Sex and Riots in Ann Arbor

The Ann Arbor Chronicle has an interesting historical piece today on the June 1969 youth riots that took place in Ann Arbor. The incredibly detailed article, which includes some great photos as well, was written by a fellow named Alan Glenn, who is currently at work on a documentary about Ann Arbor in the ’60s. Having walked down South University a number of times over the course of the past 20 years, including twice today, I found the following clip to be of particular interest.

…The Ann Arbor News reported that at some point during the evening a couple had engaged in “sexual relations…on the pavement of South University, surrounded by cheering young men and women.” Other newspapers also reported the event. The Washington Post stated that “at least one couple had performed the sex act in the street.” The Chicago Tribune went one better, reporting “two lewd acts in the street.” Interestingly, the UM student-run Michigan Daily, a paper not generally known for its modesty, does not appear to have reported “at least one overt sexual act” until more than two months later…

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Beatles’ “Why Don’t You Do It in the Road?” came out right at the end of 1968.

And I wonder where those people are today… I wonder if they’re in positions of power somewhere, making important decisions, always a bit fearful of being discovered.

Now, this is where I should go off on a tangent about how college students today suck, and how I’m disgusted that there haven’t more protests against the war in Iraq, but I won’t. I’ll save my bile for another day. I did want to mention, however, that, when I was a student at the University of Michigan, I was tear-gassed on that same street – South University. It was the night of some big basketball or football game, and I was working, making pizzas. And there was a mob outside, on the street – probably not so far from where these other folks fucked in protest. I couldn’t see a lot through the window, but I remember seeing street signs being pulled down, and people yanking at awnings and the like. And that’s when the riot cops came in, marching in lock step, launching canisters of tear gas as they advanced. As you might have guessed, all the rich kids, who didn’t have to work, took off running. My friends and I, though, had to stay there and continue cleaning up, all the while coughing up our lungs and scratching at our eyes… And, now that I think of it, maybe that’s when I became radicalized against the sports-loving fraternal types among you.

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11 Comments

  1. Carlos
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    We should check local birth records for 9 months after the event took place.

  2. Posted June 18, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    “And I wonder where those people are today… I wonder if they’re in positions of power somewhere, making important decisions, always a bit fearful of being discovered. Now, this is where I should go off on a tangent about how college students today suck, and how I’m disgusted that there haven’t more protests against the war in Iraq…”

    Maybe that’s exactly why today’s college students don’t protest: because they don’t want to hurt their future career opportunities.

    When I was in college, I worked and I found time for a few protests. When I took a day off work to travel to a larger protest, my boss offered to bail me out if I got arrested. Didn’t happen (and wouldn’t have been needed, I had other resources to draw on) but it was nice to have that support.

  3. Ryan
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    There’s probably more protests going on than people are aware of (at least there were at the beginning of the war). Most of them just don’t get coverage in the corporate media so the anti-war movement didn’t gain the momentum it seems like it could have. I also think a draft helps with the whole civil unrest bit, too, but who needs a draft when the federal government has private contractors doing the dirty work?
    Also, out of curiosity, if you’re against the war and expect people to protest it, why were you such a strong supporter of Obama? He made it pretty clear during his campaign that while he was going to “end the war in Iraq” (which was obviously bullshit) he was going to expand the war in Afghanistan. I don’t think it’s fair to poise yourself as being anti-war or expect college students to protest the war while directly supporting it by voting for a candidate that directly supports it. I’m not trying to give you a hard time about it, I just don’t think you can have it both ways.

  4. Scott K
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    My guess is the riot you were tear gassed in was in April of ’89 when UofM won the Basketball National Championship. I was visiting a buddy at EMU that weekend and when we tried to go into AA for some breakfast for our hangovers it was a mess.

    Kids in college today are coddled too much. They don’t have the fire to protest unless the updates to their iPhones are delayed.

  5. EOS
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t there – didn’t observe the sex act first hand, but word on the street was the man engaged in sexual relations on the pavement of South University was Pun Plumunden (sp?), the Defense Minister for the White Panther Party. He was second behind John Sinclair in leadership of the party. Why aren’t there more protests by college students? It wasn’t the students then either – it was the hippies. Read the article. Sheriff Doug Harvey hated hippies. The second night “an armored car with machine guns mounted in its turret sat menacingly in the street, and a police helicopter hovered watchfully overhead.” Ask any old townie and they can tell you a ton of stories. Tear gas is nothing compared to the brutality inflicted then by the county sheriffs. Washtenaw County jail was downtown at the time, on the corner of Main and Ann. They called it the Harvey Hotel and if you were arrested and were a hippie, you could pretty much count on getting your head shaved. Things were quite a bit different then.

  6. Huh?
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    So all students who go out on weekend nights are rich kids? And all people who like sports are fraternity types?

  7. Posted July 8, 2009 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Just to record a bit of history: our neighbor was a photographer for an alternative newspaper at the time of the 1989 event. He heard about the disturbance, grabbed his camera, and went downtown to do some real journalism about police brutality.

    He came back maybe half an hour later, said it was just a bunch of drunks in the street, and as far as he was concerned, the cops should lock them all up.

  8. DB
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    So, interesting things used to happen in this town?

  9. DOS
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    I carry a notebook, a gallon of water and a tube of lube with me where ever I go. I have faith that things will get good again.

  10. Ted
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    There was sex back then, but it wasn’t good. Women used to have body hair. And people didn’t bathe so much.

  11. A Tallon
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I don’t know about fucking in the streets, but we could use some of that passion here in Ann Arbor right now. I disgusts me that our college students don’t seem to give a damn about what’s going on right now in other parts of the country.

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