Take to the Streets, Again and Again

Nightmarish is one way to begin to consider the recent tweet and Facebook post by Republican Dan Adamini, secretary of the Marquette County (Michigan) Republican Party. Adamini’s admonition that shooting unarmed students and protesters might be the “only solution” in response to the massive street protests that have taken place since the Electoral College victory of Donald Trump on November 8, 2016, and his inauguration as president on January 20, 2017.  Additional protests have spontaneously taken place against the far-Right backdrop of his nominees for government posts, including protests against the racists, the militaristic, those infected with Islamophobia, the climate-change deniers, the Know Nothings, and those infected with Islamophobia.

Mr. Adamini tweeted “One bullet stops a lot of thuggery.” And his nefarious post was elaborated on in Facebook: “They do it because they know there are no consequences.”

On May 4, 1970, four unarmed students were murdered by Ohio National Guardsmen on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Nine other students were wounded, some very seriously among the crowd of protesters and others who were simply walking on the campus on that fateful day so many years ago. Adamini now says that he is “sorry” for his pair of incendiary posts (“Republican official Dan Adamini apologizes after calling for ‘another Kent State,’” The Christian Science Monitor, February 6, 2017).

Anyone serious about understanding the murders (if that is humanly possible) and wounding of college students at Kent State, and only a few days later at Jackson State in Mississippi, needs to pay close attention to the hate speech and violent speech that was used both in the lead-up to the shootings and in its terrible aftermath. Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, later dubbed the “Great Communicator,” said that if it took a “bloodbath” to stop student protest, then the nation better get on with it. Richard Nixon called student protesters “bums,” a statement that grievously hurt slain student Allison Krause’s father, Arthur, who went on to become the heroic champion of the endless legal battles to secure some measure of relief for the surviving students and the families of the slain martyrs. And there was the Director of the FBI and moving force behind the illegal national intelligence program of protesters known as COINTELPRO, who said that the students had invited the lethal response by their protest. Finally, James Rhodes, then governor of Ohio, who used the infamous words “Brown Shirts” and “vigilantes” to describe student protesters at Kent State.

The student protests at Kent State were in response to Richard Nixon’s military incursion into Cambodia that Nixon announced only a few days before the campus at Kent became the scene of vibrant protests in response to Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam War to purportedly stop the flow of supplies to those military forces fighting to reunify both North and South Vietnam. Nixon had run on a platform of having a “secret plan” for peace in 1968, but that plan was in reality an expansion of the war.

A footnote to the history of protest to the Vietnam War in the U.S. and across the world was that protest did not stop as a result of the murders at Kent State and Jackson State, but protesters knew when they went out into the streets to counter the actions of the government, that the government would stop at nothing to achieve its nefarious objectives in that war.  The current situation on the streets of the U.S. and around the world is a testament to those great heroes and martyrs who gave their lives and were wounded during those tumultuous days of so long ago. War will not stop protest, but increase the  intent of protesters to stop war; the horrors of racism will inspire the best among the protest movement to take to the streets; targeting a specific religion or religions will be met by masses of people on the streets; misogyny will bring out millions of people to demand its end; grotesque and unfeeling caricature of disabled people will meet with strident protest; environmental destruction will be countered by those of goodwill and their protest will save this planet; schools will serve the needs of all students; the economy will meet the needs of all workers, not just the one or two percent of great wealth who have reaped lavish benefits since the tax system was turned on its head by the so-called “Great Communicator” over three decades ago.

On October 15, 1969, as part of the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, I marched with others and heard the late Allard Lowenstein, then a U.S. Representative from Long Island, New York, address a crowd of protesters on the Quadrangle at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The Congressman warned that if peaceful protest wasn’t heard and acted upon by the Nixon administration, then more strident protests would take place. Perhaps history is indeed repeating itself.

Great challenges bring out great souls just as it did in May 1970. Threats by the ill-informed and those with evil intent will not stop those who have a vision of a newer world.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. 

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).