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This book will explore student activism as an act to persuade other students and schools to change their behaviour and create changes but also the effects many have had on the wider world, both people and governments. While activism can take a multitude of forms, including writing letters to newspapers or politicians, political campaigning, economic activism such as boycotts or preferentially patronizing businesses, rallies, street marches, strikes, both sit-ins and hunger strikes, or even guerrilla tactics, this book will be focusing on protests.
Starting with the Butter Rebellion at Harvard University in 1766, and working though to the Student Education Cuts Protests of 2010, we will look at the causes for protest and the effects it had on local minds and those of the wider audience.
Butter Rebellion of 1766 The first recorded student protest, in what is now know as the United States of America, took place at Harvard University in 1766 over the state of the food served in the College dining rooms.
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As colonists were gearing up for the American Revolution, the spirit of the Sons of Liberty trickled down to their sons, many of whom were at college at the time, leading them to rom the group “The Sons of Harvard”. Since Harvard’s gates opened in 1636, the quality of the food served had been an issue. Despite periodic attempts at improving the service, the quality of the butter remained the same, exceptionally poor. One meal with particularly rancid butter led Asa to jump upon his chair and proclaim: “Behold, our butter stinketh!— give us therefore, butter that stinketh not.” Half the student body adopted the cry as they rose together and exited the Commons in protest chanting. In reaction to this incident, the university president acted as parliament and demanded a confession. As no student stepped forward, he suspended half the student body until the guilty party stepped forward.
None of the students would out the instigator, and instead insisted that they be readmitted without penalty. Their defense:
That the Butter was bad and unwholesome no one can deny: had it been the first time, or had it happened rarely, we should have been content. This, however, was not the case.
Kent State Protests of 1770 What started with a number of students at Kent State University protesting against the American invasion of Cambodia ended with the National Guard firing 67 rounds at their own countrymen (and women) killing four and wounding nine others.
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On April the 30th 1970 President Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia of national television, justifying it as a necessary response to North Vietnamese aggression. The following day (May 1st) 500 students at the University held a demonstration on the commons, however the crowd dispersed by 1pm due to their classes starting. Later that day a group of people left a bar in town and started trouble by throwing bottles at cars, breaking store fronts and smashing a window in a bank setting of an alarm. As word spread around town of this many bars made the decision to close early to avoid trouble, however this just added to the number of people in the streets many joining in with the vandalism and looting. By the time the police had arrived there was a crowd of around 120 people, a mixture of students, bikers and transient people, who had lit a small bonfire in the street. As the crowd started throwing bottles and yelling obscenities at the police, the entire Kent police force was called to duty as well as many from the county. Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom declared a state of emergency, called Ohio Governor James Rhodes’ office to seek assistance, and ordered all of the bars closed. Which again added to the increasing size of the angry crowd. The crowd was eventually dispersed and receded several blocks back to campus due to the use of tear gas by the police force. The following day rumors had already started about how radical revolutionaries were in Kent to destroy the city and university. This forced Mayor Satrom to call the Governor to request the National Guard be sent to Kent, the request was granted at 5 pm with them not
arriving till 11 pm. By this time there was a huge demonstration underway on the campus with over a thousand protesters watching and cheered as the Reserve Officer Training Corps building burned. As officers and fireman acted to extinguish the fire, they were struck by rocks and other projectiles. The National Guard in turn made numerous arrests, used tear gas and one student was slightly wounded by a bayonet. At a press conference held on the 3rd of May, Governor Satrom called the protesters un-American and revolutionaries set on destroying higher education in Ohio. In the recording of his speech he called be heard pounding his fists on the table and yelling:
“They’re worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes. They’re the worst type of people that we harbor in America. I think that we’re up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America.” Due to the damage done in the rioting there was a group effort to clean up the city, however when students came down from the campus to help they were received with mixed reactions from the local businessmen. Under pressure from frightened citizens the Mayor ordered a curfew until further notice.
