COLUMN SEVENTY-FIVE, SEPTEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
AN EYEWITNESS REMEMBERS THE KENT STATE MASSACRE
[The following article is updated from a slide show by Mike Alewitz at the 30th anniversary of the shootings at Kent State. Alewitz was a student leader at KSU, an eyewitness to the shootings, and a leader of the national student strike that followed.]
The New York Times
has reported on Bush administration plans for an invasion of Iraq next year.
The blueprint calls for an occupation of that country with up to 250,000
US troops. The government in
Washington, at the behest of the oil and other corporations that they represent,
are threatening to plunge us unto another Vietnam to protect their profits.
The costs of
that war were enormous: 2,500,000 men and women of my generation were forced to
serve in Vietnam. Of those, 58,135
were killed; 2500 were missing and likely dead; 303,616 were wounded and 33,000
were paralyzed. In addition, there
were 110,000 war related vet deaths and 35,000 civilian dead.
pale in comparison to the losses suffered by the Vietnamese. There were
1,921,000 Vietnamese deaths.
200,000 Kampucheans were killed. 100,000 Laotians.
A total of 3,200,000 Asians were wounded. 14,305,000 people were made
States intervention left fully 1 in 30 total dead and 1 in 12 wounded.
Washington created 300,000 orphans.
of bombs were dropped. Millions of
gallons of poisons were
billions dollars were pumped into the death machine...dollars that did not go to
schools and medicines and social services.
horrific punishment inflicted on the people of Southeast Asia, the United States
was eventually forced to withdraw---defeated by the combined power of the
Vietnamese liberation struggle and the anti-Vietnam War movement.
From the very
beginning of US intervention, opposition began not only on the campus, but in
working-class communities, and of critical importance, within the army itself.
One of the
great unsung, heroic actions of the North American working class was the fight
against the war in Vietnam, led by active-duty GIs many of them black and
Latino. Combined with the militant
student anti-war movement, it spelled the doom of American involvement in SE
late "60s and early "70s were a series of increasingly large anti-war
mobilizations that began to reach out to the great mass of the American people.
Combined with the ferment taking place in African-American and Latino
communities, the radicalization began to challenge all our fundamental
political, social and cultural beliefs.
Richard Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia, and the widening of the war,
on April 30, 1970, it was met with universal
revulsion. Student protests began to erupt all across the country.
At Kent State,
a series of protests took place from May 1-3, including graduate students
symbolically burying the Constitution, black students rallying against the war,
unrest in downtown Kent, and students burning down the ROTC building, a
dilapidated old wooden structure. Kent
was no stranger to protests. Although
largely written out of the history of the Kent events, the May events were
preceded by years of mass mobilizations against the war which involved thousands
of students in street demonstrations.
On May 3 the
Ohio National Guard was called out against the students by Governor James
Rhodes. Rhodes echoed the words of
Nixon, who called the student protesters "bums."
On May 3, at a
press conference, Rhodes said of the students: "They're worse than the
brownshirts and the communist element and also the nightriders and the
vigilantes. They're the worst type
of people we harbor in America. I
think we are up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary
group in America."
The basis was
laid for the murders---all that remained was to pull the triggers.
May 4, 1970
On May 4,
students formed on the Commons, a traditional free speech area, in a peaceful
protest against the war and the military occupation of the campus.
refused to relinquish their right to protest, we were barraged with tear gas.
At this point the protest was essentially over.
continued to march over Blanket Hill, to a practice field on the other side.
They crouched and aimed at us. They
got up and began to walk back over the hill.
But as they neared the pagoda, without provocation, they turned and fired
at the unarmed students.
shot were from 71 to 495 feet away. Most
were shot in the back or sides as they attempted to flee. Four students lay dying: my friend Sandy Scheur, SMC activist
Allison Krause, Jeffry Miller and Bill Schroeder.
On May 14, ten
days later, 75 Mississippi state cops, armed with carbines, shotguns and
submachine guns, fired 460 rounds into a dormitory at protesting students at
Jackson State. They killed James
Earl Green and Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, and left 12 wounded.
hatred of the war, the shootings at Kent and Jackson triggered what became the
largest political demonstration in US history, a national student strike which
shut down most major universities. On
campus after campus, students began to meet and discuss how to turn their
universities into real institutions of learning, and how to build a movement to
end the war. We patterned our
strike on the actions of students in other countries, most notably in France.
There, in May-June of 1968, students engaged in massive political struggles that
involved the working class in a massive general strike.
anti-war movement helped to fuel and support the anti-war soldiers.
The army began to collapse in Vietnam.
Eventually, in April of 1975, the US was forced to completely withdraw.
The military defeat opened the door for the next stage of US involvement
ion Vietnam: an economic war that has continued to this day.
in Washington and Ohio attempted to destroy the memory of what happened at Kent
by building over the site and covering up the truth of what happened there.
There has never been a full accounting the murders, the role of the armed
FBI agent who was photographed in the crowd or the role of Nixon and Rhodes.
And, to this
day, not in any official or radical commemoration, has the role of the mass
anti-war movement at Kent been acknowledged.
The demonstrations and moratoriums that mobilized thousands of KSU
students remain only in the consciousness of those who participated.
The Place of
Kent in World History
What then is
the place of Kent and Jackson in world history?
There can, and
will, be more massacres. It would
be naive to think otherwise.
Israeli assault on the Palestinian people continues unabated, bought and paid
for by billions in US military support. The
"War on Terror," which is really a war of terror directed against any
who challenge US policy, is being used to prepare new wars abroad and attacks on
civil liberties here at home.
government, both directly and through it's surrogate structures like the UN and
NATO, remains willing to use its military power throughout the world.
Washington continues to operate the School of the Americas and other
institutions that train the torturers of the world.
The US continues to conduct massive terror against Cuba---from attempted
assassination to kidnapping children.
all this, Wall Street is prevented from accomplishing its more vicious aims.
They can use massive bombings against the people of Afghanistan or Iraq,
but they are incapable of conducting the kind of military occupation that will
bend those peoples to their will. The
anti-war sentiments of the American people, a living legacy of the students at
Kent and Jackson, as well as the millions who marched and demonstrated...that is
what ties their hands.
of our martyrs is not without meaning. They
have left us a living legacy. That
legacy was apparent on April 20, when tens of thousands of us marched in
Washington and San Francisco against the US-Israeli war. The martyrs of Kent and
Jackson came alive in those demonstrations. The students who died, and those who struck and marched, are
part of a collective consciousness to build a lasting world peace based on human
Central Connecticut State University
New Britain, CT 06050
Phone: (860)832-2359 ##
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