feet,” Bute says. “It was like the university and the police sort of lost power, and it spilled into the streets. So a number of improvisational people picked up that power and orchestrated … this theater of the absurd. It was pure improvisation. Plans were made instantaneously, people moved rapidly. They counterattacked. It was guerilla theater, but dangerous at that point.”

Police in riot gear clashed on Cedar Avenue, recalls then-University News Service reporter Bill Huntziker.

“At one point I was writing something in my reporters notebook, and I looked up and I was surrounded by cops,” Huntziker recalls. “And this big guy looked down on me and he had his helmet on and he had his hands on my shoulders and he said, “Which side are you on, son? And I said, ‘P…p…p…p…press.’ They were beating people up! And so he said, ‘Stand aside, please,’ and he gently walked me to the curb and he went on clubbing people. It was bizarre.”

Demonstrators multiplied to about 6,000 strong. They poured into Dinkytown, where they began to ransack a military recruitment office. Half of the group split off for the ROTC Armory, tore out the steel rod fencing that surrounded it, and began stoning the building. At the time, the armory was more university office space than a military headquarters, but it was the idea of the place that insulted students.

Police gave chase, clubbing and beating students around a two-block radius. At the time, Minneapolis was led by a law and order mayor, Charles Stenvig.

“A lot of pent up anger and rage that was held by conservative people,” Bute says. “They had elected the first conservative in years and years in the city. And he was really a take-no-prisoners guy. He felt he had a mandate from the silent majority to really come in and clean up and unleash any kind of tactic that was necessary.”

Demonstrators moved to Washington Avenue, where they set up blockades. It became a day of hit and runs and ongoing battles and police beatdowns of protesters who may have prodded and provoked and vandalized.  By the afternoon rush hour, the police went into panic mode. Cops chased students down University Avenue while a helicopter rained canisters of tear gas.

Huntziker retreated into Ford Hall, where he stood at a window on the fourth floor and looked down into the street as students were beaten as they sunbathed and read books on the lawn. Several people were hospitalized. Tear gas seeped through the locked doors and windows of university buildings. Police from seven counties joined in the effort to quell the protests.

The governor sent in 800 National Guardsmen. Over the next week, the national media’s attention and the National Guard caused the Eight Days in May protests to eventually slow and disperse.

“I learned how vulnerable the university is to demagogues and police who just wanted to beat up people because they had long hair and think differently than they do,” Huntziker reflects. “I tried to imagine who was benefiting from any of this. It must have all been short term. Maybe the police chief, the mayor whose popularity was based on a law and order candidacy. I thought maybe some guys in military corporations would benefit from the war. They don’t mind this stuff going on in the streets. They weren’t touched by it.”

He still doesn’t know the key to bringing about change, Huntziker says. Neither does Bute.

“There was this sense of a zeitgeist, that the world was gonna change,” Bute says. “Then unfortunately we woke up in 1973 and the ’60s were over and not that much had changed. We expected a revolution to break out any week. And that was kind of the mentality of many young people at that time.”

On May 21, Bute, Huntziker, and other eyewitnesses to the Dinkytown anti-war protests will share their experiences from the riots at the Roots Cellar in the University Baptist Church. 

“Faculty resist standardization talk for MnSCU, Metro State”

April 21, 2016

As the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system explores options for slashing expenses, faculty union leaders are pushing back on a proposal to standardize the way courses are taught across the seven universities and 24 community and technical colleges.

A long-term financial accountability workgroup has been working since October on ideas for closing the gap on revenues and expenses. MnSCU projects it will run annual deficits of $66 million to $475 million by 2025 if they do not act.
According to draft recommendations from their April 6 meeting, the workgroup discussed creating “a common core curriculum for use throughout the colleges and universities.”

Another recommendation called for establishing two new bargaining units — one for part-time employees, the other full-time — for faculty at Metropolitan State University and the 10 metro-area two-year colleges. It’s tied into a broader proposal to enable students to transfer easily among the metro schools and give administrators flexibility in reassigning faculty within that group.

