[News] The Story of the TSU Five

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 29 12:02:37 EST 2016


    The Story of the TSU Five

    November 28, 2016


This multi  part blog series highlights significant but relatively 
unknown moments of resistance to racist police violence as depicted in 
the pages of /The Movement/. When looking at the stories in /The 
Movement/, the continuity between historical events and the emerging 
movement against police violence comes into sharp focus. Police 
treatment of Black and Brown people has not changed much, if at all. The 
murders that are captured on smartphones today and streamed online are 
not a new phenomenon. They were happening in the 1960’s too, and they 
were met with rage and resistance then, just like they are today.

In early 1967, Texas Southern University (a historically black college) 
students and Black residents of Houston began organizing on and off 
campus. In March, students demonstrated against conditions on campus, 
which were significantly worse than those at the white college down the 
street. Their grievances included bad food, early curfews, and a lack of 
courses in fields like engineering and technology. The administration 
responded by throwing TSU’s Friends of SNCC chapter off campus, firing 
the group’s faculty advisor, and working with the local police to have a 
warrant issued for the arrest of a student organizer.

The administration’s crackdown only further angered students, and their 
protest expanded. They came forward with new demands, including an 
increase in faculty salaries, the disarmament of campus police, the 
removal of the campus dean from the local draft board, a student court 
for disciplinary cases, and the dropping of all charges against student 

In May students joined together with local Black residents to protest 
poor living conditions and city government neglect. A demonstration in 
the Sunnyside neighborhood was called after a child drowned in an 
unfenced city garbage dump. Another was held in Northeast Houston to 
protest the beating of Black high school students with ax handles and 
chains. The demonstrations gave city officials an excuse to retaliate 
against TSU students. On the night of May 16, police officers blockaded 
the campus. Students gathered and some threw rocks at the police. Soon, 
hundreds of armed police officers swarmed the campus. They arrested 489 
students and opened fire on a dormitory. They shot between 3 and 5,000 
rounds of AR-15 shells into the dorm. In the course of the raid, a 
student and a number of officers were shot, and one officer was killed, 
almost certainly from ricocheting bullets.

Although the ballistics and coroners reports confirmed that the officer 
was killed by a .30 bullet (the caliber used by Houston PD), the city 
used the death as a pretext for crushing the Black movement. They 
arrested five students known for their political activism–one of whom 
was actually in jail the night of the raid–and charged them with the 
murder of the police officer. The students became known as the TSU 5 
among activists, who organized support for their defense. Despite the 
lack of evidence, it took over three years for them to be cleared of 
charges. In November 1970 a Houston judge finally dropped the charges 
and the state admitted that the officer probably died from a ricocheting 
police bullet.

The story of the TSU 5 is told in the pages of /The Movement/, check out 
the newspaper here: Page1 

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