The term Student Movement can be referred to as “student activism” or just Student Union in most countries of the world. It basically refers to those organizations headed and run by students within higher learning institutions with the main reason of achieving or affecting a social, political, environmental or an economic change. It is mostly associated with the steps that students get involved into to raise their influence in decision making.
Reports indicate that most of such student movements end up having a great role to play in the broader political scene of a country after graduation. For the case of United States, student Unions date back to the introduction of public education . Most of the Unions then operated under the umbrella body going by the name “American Youth Congress” (Brax, 1980, pp. 72-78). In the 1960’s Student Movements had gained ground and was playing a vital role in the States national politics.
Some of the notable student organizations included: – SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) which focused to change the oppressive nature of most schools into a more uplifting social agent. The SDS later culminated into a Youth Liberation Organization whose main intention was to bring to an end the state led education system. Another group in the 60’s was the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) that was established to fight against racism and abolish the segregation by the government… heir hope was to see into the integration of all American public schools (Brax, 1980, pp. 80).
Most of these movements had diverse effects to the Administration of nearly all Colleges and Universities in the United States which led to restructuring so that the administrations could be able to effectively deal with the challenges presented by the students. The Students as well as the teachers also got the share of the same, there was a notable change in attitude and behavior among the two groups, especially after most of the movements operations had turned tragic (Loeb, 1994, pp. 4-45).
This paper will give general highlights of the concept of the Free Speech Student Movement and zero in on two incidences of shooting at Jackson State College and Kent State University changed the American Society. The Free Speech Movement The Free Speech Movement was a protest by the students of University of California Berkeley over what they claimed was the schools administrations attempt to ban any political activity in campus as well as deny them freedom of expression and academic freedom.
The protest which was characterized by sit-ins and peaceful demos led to the arrest of about 800 Students, a move which only sparked violence among the demonstrators. Finally, the university officials gave in and backed down. Granting the students what they wanted. The then Acting chancellor, Martin Meyerson formulated some provisional rules to regulate political activities in the campus (Searle, 1971, pp. 31-64). Having worn on this battle, FSM carried their fight into civil liberties and some politicians joined the camp and used it as a vehicle into political achievements.
What is said to be the force that triggers most of the violent retaliation by the student unions is the authoritarian governments and the pathetic living conditions of the students. The students believe that their welfare is not a bother to the school’s administration and they therefore resort to taking laws in their own hands; in a more civilized way, they form organization through which they can air their grievances to the concerned authorities. By forming a union, the students will have more bargaining power than in their individual entities.
In the 1960’s, the US government felt the need to change economic policies to counter the challenges by the world economy, it therefore proposed for a some drastic changes to the higher learning institutions by limiting on the available courses in Universities and reducing the number of number of students; however, this did not go well with the students who pulled in the exact opposite direction. The students wanted changes to be effected to their advantage, for instance, additional participation in decision making in running of the schools, expulsion of rigid lecturers and completely equipping the school workshops and laboratories.
Through these said movements, the students who are getting involved in demonstration have increased and the same applies to their influence in the national politics… they are constantly brushing shoulders with the authorities, either through sit-ins, demos and destruction of property (Michener, 1971, pp. 347-471). Kent State University Shooting The incident (Mostly referred to as the Kent State Massacre) took place on 4th May 1970, was marked the greatest student strike in the history of America. The students had gone on strike to show their displeasure to the government on the inversion of Cambodia by American troops.
The shooting by the Ohio National Guard as they tried to disperse the demonstrators left four students dead, nine seriously wounded and several minor injuries (Renner, 2006). Not all the students that were in the scene were demonstrating, some of them were just onlookers who were observing the incident from a distance… but they too were caught in the confusion and shot. A sign of solidarity with their affected comrades, there aroused a national response to the shooting where more than 8 million students from colleges, universities and high schools throughout the United States closed and joined the strike.
The situation quickly developed from a social issue to a political affair where the opposition leaders sided with the demonstrators and pointed accusing fingers to the government and its iron handedness ((Payne, 1981, pp. 17-20)). One graduate student was reported to have even buried a copy of the U. S constitution and another literally burned his draft card (Payne, 1981, pp. 23). The protests spread into the streets where the students were joined by the members of the public and soon they were throwing beer bottles and stones to motorists, breaking store fronts and glass windows of any building in the vicinity.
Looting and Vandalism became the order of the day. By the time the police arrived, the crowd had lit bonfires. They tried to repel the police by pelting them wit stoned and bottles as they yelled obscenities at them. The situation became more of a civil war than a student protest. Jackson State College Shooting Just ten days after the Kent State Shooting (On 14th May1970), two more students were shot by the police in a similar incident at Jackson State University. This occurrence sparked debate on the legality of these protests and the process used by the law enforcers to stop the demonstrators.
