On May 4, 1970, 1,500 students gathered on the University of Denver campus to publicly mourn their fallen comrades at Kent State and attempted to make sense of President Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia, a clear sign of extending rather than ending the contentious Vietnam War. Shouts of “Burn! Burn! Burn!” tumbled through the student body like a Rocky Mountain spring avalanche. Somehow, a lone voice broke through, “Let’s build, not burn.” Thus was born the idea for Woodstock West, an intentionally peaceful response to the violence engulfing campuses from New York to Seattle.
Students pitched tents and built makeshift shelters on a grassy area known as the Carnegie Green. There they debated, performed, sang, talked and tried to make sense of their sorrow and anger. While the spirit of those first few days replicated the peace and freedom of its namesake, the 1969 music extravaganza Woodstock, confrontations with police, bulldozers and eventually the Colorado National Guard all play key roles in this story.