|Date: 05/16 5:34 PM
From: Alewitz, Mike (Art), ALEWITZM@MAIL.CCSU.EDU
LaBOR aRT & MuRAL PRoJECT
AGITPROP NEWS: The Legacy of Kent and Vietnam
(The following are edited remarks from a slide show by Mike Alewitz at the
30th anniversary of the shootings at Kent State. The event was held at
Black Box Theater, Central Connecticut State University, and included
remarks by Eric Long of Amnesty International, as well as a performance by
CCSU theater students. Alewitz was a student leader at KSU, an eyewitness
to the shootings, and a leader of the national student strike which
The story of the Kent Massacre begins in Vietnam.
The idea that the US lost in Vietnam because it was fettered in it's
to unleash its weaponry is ludicrous. Some statistics will bear this
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
related vet deaths and 35,000 civilian dead.
Those figures 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 into refugees.
The United States intervention left fully 1 in 30 total dead and 1 in 12
wounded. Washington created 300,000 orphans.
15,500,000 tons of bombs were dropped. Millions of gallons of poisons
dumped. The US succeeded in defoliating fully 10% of the land of Vietnam.
100s of billions dollars were pumped into the death machine...dollars
did not go to schools and medicines and social services.
Despite the 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
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
was the fight against the war in Vietnam, led by active-duty G.I.s, many
them black and Latino. Combined with the militant student anti-war
movement, it spelled the doom of American involvement in SE Asia.
Throughout the late 60's and early 70's were a series of increasingly
anti-war mobilizations that began to reach out to the great mass of the
American people. Combined with the ferment taking place in
and Latino communities, the radicalization began to challenge all our
fundamental political, social and cultural beliefs.
Nixon Invades Cambodia
When President 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
the ROTC building, a dilapidated old wooden structure. Kent was no
to protests. Although largely written out of the history of the Kent
events, the May events were preceded by years of mass mobilizations
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
than the brownshirts and the communist element and also the nightriders
the vigilantes. They're the worst type of people we harbor in America. I
think we are up against the strongest, well-trained, militant,
group in America."
The basis was laid for the murders - all that remained was to pull the
May 4, 1970
On May 4, students formed on the Commons, a traditional free speech area,
a peaceful protest against the war and the military occupation of the
After students refused to relinquish their right to protest, we were
barraged with tear gas. At this point the protest was essentially over.
The guardsmen 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.
The students shot were from 71 to 495 feet away. Most were shot in the
or sides as they attempted to flee. Four students lay dying: my friend
Sandy Scheur, SMC activist Allison Krause, Jeffry Miller and Bill
On May 14, ten days later, 75 Mississippi state cops, armed with
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.
National Student Strike
Fueled by 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
most notably in France. There, in May-June of 1968, students engaged in
massive political struggles that involved the working class in a massive
The student 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
the door for the next stage of US involvement ion Vietnam: an economic war
which has continued to this day.
The governments 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
the role of the armed FBI agent who was photographed in the crowd or the
role of Nixon and Rhodes.
And, to this day, in any official or radical commemoration, has the role
the mass anti-war movement at Kent been acknowledged. The demonstrations
and moratoriums that mobilized thousands of KSU students remains only in
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
Today as we meet, three warships and hundreds of soldiers are preparing to
move against protesters on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. The
lynchings of African -Americans by racist cops continues unabated.
The US government, both directly and through it's surrogate structures
the UN and NATO, remains willing to use its military power throughout the
world. Washington continues to operate the School of the Americas and
institutions which train the torturers of the world. The US continues
conduct massive terror against Cuba - from attempted assassination to
But throughout all this, Wall Street is prevented from accomplishing it's
more vicious aims. They can use massive bombings against the people of
Yugoslavia and Iraq, but they are incapable of militarily occupying those
countries and bending them 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
And what we do today can make a similar contribution . We artists have a
special responsibility in that respect. We are, after all, the ones who
paid to sell their wars.
The sacrifice of our martyrs is not without meaning. They have left us a
living legacy. What happens with that legacy is up to us. The students
died, and those who struck and marched, are part of a collective
consciousness to build a lasting world peace based on human solidarity.
We can be a part of that too.