Even though it is reported that no shooting order was given to the officers, the y did shoot and some lives were lost. Therefore taking a legal action against the protesters and the police may be the only viable thing to do, but, it certainly does not equalize the loss by the families who lost their loved ones or those whose properties were damaged. To make matters worse, most of the Kent cases ended up in acquittals due to lack of enough evidence and literally almost no one was brought to book. The Jackson incident on the other side was said to be of racial linkage on top of being a case of police brutality.
The police were reported to have fired directly to a small group of unarmed students outside their dorm and even inside. The students reacted violently to the shooting, sparking more insecurity to a once peaceful university. What aggravated the situation were the memories of the Kent Shooting which had taken place hardly a fortnight before the Jackson incident… the memories, the anger and remorse, were still very fresh in the students’ minds. Responding to a small stone throwing crowd by a fully loaded gun is uncalled for and does not make any sense as a means of dispersing demonstrators.
The FBI reports have it that more than 460 rounds of live ammunition struck the building with well over 160 bullet holes on the side of the wall facing the street ( Boyer, 2001, pp. 251-269). Every window on the Lynch Street was shattered to the ground, . Effect of the Above Shootings The teachers as well as the students were angered by the government’s decision to draft them to fight in a war that they had strongly opposed and decided to protest to that effect.
The same feeling was echoed by the entire American public who also joined in the demos to express solidarity with the students. The Jackson University students were not impressed by the rumors that had spread that a civil rights activist Medgar Evers had been shot dead together with his wife. They did not wait to verify the validity of the information, but instead decided to resort into violence to show their displeasure. Both of these events illustrate how much any unresolved or an accumulated anger can reminisce itself if not handled with care.
The school authorities in the future should formulate better way to address issues with their student in ironing out any difference. They are not supposed to wait until things go overboard before springing into action. If there is need to abort a protest which is threatening to spill out into the streets, the university authorities should direct the law enforcer to just keep vigil outside the campus compound and not be given any access into the campus premises as witnessed in the Jackson Shooting where students were shot at outside and inside the dormitory.
The police can only be allowed in if the situation is proving unbearable to those within the compound and if the students are destroying their own property. Proper investigation is mandatory to determine the root cause, organizers and real motive of the demonstrators before putting into use the police paraphernalia. If only the police first carried out proper investigation before resorting to violence, the deaths and injuries at Jackson would have been avoided.
It was said that some motorists had in the previous day before the killings reported at the Jackson Police Department that some black students pelted them with as they drove along Lynch Street. Upon investigation, long after the damage had been done, the stone throwers turned out to be non-students (Simpson and Spofford, 1990, pp. 159-160). Even though the face value of the movements may be viewed as failures, it was not totally so. Their opinions which seemed logical were entrenched in the government priorities, hence leading into less provocative administrations.
The government has since adopted less lethal ways of dispersing rioters, thanks to the Kent State events. The movements had got vital effect on culture and art of the nation: adjustments were made on the education and social systems on how the children were to be brought up as well as the content of the school syllabus. The compounded effect of the two shooting incidences exposed the dark brutal side of American Law enforcers and instead of the police’s reaction solving the problem, it triggered it further.
Most anti-war organization, local and international a like carried forward the fight from the students and made themselves heard. These two incidences marked the highest point of Anti-War Movement in the U. S. The combined force drove president, Nixon, to form a commission of inquiry to investigate the facts behind the two shooting incidences. The commission revealed that the Jackson shooting was a case of excessive force from the police side .
The report further concluded that the police action was unforgivable, inexcusable and unwarranted. The Kent shooting though resulted into less severe charges on the culprits, the families of the victims were compensated a total of $675,000 (Boyer, 2001, pp. 270-279). Conclusion From the information gathered in this paper, it can be concluded that for whatever level of disagreement, both parties at war need to find a compromise position to level their differences and forge a way forward for the benefit of every party involved.
Such incidences call for a collective responsibility, not selfish interests where instead of seeking ways of solving the problem, individuals will be busy trading accusations. The paper has also established that the more the government repulsed the students from the streets by the police, or reduced funds for the Universities and Colleges, the more the pressure increased leading to students growing more and more unified, hence escalating the conflict by carrying their frustrations into the streets.
There should be a form of “campus community policing” a similar system to the community policing where the university security men guarding the campus treat the students work together. This concept can bring to a stop the habit of rushing to call back up from the state security in case of a slight misunderstanding that can be solved by a simple dialog. To the law enforcers who are keeping law and order, they need to come to the realization that shooting at a retreating person should be a shame and an inhuman act.
Nothing can justify those kinds of shootings like that of the two cases. The most saddening was the Jackson case where the 21 year old Phillip L. Gibbs, a junior law student and a father of an 18 year old, was shot at the back of his head. Is it possible to confront and put the life a police officer by turning your back on him? This question may be left unanswered for now, but the answer is obvious to all and what should be done to avert such incidences from replicating is also apparent.