Friday, May 04, 2012
May 4, 1970 Kent State, and Reagan's words
The events May 4, when National Guard soldiers fired on student protesters and killed four people at Kent State in Ohio were in 1970, in the context of the 1969 My Lai Massacre and the invasion of Cambodia.
They also had a domestic precedent. On May 15, !969 ("Bloody Thursday") then-governor Reagan and former-Alameda County DA Edwin Meese, his chief-of-staff, overrode the University's statement that they would not try to remove occupiers from People's Park.
Police fired shotguns into the crowd, killing James Rector, a bystander, and wounding at least 128 people with "OO" calibre buckshot.
This was followed by National Guard deployment (with tanks!) and weeks during which Berkeley citizens were beaten and detained, regardless of their involvement or not in the protests. I grew up in this area, and have vivid memories of the state of fear in the community.
The irony of this video, shot by a student during police occupation of campus, is that he has scored it with the CAl fight songs and marching band.
On April 7, 1970, not quite a year after the death of James Rector, Reagan said, in an address to the California Growers Association, "If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with. No more appeasement." The events of Kent State happened a few weeks later, when Gov Rhodes made similar statements.
I note the militarized approach to crowd control in cities across the United States when people are engaged in political speech, but not when Hockey fans turn over cars. Sadly, this is not new.