Louis M. Thompson Jr.

 

In the spring of 1961, I was news anchor and director for WOI-TV-AM-FM on a full time basis during my fifth year at Iowa State. Shortly after I returned home from my evening news and sports cast around 11 pm, I received a call from the Ames Police alerting me that students were gathering near Friley Hall with a stated attempt to "march on City Hall." What sparked the situation was the arrest a few days before of a freshman from Puerto Rico under an old Ames "blue law" for being on the street after 10 pm without a purpose. He was arrested in front of the CampusTown theater and after a search was found to be in possession of marijuana. This was the first time the Ames police had encountered a situation involving "pot." I was told later they weren't sure what to do about it and also had to make sure it was in fact marijuana. To buy time, the student was arrested, but not held, under the blue law. The student was a rather popular fraternity pledge and the word got out rather quickly. The students reacted to what they perceived was an unfair use of the blue law while not realizing what was behind the arrest.I grabbed my Roleflex camera and headed down Lynn Avenue from my home to position myself in back of the "mob" that was marching toward the flats between CampusTown and downtown. I took an occasional flash photo. When we got in front of the old St. Cecilias church, someone yelled, "Get the son-of-a-bitch with the camera." I was jumped by several students, knocked down, my camera was stomped along with my glasses. By that time a photographer and reporter from the Des Moines Register had arrived and got a photo of my being assaulted. The police quickly came along and took me to City Hall in anticipation of the crowd's arrival there.I stood inside the City Hall front door with the chief of police, fire chief, mayor and others. The crowd turned ugly and started throwing stones and bricks at the windows and front door. The fire trucks were just around the building, and the fire chief ordered the firemen to hose down the demonstrators. The crowd finally broke up and dispersed in the early morning hours. This was apparently the first incident where the Ames police had to deal with a student's possession of "pot." I don't remember the final disposition of the case against the student, but I believe it resulted in a court consequence.