College students across America during the first week of May 1970 participated in strikes and protests as a result of the United States spreading their war involvement into Cambodia.
On April 30, 1970, President Richard Nixon addressed the United States of America and announced the United States' invasion into Cambodia after North Vietnam themselves invaded the country. This was controversial to many American citizens, but perhaps none more than the college student community. Collegiate students all around the nation thrusted into a frenzy of student protests and strikes. None perhaps more public than the student protests at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. The Kent State University tragedy allowed for more student strikes, like the one at the University of Washington, to occur and was likely the cause of multiple events in the infamous week of student anti-war movements.
University of Washington
On May 5, 1970, upon hearing news of the Kent State shootings, students at the University of Washington began to devise up their plans for a strike to right the wrongs of the war efforts in Vietnam and the slaughtered students of Kent State. The 7,000 students and faculty that were gathered decided upon proceeding straight to the president of the school, Charles Odegaard and demanded that the school's ROTC buildings be turned into a memorial to honor the fallen students of Kent State and end the school's affiliation with the war efforts in Southeastern Asia. President Odegaard denied the strikers' requests and also warned them of the possibility of the National Guard being called into campus. Following President Odegaard's address to the school, the vast majority of the strikers poured out of campus onto the streets of Washington and eventually got to Interstate 5 and blocked all lanes of traffic. Despite being completely peaceful, they were forced off of the highway by police. The following day, Wednesday May 6, the strikers had the same demands and again, President Odegaard denied them but cancelled classes for the upcoming Friday, May 8 in order to honor the Kent State students. Nevertheless, the strikers marched on and again flooded the streets of Washington, this time their crowd grew to nearly 15,000 people chanting the likes of "Cambodia", "Power to the people", and "Yowza, yowza, yowza". Again, the rioters were stopped by a police who made a road block and they were forced to disperse. On May 7, the strike became violent. Students in the dead of night began seeping out into the streets of Washington again and started smashing windows of the nearby banks of Pacific National Bank and Seattle-First Bank. Police arrived and the crowd was quickly broken up. On campus, students racked up over $6,000 in damages to buildings across campus. To ensure the following day's events stayed peaceful, police activity was heightened. On May 8, the day President Odegaard scheduled for classes to be cancelled, Mayor Wes Uhlman had the lanes of Interstate 5 cleared for the 10,000 peaceful strikers. Emphasis of peace was important in making the strike happen. The students, faculty, and common citizens had to adhere to May Uhlman's request of being peaceful in order to execute their final plan. This strike can be deemed as a success because with the help of higher powers, the people involved demonstrated a peaceful strike that rang out into the world as a positive event. President Nixon may not have changed his policies on the war in Southeast Asia, but the strike at the University of Washington aided national fervor and the anti-war effort in a positive way (Altaras par 20-41).
After President Nixon announced the move into Cambodia, calls for a protest began to rise. Students on the campus of Kent State University began to rise and plot their moves within the next few days, and how they were going to let their voices be heard. On May 1, the day after President Nixon's address, approximately 500 students at the University gathered in the common area for an organized rally. There, they planned the protest that was set to take place on May 4. The following day, Kent Mayor LeRoy Satrom felt obligated to meet with a representative of the Ohio National Guard under the advisement of Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes after catching word of Kent State's students plans. Mayor Satrom decided to call in the National Guard and to his dismay, the first sign of rioting was already under way on Kent State's campus. The campus's ROTC building was burnt to the ground with angry protesters cheering and dancing around the burning building. The following evening on May 3, another rally was held and the protesters were bombarded with tear gas. It was just a precursor as to what would happen the following day (DeBrosse 42-44). On May 4, 1970, some 1,000 students gathered in the school's common area at high noon for their protest planned several days prior. As the students began their march from the common area to the athletic practice fields, the students were under strict orders from the National Guardsmen to stop the protest and disperse. The National Guard began their tormenting of the students with tear gas that they threw into the giant crowds of students. The next move by the National Guard proved to be a mistake of epic proportions. A number of National Guardsmen proceeded to open fire on the students, killing four and injuring eight more. Two of the students killed were involved in the protest, the other two were innocent bystanders who were trying to get to their next class (Kifner par 2-4). In the following days after the tragedy, former Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy was quoted as saying that the students involved were, "slain in the heart of Middle America by the violent temper of our society," ("An Inevitable American Tragedy" 451). Bruno Ast, the designer of the monument built on Kent State's campus honoring the fallen students, said that "The victims, by their sacrifice should no longer be mourned but celebrated," (O'Hara 301). The action taken by the National Guardsmen prompted students across the nation to take part in anti-war movement, and the University of Washington was one such institution where students took part in making sure their stance on the war efforts were heard.
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