Monte Bute, an outspoken Metro State sociology professor, twice interrupted a MnSCU Board of Trustees committee meeting Tuesday to demand the release of the “secret plan.” And on Wednesday, the heads of the two- and four-year MnSCU faculty unions expressed their concerns to the full board.

Jim Grabowska, president of the Inter-Faculty Organization, said requiring instructors to use the same curriculum “is not who we are, and it does not represent what we do.”

Kevin Lindstrom, president of the Minnesota State College Faculty, said the group supports MnSCU’s work on developing pathways for students who earn two-year degrees to progress easily into four-year programs without leaving the MnSCU system. But they don’t support common curricula, which also would simplify student transfer but at the expense of what makes institutions unique.

“It flies directly in the face of transfer pathways,” he said. “If common curriculum is where we’re going, we really don’t need transfer pathways.”

Jonathan Bohn, public affairs director for the four-year faculty union, said a common curriculum might cut costs for students and MnSCU, but it would hurt the quality of course offerings at the colleges and universities. He said schools teach in ways that work for their community, and faculty want and need that flexibility.

“We’re trying to create an informed society, and a core curriculum really guts our ability to do that,” he said.

As for creating new bargaining units for the metro area, Bohn said it would weaken the faculty unions’ power and hurt schools’ ability to attract teaching talent.

“It just would dramatically limit the power of our faculty to bargain effectively, to be represented by their union,” he said. “It would be detrimental to the workplace.”


Jay Cowles, a trustee participating in the workgroup, said members haven’t really settled on recommendations yet. That won’t happen until June, when they will forward some proposals to Chancellor Steven Rosenstone, who in turn will present them to the full board of trustees.

“At this point, we need to respect the fact that the workgroup is still in progress,” Cowles said.

For his part, Rosenstone said he won’t get involved until he gets the group’s recommendations.

“I have stayed out of that work to let the committee do its best thinking,” he said Tuesday.

The system for years has looked to smooth out student pathways from metro-area two-year colleges to the system’s only four-year university in the Twin Cities.

Metro State already has a presence throughout the metro, with 60 percent of its students taking classes outside the main campus in St. Paul. And the university’s dentistry program has dual-enrollment agreements with several metro colleges.

Still, only 14 percent of all two-year, metro-area students who say they intend to transfer to a university end up enrolling at Metro State.

MnSCU chief financial officer Laura King said some of the workgroup’s discussions are about making it as easy as possible for students and faculty to move about the metro. She added that the faculty unions are represented on the workgroup and will be consulted on whichever recommendations move forward.


During a Feb. 17 workgroup meeting, MnSCU leaders presented what was described as the “Metropolitan Campus Collective Concept,” in which the 11 institutions formed a “unified collective” with a single course catalog.

Bohn said he understands the concept was dropped, but the notion of new bargaining units is still alive.

King said Tuesday the group is not talking about merging Metro State and the metro colleges into a single entity.

“There’s nothing in that work that says we need a single metropolitan institution,” she said.

Rosenstone to retire as MnSCU chancellor in 2017

Tenure has been marked by clashes with faculty. 

By Maura Lerner Star Tribune APRIL 9, 2016

After five sometimes rocky years as chancellor, Steven Rosenstone announced Friday that he will retire as head of the Minnesota’s largest network of public colleges and universities when his current contract ends in July 2017.

Rosenstone, who will be 66 when he steps down, has led the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system since 2011.

During that time, he has been a lightning rod for criticism from faculty and other unions, which have clashed with him repeatedly over his leadership style and decisions.

Since taking office, Rosenstone has led an ambitious, and sometimes controversial, campaign to modernize and streamline programs throughout the sprawling MnSCU system, which has nearly 400,000 students in seven state universities and 24 two-year colleges. Many of the schools have struggled with dropping enrollment and financial challenges; last fall, Rosenstone created a task force to explore what he called the system’s “long-term financial sustainability.”

