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Op-Ed: Could the DNC Be Another Kent State?

By Samantha A. Torrence     Jul 31, 2008 in Politics
The Democratic National Convention has come under threats from liberal protestors, and in response the government has been utilized to keep intelligence on perceived threats.
May 4, 1970 was a day of mourning for Kent, Ohio at Kent State University. Four students had been shot dead during an anti-war protest. The events of that day and the week leading up to it have been lost in the spin against the establishment. However if Americans are to truly learn from the mistakes of that event, they will have to be faced with some uncomfortable truths, and how easily the events can be performed again.
As Nixon announced a new front on the Vietnam war, Cambodia, protests sparked across the country. Students across America were against the actions despite the fact that Cambodia was harboring and giving aid to the Vietcong. The first protest at Kent over the rekindling of the Vietnam war was held on May 1st 1970. After an emotional protest where the Constitution was buried and another protest was called for on May 4th. That evening riots began to break out at the local Kent State bars. Some allege it was bikers, others say students started the riots. The facts that remain are that the bars were closed early and caused more riots involving the destruction of public and private property as well as the lighting of bonfires. The protest/riots were responded to by local law enforcement. Chaos ensued over the next few days with clashes between the National Guard, which was called in to assist, and students, teachers, and random protesters. Some stories from that time include instances where tear gas was used to disperse violent gatherings and some of the canisters were thrown back at the Guard. ROTC members reported on being harassed as example of the establishment and the ROTC building was burned to the ground in protest. It was fortunate that the ROTC building was already scheduled for demolition. However during the large "bonfire" protesters attempted to stop firemen from extinguishing the blaze. Kent State Campus and Kent itself became a zone without order.
We all know how these events ended. On May 4th 1970, despite being told that the protest was not authorized ( this decision was found to be legal), people gathered at the Commons for their demonstration. The Guard was ordered to disperse the crowd, which it attempted to with tear gas. However, emotions were high and the students advanced on the guards throwing rocks and threatening the guards. In response there was an alleged order to fire. The order is said to be confirmed, although the guard denied being ordered. The tape can be found on the Internet for anyone to listen to. 29 guardsmen turned and fired a barrage of bullets from M-1 rifles. Some fired into the air, some into the ground, but for that 13 seconds a few chose to fire into the crowd killing 4 and wounding 9.
The lesson here is that people taking their "right to peaceably assemble" and removing peace from the equation escalated what could have been a simple demonstration into a massacre. The Kent State Shootings have become a scar on America that still remains to remind us the risks one takes when they over step the bounds of law. Of course many people would say it is a warning about what happens when the government gets too powerful. To me it says do not give the government any reason to exercise its power by breaking the law. In hind sight this massacre did not have to happen, the protesters could have been responsible and exercise their freedom of speech as the constitution detailed. They could have read the Constitution they decided to bury to remind them of what was deemed legal. Lastly, the National Guard could have not shot directly into the crowd. Warning shots were sufficient, but let's be real. While rocks can kill, and the students did close them in for a bit, they were more of a threat than the students. Use of force dictates that their actions were just, morality does not.
Now we have the modern day catalysts for another Kent State Massacre if we are not careful. The Democratic Nation Convention is poised for drama reflective of the 1968 DNC, and if disenfranchised Democrats, extremist liberals, and anti-war protesters do not keep their wits about them and obey the law as dictated by the Constitution their actions could lead to martial law and possibly another volley of deadly bullets.
Currently the FBI has announced that there are no credible outside terrorist threats to the DNC, but while working on security for the convention they have received reports of threats from anarchist groups and protest groups. The FBI has called in federal agents and the Governor of Colorado has called in the Army and Air National Guard. Both agencies will be utilized in the event that violence breaks out.
According to Jim Davis, the the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI for Colorado:
"Keep in mind, these guys we're bringing in here are primarily here to respond to something bad," Davis said. "They're here to respond to a terrorist attack. Hopefully, they come out, see the Rocky Mountains, and go home. That would be the best scenario in my view."
