Sid Davidoff was administrative assistant to Mayor John V. Lindsay for seven years. He was widely considered one of the Mayor’s top personal aides. In this oral history, Davidoff tells the story of the 1968 Columbia University riots and the Lindsay Administration’s involvement in trying to resolve the crisis. Members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a student activist group that helped define New Left politics in the 1960s, called for the university to sever ties from a think tank involved in weapons research for the Vietnam War. At the same time, SDS, black and Puerto Rican students, and community activists opposed Columbia’s construction of a university gym in Morningside Park, arguing the project appropriated public property for the elite students while offering only limited access to Harlem neighborhood residents. Students and Harlem community activists tore down some of the fencing surrounding the gym construction site, marched to campus and occupied Low Library, the university’s main administrative building. Davidoff explains how the administration attempted and failed to facilitate a peaceful solution, revealing the tensions between the different protest groups, the university administration, and the police. 

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