Michael Vekich, chair of MnSCU’s board of trustees, issued a statement saying: “Chancellor Rosenstone is a visionary leader who understands the staggering complexity and the thousands of moving parts in a large system of higher education like ours. He has led us through the setting of a new strategic direction that has inspired people on every campus to become collaborative leaders. Through it all, he has kept his focus — and the focus of our colleges and universities — on one goal: ensuring access to an extraordinary education for all Minnesotans.”
Rosenstone’s signature plan to reform the campuses, called Charting the Future, prompted a backlash from faculty members who felt they were being cut out of the planning process, and culminated in a series of no-confidence votes against him in 2014.

In 2015, Gov. Mark Dayton threatened to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the system unless the two sides ended their feud. Shortly after, administrators and faculty leaders agreed to set aside their differences and work together, giving faculty and students a bigger say in the planning process.

“Chancellor Rosenstone has served the Minnesota State College and University System with great distinction,” Dayton said in a statement Friday. “I thank him for his leadership and for helping to chart a new future for our public colleges and university system.”

Rosenstone’s latest clash with faculty erupted just last month, when he approved a new rule allowing college officials to examine employees’ privately owned cellphones for a wide range of business reasons. The move triggered a formal protest from leaders of seven employee unions and prompted a state Senate committee to call for a moratorium on the rule, which took effect on April 1.

On Friday, Jim Grabowska, president of the union representing university faculty, issued a brief statement saying: “With the announcement today, the Inter Faculty Organization looks forward to being part of discussions on the future of the MnSCU system. We thank Chancellor Rosenstone for his service.”
Before joining MnSCU, Rosenstone spent 15 years at the University of Minnesota, where he served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and later vice president for scholarly and cultural affairs. He also was a political-science professor at Yale University and the University of Michigan.

I doubt that your graduate program ever acquainted you with Al and Betty Lee. They are exemplars for those us irregulars who are forging a radical path in the midst of scientific, professional sociology. In a revolt at the 1975 ASA meetings, Al was elected president from the floor. His 1976 presidential address, “Sociology for Whom?“, is the most radical attack on the discipline and profession ever made by an American Sociological Association (ASA) president.

The Metropolitan State University faculty union recently passed a motion objecting to commencement being held on the same night that grades are due and that some classes are still meeting. A seemingly trivial matter, but as poet William Blake observed, sometimes you can “see a World in a Grain of Sand.”

This is a legitimate faculty concern, and the administration bears some blame for failing to resolve the problem. However, given the limited number of venues that can accommodate us, the university has few options. The Inter Faculty Organization’s (IFO) local association holds the wild card.

Until perhaps 10 or 12 years ago, faculty members never worried about whether commencement fell on an official “duty day” (for nonunionists, a workday). Since then, it has become a nonnegotiable stance that we would attend graduation only if it were held on a duty day. Not so coincidentally, faculty attendance at last month’s commencement, even on a duty day, was embarrassingly low. I noticed few of our contractual literalists marching in the procession.

This issue is a poster child for the union’s narrow economism that has spread like an invasive species. Too often, we take a militant legalistic stance: It is called “working to contract,” and it means not doing additional work outside a strict adherence to the contract. If you must, make sure you get paid extra.

Now, working-to-contract is a great short-term union tactic in times of crisis. It fails as a long-term strategy — primarily because it does not nurture our better natures.

I do not want to cast too wide a net. Many, perhaps a majority, of my union colleagues regularly go the extra mile without additional compensation. For doing so, however, some feel stigmatized as chumps and have been accused by the haranguers and shamers of “union busting.”

I’ve been at Metro State for 33 years. From 1971 to the mid-’90s, an exemplary faculty built an extraordinary university — often with uncompensated sweat equity. During that era, objecting to attending a three-hour commencement ceremony on a nonduty day would have been seen as small-minded selfishness, disrespectful of our students.

