Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lessons for Occupy Wall Street - Remembering America's Tiananmen - Kent Campus massacre

OK, perhaps the London riots and looting by sympathisers of a rogue killed in an unclear scuffle with the police and opportunists who exploited the mayhem may not be suitable comparison with shooting at unarmed innocent students by the police and military.

So American, British or European students who do not read history or show disinterest in world affairs and prefer to rely on hearsay and biased news reports, think again and consider carefully before you plan to embark on a campaign that could disrupt the government for a prolonged period of time.

My sympathies and concerns go to the current worldwide Occupy Wall Street that if they persist, tragedy may befall them.

That the Jasmine Revolution would not happen in democratic and well endowed democratic countries is a myth. The fact is that democracy supports participatory decision-making, which has so far been muted due to apathy and indifference, and the predominance of corporate power.  The people have awakened. Capitalist and incestuous collaboration of politicians, military and corporations need to be questioned if not challenged by the people, for the people.

What really happened?



On May 4, l970 members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine Kent State students. The impact of the shootings was dramatic. The event triggered a nationwide student strike that forced hundreds of colleges and universities to close.

Although we have attempted in this article to answer many of the most important and frequently asked questions about the May 4th shootings, our responses have sometimes been tentative because many important questions remain unanswered. It thus seems important to ask what are the most significant questions which yet remain unanswered about the May 4th events. These questions could serve as the basis for research projects by students who are interested in studying the shootings in greater detail.
(1) Who was responsible for the violence in downtown Kent and on the Kent State campus in the three days prior to May 4th? As an important part of this question, were "outside agitators" primarily responsible? Who was responsible for setting fire to the ROTC building?
(2) Should the Guard have been called to Kent and Kent State University? Could local law enforcement personnel have handled any situations? Were the Guard properly trained for this type of assignment?
(3) Did the Kent State University administration respond appropriately in their reactions to the demonstrations and with Ohio political officials and Guard officials?
(4) Would the shootings have been avoided if the rally had not been banned? Did the banning of the rally violate First Amendment rights?
(5) Did the Guardsmen conspire to shoot students when they huddled on the practice football field? If not, why did they fire? Were they justified in firing?
(6) Who was ultimately responsible for the events of May 4, l970?


In Robert McNamara's (1995) book, "In Retrospect:The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam" is a way to begin is an illustration of the this process. In it he says that United States policy towards Vietnam was "... terribly wrong and we owe it to future generations to explain why."
The May 4 shootings at Kent State need to be remembered for several reasons. First, the shootings have come to symbolize a great American tragedy which occurred at the height of the Vietnam War era, a period in which the nation found itself deeply divided both politically and culturally. The poignant picture of Mary Vecchio kneeling in agony over Jeffrey Miller's body, for example, will remain forever as a reminder of the day when the Vietnam War came home to America. If the Kent State shootings will continue to be such a powerful symbol, then it is certainly important that Americans have a realistic view of the facts associated with this event. Second, May 4 at Kent State and the Vietnam War era remain controversial even today, and the need for healing continues to exist. Healing will not occur if events are either forgotten or distorted, and hence it is important to continue to search for the truth behind the events of May 4th at Kent State. Third, and most importantly, May 4th at Kent State should be remembered in order that we can learn from the mistakes of the past. The Guardsmen in their signed statement at the end of the civil trials recognized that better ways have to be found to deal with these types of confrontations. This has probably already occurred in numerous situations where law enforcement officials have issued a caution to their troops to be careful because "we don't want another Kent State." Insofar as this has happened, lessons have been learned, and the deaths of four young Kent State students have not been in vain.

That was in Ohio, an obscure state in the Midwest, not the centre of power and wealth. The best advice anyone could give to both sides : be flexible and willing to compromise. Avoid confrontation and hardline bargaining that would get nowhere but disastrous consequences. Because we know that it is not beyond the police and military to in America to fire at innocent and unarmed citizens engaging in peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins and protests.  Anything could be justified even in the land of liberty, if the authorities are forced by circumstances. Tiananmen could happen anywhere, and it did.

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