We’ve all seen them. Demonstrations and protests for political, societal, and religious causes are common occurrences on university campuses. There are many forms of student protest, like the quiet ones who stand in one spot for the majority of the day holding a simple sign that is meant to convey a very powerful message. Or maybe you’ve seen the large banners and dioramas on Hayden Lawn or in front of the Memorial Union depicting all sorts of world and societal crises. Although we may not think much of them as we rush off to class, campus demonstrations and protests throughout history have led the way for major change.
- Kent State University, Ohio. 1970. Just a year into Richard Nixon’s term, his promises to end the highly controversial Vietnam War became null. The United States Army invaded Cambodia, heightening the conflict oversees. University students across the country protested the actions of the government. Kent State students rallied on May 4th, 1970, beginning as a peaceful protest but turning into a heated conflict involving rocks and tear gas between the student body and the National Guard (ordered to disperse the gathering). Although the facts still remain unclear, four university students were shot and killed. Known as the “Kent State Massacre”, this event sparked controversy over police brutality, and the War itself. Universities and colleges all over the United States were forced to close down because of the massive rallies, sit-ins, and demonstrations in honor of the happenings at Kent State. This surprising reaction from the rest of the country led the government and police groups to evaluate their responses to the ever more frequent rallies and find ways to peacefully disperse crowds.
- Nashville, Tennessee. 1960. In the heat of the battle for Civil Rights, a group of students from four African-American colleges called the Nashville Student Movement planned sit-ins at local segregated restaurants and other commercial establishments. Police began arresting those involved, but that didn’t stop these students from recruiting more and more supporters and sending wave after wave of demonstrators. They still weren’t deterred when the home of one of their supporters was bombed because of their activities. Finally, after a month of resilient protesting, the Nashville government de-segregated the city, paving the way for the United States to finally move forward in the fight for equality.
Although we may see the demonstrations around campus as somewhat fruitless, just remember that these people really care about what they’re rallying for and we can afford them at least a passing glance. Who knows, maybe they’ll be on the next list of demonstrations that changed history.
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