The Massacres at Kent and Jackson - May, 1970
The following remarks by Mike Alewitz are excerpts from a program in
commemoration of the massacres at Kent and Jackson State on May 1970. The
author was a student leader at Kent State, an eyewitness to the murders, and
a leader of the national student strike which followed. The program is an
annual event organized by theater and art activists at Central CT State
May 4, 1970 was a bloody day in the middle of the country. On that day the
Ohio National Guard opened fire on a peaceful anti-war protest at Kent State
University. As the Guardsmen marched away from the scene, they left four
dead or dying and eleven wounded. Among the victims were anti-war
activists, ROTC students, and young people who had been walking to class.
The massacre was followed with the police barrage of bullets into a
dormitory at Jackson State in Mississippi that left two students dead and an
unknown number of others wounded.
Students on these and other campuses were protesting against the escalation
of the war in Southeast Asia following President Richard Nixon's invasion of
Cambodia. That invasion was yet another failed attempt to win a war that
could not be won, despite the most massive bombing, defoliation and
napalming that the world had ever seen.
The massacres at Kent and Jackson, along with deep hatred of the war,
sparked a national student strike that was to become the largest political
demonstration in U.S. history. Students, by the tens of thousands, used
their universities as a base of organizing to reach deep into the heart of
working class America, and into the army, with their anti-war message.
It is worth keeping this in mind when we contemplate the recent admission of
Senator Bob Kerrey that he killed civilians during the war.
Kerrey is apparently troubled by his past. Some have rushed forward to
extend their sympathy to Kerrey. They imply, or state, that Kerrey was a
victim of the war. I haven't seen them moved to express too much sympathy
for the victims of Kerrey's crimes, or for the millions devastated by the war
in SE Asia, or for the victims of war here, including the tens of thousands
of vets discarded on the streets of this country.
Bob Kerrey is a war criminal. He was involved in the slaughter of innocent
and defenseless people. He was given, and accepted, a medal for it. He
parlayed his bogus story into a successful business, a US Senate seat, and
eventually into the presidency of The New School. It's been a lifetime of
Kerrey was never a hero - but there were genuine American heroes in Vietnam.
The vast majority of GI's did not participate in or support the actions of
the Kerreys. The real heroes were the US soldiers - men and women of
conscience - who organized to end the war. They were led by African-American
and Latino GIs, often reacting to the racist nature of the war and the
hypocrisy of the Johnson and Nixon governments. They faced jail and
victimization to wage a heroic rank-and-file movement so massive that the
army was forced to withdraw from Southeast Asia.
We should be very proud of those brothers and sisters. We can also be proud
of the students who marched, sat in, organized, went to jail, faced tear
gas, and gave their lives in the struggle for peace.
Today there is a profound social crisis in this country. To many it seems
that the wealthy are mad with greed. The disparity of wealth between the
rich and the poor is greater than any time in history, and the gap is
widening. The conditions that are creating rebellions in Chiapas and
Cincinnati seem destined to become more generalized
The decade-long struggle to end the war in Vietnam revealed that only a
massive movement could bring peace. Today there is a new movement beginning
for global economic justice. Young people are demonstrating in Seattle,
Quebec and many other cities. They envision a world where food is not a
weapon to be used against poor countries, where U.S. dollars don't go to
death squads, where workers have a living wage, where sweatshops are
eliminated and money goes to human needs and not war. They look to a world
of peace and justice.
Today's protesters are squarely in the tradition of the anti-war soldiers
who rejected terror and fought for peace. With them we see the living
legacy of those who died at Kent and Jackson. We should be optimistic about
Mike Alewitz, Artistic Director
LaBOR aRT & MuRAL PRoJECT
c/o Department of Art
Central Connecticut State University
New Britain, CT 06050
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