The Road to TB1
By Juan Espinosa
We thought we knew exactly what would happen when we took over TB-1 on the University of Colorado Campus the morning of May 13, 1974, but we didn’t.
We thought we would be arrested and would have to bail out of jail.
We planned to use our court cases to shed light on the problems we were having with financial aid at the university and the university’s agenda to stop and cutback on the rapidly growing Chicano student population.
That never happened. What took place instead were events that were beyond our imaginations. We were never arrested and the occupation dragged on for almost three weeks.
Before it was over, one of the original occupants and five others would die in two car bombings within a 48-hour period.
Forty years later, it still is hard to believe how it all played out. The chain of events that led to the occupation of TB-1 and the bombings began years earlier.
Despite the university’s efforts to deter more Chicanos from enrolling in the Educational Opportunity Programs, Chicanos continued to flock to Boulder and by the fall of the 1972-73 school year, there were an estimated 1,400 students in UMAS-EOP and the Migrant Action Program.
When the semester began in the fall of 1973, the university renewed its efforts to purge students from the campus. Financial aid files were lost; stipend checks were delayed and many students found themselves unable to pay tuition, rent, utilities or even food.
A month into the semester, demonstrations were organized to protest the financial aid delays.
On Oct. 29, 1973, a handful of students took over an office in Regent Hall.
After a brief standoff, the students agreed to march to Mackey Auditorium to meet with Vice President James Corbridge and State Rep. Sandy Arnold. There, Arnold promised to arrange a meeting with Gov. Vanderhoof.
At the meeting with the governor, Vanderhoof left the office within five minutes. The UMAS students briefly entertained the idea of taking over the governor’s office, but were escorted out by more than a dozen state patrol officers who had been waiting in an adjacent room.
The crisis ended after the university began issuing the long overdue stipends and financial aid checks.
In early May, the Black Student Alliance, staged their own protest over the delays in financial aid. Several hundred UMAS students turned out to support BSA and joined the protest.
It was this BSA demonstration in the UMC student center fountain area that sparked the TB-1 occupation. Jim Sandoval, a member of the UMAS Planning Council carried a sign that read, “Dump Joe,” referring to Joe Franco, the director of UMAS-EOP.
Dave Madrid, a Franco supporter, confronted Sandoval. The two agreed to settle the matter with their fists and a group of us followed them to TB-1 where they went to blows.
It wasn’t much of a fight. Sandoval quickly got the better of Madrid and the fight ended.
On Sunday, May 9, 1974, about 20 of us met at our apartment in student housing. That’s when we decided to move on Franco the next morning. Eight of us would arrive at TB-1 at 7:30 a.m. and barricade ourselves on the third floor of the building.
The eight included: Neva Romero, Freddy “Freak” Trujillo, Esteban Ortega, Jess Vigil, Judy Sandoval, Teresa Gallegos, Phil Roybal, and I.
We barricaded ourselves in the third-floor offices of UMAS-EOP by shoving half dozen large desks down the wide stairway and sliding a large book shelf across the only entrance.
Anyone coming up the stairs to reach us would have to come single file and we took turns guarding the narrow opening with an aluminum baseball bat.
By late afternoon, a crowd of several hundred students had gathered outside the building. Police gave us until 6 p.m. to leave the building.
As the deadline approached, the backup from the surrounding community began to show, including Florencio Granado.
Granado urged the crowd to occupy the first floor of TB-1 saying that if the police were going to come after us, they would have to go through the larger crowd first.
By 6 p.m., there were only eight of us on the third floor, but there were also another 60 to 80 supporters on the lower floors.
A bus filled with officers with helmets and batons pulled into the parking lot, but they didn’t come into the building.
Officers with what appeared to be rifles could be seen on the roofs of some of the surrounding buildings. It was a standoff: nobody budged.
After graduation and finals, the campus got really quiet. Most of the students left for the summer and at times it seemed like we were the only people on campus.
It had been two weeks and we began talking about ways to bring the occupation to an end.
The university was not interested in talking to us about it. Our phones had been cut off and we were without any connection to the outside world.
We were demoralized, but determined.
On May 27, just after dark, we heard a loud bang followed by many sirens.
In the distance, we could see fire trucks, ambulances and police cars driving past the campus toward Chataqua Park.
We knew that something bad had happened, but it wasn’t until about 3 or 4 a.m. the next morning that we knew how bad.
Friends came to TB-1 and said that there had been a car explosion and three people had died. Neva Romero’s ID card had been found at the scene and that’s why police had gone to her address.
Within hours we learned that it was Neva and Reyes Martinez and his girlfriend Una Jaakola who had died in the bombing.
We were in shock and wondered what to do next.
That night, about 60 people showed up at TB-1. It was a solemn gathering of friends of the victims and supporters of the occupation.
Everyone was shocked by the news and there was much speculation on what had happened. Everyone wanted an end to the occupation, but with the university refusing to negotiate, there were few options.
The next day came and turned to night. We were in shock and at a loss for our next move. The silence was shattered once again with the sound of a loud explosion. This one sounded even closer than the first.
As the sound of sirens again filled the air we listened to the police scanner we had obtained after the first bombing.
This time the explosion was on 28th Street near Burger King. There were at least three victims, maybe four. The car had been a station wagon.
By morning, we knew Florencio Granado, Heriberto Teran and Francisco Dougherty had been killed and Antonio Alcantar was in critical condition at a local hospital.
Later that day, the phone rang at TB-1. It was someone from the university and they wanted to negotiate an end to the occupation.
With the help of several law students we drafted a proposal which included:
• Franco and Acosta be removed from their positions
• UMAS-EOP would be restructured and there would be an elected student co-director and a staff co-director, selected from the existing staff.
• Everyone involved in the occupation would be granted amnesty from criminal prosecution.
Manual “Manny” Lopez, a law student, and I represented the TB-1 occupants and Vice Chancellor James Corbridge represented the university.
They agreed to our demands and the occupation ended.