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TSU Protest (1967)


Silent | 1967

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  •  Blockade across Wheeler Avenue 
  •  The three gentlemen are possibly the trio of protest leaders who were later arrested: Franklin Alexander in the suit, and Reverend F. D. Kirkpatrick and Lee Otis Johnson (left to right) walking beside 
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This unedited footage from Houston’s KPRC-TV captures a protest at Texas Southern University on April 3, 1967. Students march across campus before staging a blockade across Wheeler Avenue, a bisecting thoroughfare. Student had conducted protests across campus for nearly a week following the administration’s ousting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee chapter. The protests led to the arrest three individuals: Franklin Alexander, a national leader of the W. E. DuBois Clubs; Reverend Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick, co-chairman of Friends of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; and Lee Otis Johnson, a former student. Students led a march to and vigil outside the Harris County Courthouse the following day to protest the arrests. The demonstrations highlighted the tense relationship TSU students shared with not only the administration but also local law enforcement. A reported 200 city riot police and 20 sheriff’s deputies encircled the April 4 demonstrators, nearly matching them in number. A month later, an interaction between students and police on campus would escalate into a deadly confrontation known as the TSU Riot.
On the night of May 16, 1967, police blockaded the Texas Southern University campus in response to a student civil rights protest. Amidst the high racial tensions, the confrontation escalated into an “Alamo-scale shootout,” according to the Houston Chronicle. Police fired an estimated 3,000 rounds into TSU’s Lanier Dormitory, where the students were blockaded. Law enforcement raided the building in the early morning hours of May 17, arresting 488 students—the largest mass arrest in Houston history. Two police officers were wounded and another, rookie Louis Kuba, was killed. A small group of students, known as the TSU Five, were indicted on charges of inciting a riot, assault, and murder. They were Charles Freeman, Trazawell Franklin, Douglas Waller, John Parker, and Floyd Nichols. Only Freeman was tried, resulting in a hung jury. A judge ultimately dismissed the case against all five defendants due to insufficient evidence, believing that Kuba most likely died from a ricocheting police bullet.