Granted, during that earlier era, we also had different administrative leadership: They were colleagues. Two presidents who had Metro State in their blood led us for 17 of those years.

Since 1993, our administrators increasingly have been outsiders and short-termers. I concede that there have been notable exceptions to what I am about to say, but they often have had a bureaucratic mind-set, seeking always to centralize power within the New Main building, the administrative “Tower of Power.” They seldom have embraced Metro State’s heart and soul. We’re just another Podunk State along their career paths. Put simply, they have been hired guns.

Management’s tightfisted business strategy of doing more with less has gradually squeezed the altruism out of our faculty. In this zero-sum game, our union’s defensive and reactive posture toward the administration is justifiable. The union needs to defend its hard-won economic rights.

Yes, but at what cost?

Perpetual conflict has diminished our better angels. For many of us, teaching is not a career but a calling. When we increasingly think and behave like careerists, it shrivels our souls. Since when did magnanimous acts require extra pay? As unionists, when did our pocketbooks start taking precedence?

The story I’ve just told exemplifies a tension between business and social unionism, a fault line that runs through 20th-century U.S. labor history. In the first third of the century, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was the aristocracy of labor; business unionism was in its DNA. It concerned itself with little but wages, benefits and working conditions. But that agenda ought to be only half of the union movement’s mission.

Only when the radical Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) organized the unorganized in the 1930s, did social unionism really emerge. Social unionism is a subspecies of sociologist Max Weber’s concept of ideal interests. He observed that ideal interests, as well as economic ones, motivate people.

What are ideal interests? Primarily, values that transcend economic self-interest and that inspire organizations to pursue the public good. Of course, economic interests were front and center for the CIO, as well. However, unions like the United Auto Workers (UAW) successfully integrated material with ideal interests.

My local union has begun sliding down a slippery slope. Mere business unionism threatens the public good. A public university does not exist for the benefit of its faculty, staff or administrators: We are merely institutional stewards for our students’ cognitive, affective and spiritual journeys.

My stewardship at Metro State may end at any time. Yet, in poor health and nearing age 71, I continue pushing the rock uphill, battling to ensure that our posterity remains — to paraphrase the Puritan John Winthrop — a symbolic university upon a hill.

As our founding president, David Sweet, was fond of saying: “Metropolitan State is a college for those who have no college.”

I first left my hometown at age 16 as a pariah, the cautionary tale of juvenile delinquency. A nurturing aunt and uncle had persuaded my parents to let them take me in and try to detour my path to perdition. It only accelerated the pace.

On Fridays, I would hitchhike back home. Rides were unpredictable and once a driver dropped me off at a country crossroads, inhabited only by a ramshackle gas station with a makeshift bar. After waiting an hour for a ride, I wandered in and ordered a beer. I was the sole customer and the owner seemed unconcerned about underage drinking. After three or four beers, he got a call. He said he had to run an errand and asked if I would watch the place.

Opening another beer, I begin pondering my wretched life. It was just one of a lifetime of rash decisions. I filled my suitcase with beer and climbed into the cab of the station’s gas truck. Unfortunately, the keys were in the ignition. The crossroads offered four options. Mephistopheles had never spoken to me so directly: “Go West young man and seek fame and fortune.”

I had been barreling along at 75 mph for about 30-35 miles when the flashing red lights of three squad cars first appeared in the rear view mirror. I figured they were still two to three miles behind me but closing fast. I had to beat them to the next hamlet about three miles ahead. I cranked the engine to its limit of 95 mph and roared into the little town full throttle.

I pulled behind some grain elevators and jumped from the still moving vehicle —with my suitcase of beer intact. I ran to a grain silo, climbed 50 feet of outside ladders, and dropped into a sea of corn kernels, buried up my neck. I guzzled beer until a highway cop leaned into the opening and spotted me with his flashlight. Treatment for alcoholism was still 16 long years away.

For town fathers, enough was enough

They transported me to the Jackson County jail. The next morning they marched me across the street to the courthouse. The town fathers had decided enough was enough.

