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Danger of Right-Wing Rhetoric to Student Protestors

On May 4, 1970, more than 300 students assembled on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. They gathered to protest President Richard Nixon’s public announcement on April 30 that the Vietnam War was expanding into Cambodia.    

The students were immediately confronted by 28 National Guard Soldiers who fired 67 rounds of bullets, killing four students and wounding nine others. One of those wounded suffered permanent paralysis. Afterward, eight of the shooters were charged with depriving those students of their civil rights, however, they were acquitted. What was important was the judge’s comments after announcing the acquittals. He said, “It is vital that state and National Guard officials do not regard this decision as authorizing or approving the use of force against demonstrators, whatever the occasion of the issue involved. Such use of force is, and was, deplorable.”

Fifty-four years later, young college students have again assembled to protest the brutal slaughter of innocent Palestinian men, women, and children in the Gaza Strip. According to Axios News, there have been over 600 arrests on 15 university campuses over the past two weeks. It appears that some elected officials, like Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, have forgotten the lesson learned from the Kent State killings. When the Governor was informed that students were supporting the brutal slaughter of Palestinians, he sent in more than 100 state troopers with the orders to clear the campus. The result was the appearance of riot-clad troopers on the campus who immediately began an attack, leading to the arrest of the students. Fortunately, there have been no killings like what occurred at Kent State. But, the students will not give up on exercising their right to protest. As they continue to exercise that right, the dangerous rhetoric will continue to escalate, which could possibly lead to a terrible outcome.

In this country, there is a history of young and idealistic students coming to the defense of the oppressed. Their demonstration on American campuses is NOT anti-Jewish or even anti-Israel, as the right-wing provocateurs claim. They are not demonstrating in any way in support of Hamas. They express their solidarity with marginalized people; in this case, it is with the Palestinians. However, the vitriolic rhetoric coming from the Republicans will ultimately lead to disaster. This past week, when Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson went to Columbia University to insist on the University President’s resignation, his comments were provocative. When the Texas Lieutenant Governor stated that anyone who sides with America’s enemies should be banned from all college campuses, his comments were also provocative.

If these Republican elected officials are trying to gain favor with the Jewish voters, they must also recognize that they are attacking our young voters, and the result could be catastrophic for our country. We do not want another Kent State Massacre.

Frederick Williams is the author of four novels, has ghostwritten three autobiographies, and has edited numerous works, including “The Color of Strength: Embracing the Passion of Our Culture.”

Fred worked on Capitol Hill for Senator Birch Bayh as a legislative aide. He assisted in the drafting and management of the first Senate legislative proposal to make Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday. He also assisted in the creation of the African American Studies minor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He designed and taught a number of classes to include African American Political Thought, African American Politics, African American Literature from Phyllis Wheatley to the Black Arts Movement, Politics of the Civil Rights Movement, and a course on Novelists of the Harlem Renaissance.

Fred teaches creative writing courses for Black Writers on Tour in Los Angeles, Calif., and for the Zora Neale Hurston Festival Education Day in Eatonville, Florida. He also teaches writing courses at Gemini Ink in his hometown of San Antonio. Fred was named one of the four recipients of the “Men of the Year Award” by San Antonio Magazine. He also received the 2011 Arts and Letters Award from the Friends of the San Antonio Public Library.

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