What are these threats that have been thrown at the DNC?
"When things blow up because the police have to enforce a permit that the Democrats got, don’t blame us for that,” said Glenn Spagnuolo, an organizer for the Re-create 68 Alliance.
From the Denver Post:
War protesters promised a massive conflict at Civic Center on the eve of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, after losing in a lottery process Thursday that awarded a permit for the park to the party planner for Denver’s host committee.
“We’re having our protest at Civic Center,” said a livid Glenn Spagnuolo, a lead organizer for the group Re-create 68. “We’re not going to give up Civic Center park to the Democrats. . . . They are creating a very dangerous situation.”
Re-create 68 and its affiliates packed the random lottery with applications to better its chances, but the single entry by Jenny Anderson for the host committee won for Sunday, Aug. 24. The convention will be held Aug. 25-28 at the Pepsi Center.
Spagnuolo has been meeting monthly with city officials for a year, hoping to win the right to use Civic Center throughout the convention. He says 50,000 war protesters are coming for a march from Civic Center to the Pepsi Center on Aug. 24.
He said Thursday that he would not respect the host committee’s permit and would occupy the park, even if it forced police to intervene.
Referring to the $50 million in federal security money slated for the convention, Spagnuolo said Denver police would need “$25 million to protect the Pepsi Center and $25 million to protect Civic Center.”
$50 million?! That is one costly hissy fit.
Re-create 68 is a group planning to protest the DNC. They insist their name is not reflective of the riots of Chicago in 68, but the spirit of protesting against the DNC. Of course they also say that the protesters in 68 did nothing wrong and it was all the police's fault. Yeah, that is totally believable, let me roll my eyes. And people wonder why the police get stressed before something like this? Because people blatantly state they will break the law, and they have no respect for the consequences of their actions. More over they will try to push the blame on someone else. Re-create 68 says it will not be held responsible for breaking the law, that is a threat.
Here is the "Statement of Non-Violence and Prinicples" issued by Recreate 68
1. To publicly support rights of free speech, the right to organize, and the right to dissent for all.
2. To maintain solidarity with, and respect the guidelines of, all permitted activities, recognizing that there are many individuals who seek a safe and peaceful protest.
3. To support and participate in efforts to assure civil liberties for everyone in Denver, including the right to organize civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action without that organizing being criminalized or disrupted.
4. To speak out against any preemptive arrests, raids on activists spaces, or attacks on independent journalists and other media.
5. To be conscious of and speak out against police targeting and differential treatment of people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, accent, or appearance.
6. Not to turn people over to the police, or share information with the police about other groups.
7. Not to publicly criticize the tactics used by other parts of our movement or cooperate with media efforts to be divisive or portray good protester/bad protester.
8. To publicly condemn police repression and brutality.
9. To be conscious that if violence or property destruction does occur, we will do what we can to help prevent it from being blown out of proportion and dominating the media coverage.
10. To remember that, when all is said and done, our greatest victory will be an activist community with a renewed sense of strength and unity.
Allow me to interject some reality here. This attitude represented above goes beyond the right to peaceably assemble. This is a plan of civil disobedience, whether it be willfully violent or willfully uncooperative, many of the intentions stated above can lead to the breaking of the law. Also I find it funny that they are all about freedom of speech, but will do anything to keep the media from covering what is going on.
Re-create 68, here is what governs freedom of speech. Perhaps you all need to take of the rose colored glasses, put on some bifocals and read the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Honestly how does this group expect to be taken seriously with their rights if they are so willing to infringe on the rights of others? Another question that begs to be answered, why do they want violence and contention? They are willingly fostering the very attitude that lead to riots and massacres in the 1960's-1970's. If there is a riot in Denver, and if there are any deaths, will they accept the part of the blame that goes on them? Will they be able to even see the blood on their hands?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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