I ended up graduating high school at the Red Wing “Boys Reformatory,” forever banished from the records of the Jackson High School class of 1963.

With shame and defiance, I voluntarily emigrated from the soil of my ancestors and its offspring. I remember well fleeing in a battered, gray 1949 Plymouth. I immigrated to a foreign land, eventually transplanting myself into a more cosmopolitan landscape.

Nevertheless, my hometown remained the psychic map from which I sought to distance myself from the provincial culture and values of my youthful years from 1945 to 1961. I could never listen to the songs on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” without imagining that bend in the Des Moines River. In other words, you can take the boy out of Jackson County, but you can’t take Jackson County out of the boy.


In 2010, a terminal cancer had invaded both my body and identity. Suddenly my story of dying went viral, appearing statewide and beyond in newspapers, on TV, radio, and the Internet. Much to my astonishment, a number of former classmates reached out to me with compassion and affection. They had extended an invitation of reconciliation. Hesitantly, I reciprocated.

As a result, when an invitation arrived for their 50th class reunion, I decided to return for the first time as an honorary graduate. I drove southwest for 180 miles with considerable trepidation. Arriving at the last minute without benefit of a nametag, few recognized me. Of the 107 class members, 22 candles flickered for those who had passed, 53 of the remaining 85 attended — a remarkable percentage. Of the 53, 13 of us had become teachers. Perhaps there was something more than fluoride in that landmark water tower.

After two restorative days, I drove home for three hours, luxuriating in my classmates’ welcoming balm that heals the soul. Only then did I fully understand what a festering emotional wound my 50-year estrangement had been.

It was a godsend for this prodigal son to see up close and personal how each of us have been participants in the same human comedy, sharing a plethora of trials and tribulations, triumphs and tragedies. Along this haphazard pilgrimage, all we really have is each other. To the remaining members of the class of 1963, a heartfelt thank you for sharing the early morning and late evening of my brief, but eventful, sojourn on this earth.

Don’t be a stranger.

Monte Bute teaches sociology and social science at Metropolitan State University.

This semester, I have a few particularly gullible and literal-minded students. They seem oblivious to the verbal nuances of my using irony, sarcasm, facetiousness, and mockery. They also miss my nonverbal cues of raised eyebrows, mock accents, and outrageous gestures. They naively assume that everything I say is an assertion of something that I believe to be true.

In desperation, I decided to take a ventriloquist’s dummy to class. Now when I am about to make a preposterous statement that represents someone’s belief other than my own, I set the dummy in front of me, and speak through its grinning mouth. I named my dummy “Dying Ideas.”

Monte's dummt

We need more realistic radicals.

Will Bunch is talking about a righteous movement making strategic and tactical errors after organizing a successful campaign. They won the battle but damaged themselves in a foolhardy confrontation with the photographer.

Battles are won by neither the protagonists nor the antagonists: Winners and losers are usually decided by third-party audiences. In the rhetoric campaign to win over bystanders, the news media can be your ally or your enemy.

The goal of the less powerful is to widen the conflict to more audiences; the goal of the powerful is to narrow and privatize the conflict as much as possible.The care and feeding of the news media is a must for marginalized groups. You need to win the hearts and minds of various publics–witness GLBT’s amazing media strategy and tactics that led to a unprecedented turnaround in public opinion within just a decade.

I have been organizing protest campaigns for nearly five decades. Of those that have succeeded, I was most effective when I had excellent relationships with reporters, photographers, and editorialists. Persuasive and persistent work with the news media is an essential source of power for the powerless- -witness the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements.

Assuming that the news media is the enemy because they don’t tell the story you want told is ultimately self-defeating. Perhaps you have failed to a create a rhetorically persuasive message and an effective media campaign.

The Sixties looked quite different by 1980.

When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever says he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.”

                   An Old Jew of Galicia [quoted by Czeslaw Milosz in The Captive Mind]