Another demonstration was held on campus at 8pm but within 45 minutes the National Guard had started using tear gas to disperse the crowd. The crowd reassembled at the intersection of Lincoln and Main Streets, holding a sit-in with the hopes of gaining a meeting with Mayor Satrom and President White. At 11pm, the Guard announced that a curfew had gone into effect and began forcing the students back to their dorms. On Monday, May 4, a protest was scheduled to be held at noon, as had been planned three days earlier. University officials attempted to ban the gathering, handing out 12,000 leaflets stating that the event was canceled. Despite this, an estimated 2,000 people gathered on the university’s Commons, near Taylor Hall. The protest began with the ringing of the campus’s iron Victory Bell (which had historically been used to signal victories in football games) to mark the beginning of the rally, and the first protester began to speak. Companies A and C, 1/145th Infantry and Troop G of the 2/107th Armored Cavalry, Ohio Army National Guard (arng), the units on the campus grounds, attempted to disperse the students. The dispersal process began late in the morning with campus patrolman Harold Rice, riding in a National Guard Jeep, approaching the students to read them an order to disperse or face arrest. The protesters responded by throwing rocks, striking one campus Patrolman and forcing the Jeep to retreat. Just before noon, the Guard returned and again ordered the crowd to disperse. When most of the crowd refused, the Guard used tear gas. Because of wind, the tear gas had little effect in dispersing the crowd, and some launched a second volley
of rocks toward the Guard’s line, too distant to have any effect, to chants of “Pigs off campus!” The students lobbed the tear gas canisters back at the National Guardsmen, who wore gas masks. When it was determined the crowd was not going to disperse, a group of 77 National Guard troops from A Company and Troop G, with bayonets fixed on their rifles, began to advance upon the hundreds of protesters. As the guardsmen advanced, the protesters retreated up and over Blanket Hill, heading out of The Commons area. Once over the hill, the students, in a loose group, moved northeast along the front of Taylor Hall, with some continuing toward a parking lot in front of Prentice Hall (slightly northeast of and perpendicular to Taylor Hall). The guardsmen pursued the protesters over the hill, but rather than veering left as the protesters had, they continued straight, heading down toward an athletic practice field enclosed by a chain link fence. Here they remained for about ten minutes, unsure of how to get out of the area short of retracing their entrance path (an action some guardsmen considered might be viewed as a retreat). During this time, the bulk of the students congregated off to the left and front of the guardsmen, approximately 150 ft (50m) to 225 ft (75m) away, on the veranda of Taylor Hall. Others were scattered between Taylor Hall and the Prentice Hall parking lot, while still others – perhaps 35 or 40 – were standing in the parking lot, or dispersing through the lot as they had been previously ordered. While on the practice field, the guardsmen generally faced the parking lot which was about 100 yards away. At one point, some of the guardsmen
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knelt and aimed their weapons toward the parking lot, then stood up again. For a few moments, several guardsmen formed a loose huddle and appeared to be talking to one another. The guardsmen appeared to be unsure as to what to do next. They had cleared the protesters from the Commons area, and many students had left, but many stayed and were still angrily confronting the soldiers, some throwing rocks and tear gas canisters. At the end of about ten minutes, the guardsmen began to retrace their steps back up the hill toward the Commons area. Some of the students on the Taylor Hall veranda began to move slowly toward the soldiers as the latter passed over the top of the hill and headed back down into the Commons. At this point, at 12:24 p.m a Sgt. Taylor turned and began firing at the students with his .45 pistol. A number of guardsmen nearest the students also turned and fired their M1 Garand rifles at the students. In all, 29 of the 77 guardsmen claimed to have fired their weapons, using a final total of 67 rounds of ammunition. The shooting was determined to have lasted only 13 seconds, although John Kifner reported in the New York Times that “it appeared to go on, as a solid volley, for perhaps a full minute or a little longer.” The question of why the shots were fired remains widely debated. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer this new analysis raised questions about the role of Terry Norman, a Kent State student who was an fbi informant and known to be carrying a pistol during the disturbance. Alan Canfora said it was premature to reach any conclusions. The shootings killed four students and wounded nine. Two of the four students killed, Allison Krause and
Jeffrey Miller, had participated in the protest, and the other two, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder, had been walking from one class to the next at the time of their deaths. Schroeder was also a member of the campus rotc chapter. Of those wounded, none was closer than 71 feet to the guardsmen. Of those killed, the nearest (Miller) was 265 feet away, and their average distance from the guardsmen was 345 feet. There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected the public opinion – at an already socially contentious time – over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.
John R. Cleary; 110 ft (34 m) Upper left chest wound.
Allison B. Krause; 19 years old 343 ft (105 m) Fatal left chest wound, died later that day.
Sandra Lee Scheuer; 20 years old 390 ft (120 m) Fatal neck wound - died a few minutes later from loss of blood
Donald Scott MacKenzie; 750 ft (230 m); Neck wound
Robert Follis Stamps; 495 ft (151 m); Hit in his right buttock
James Dennis Russell; 375 ft (114 m); Hit in his right thigh from a bullet and in the right forehead by birdshot - both wounds minor
Douglas Alan Wrentmore; 329 ft (100 m); Hit in his right knee
Dean R. Kahler; 300 ft (91 m); Back wound fracturing the vertebrae permanently paralyzed from the chest down
Alan Michael Canfora; 225 ft (69 m) Hit in his right wrist
Thomas Mark Grace; 225 ft (69 m) Struck in left ankle.
Joseph Lewis Jr.; 71 ft (22 m); Hit twice in the right abdomen and left lower leg.
Jeffrey Glenn Miller; 20 years old 265 ft (81 m) Shot through the mouth, killed instantly.
William Knox Schroeder; 19 years old 382 ft (116 m) Fatal chest wound - died almost an hour later in hospital while waiting for surgery
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UK Student Protests of 2010 A series of demonstrations held in the United Kingdom in 2010, voicing opposition to planned spending cuts to further education and an increase of the tuition fees cap by the Conservative-Liberal coalition government. Student groups said that the intended cuts to education were excessive and broke campaign promises made by politicians, amounting to “attempts to force society to pay for a crisis it didn’t cause.”
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The first major demonstration was held on the 10th of November and was jointly organised by the National Union of Students (nus) and the University and College Union (ucu). Arriving from all over England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, approximately 30,000 to 52,000 protesters attended the demonstration on the streets of central London. The nus had set up coaches to ferry students from campuses around the country to central London. The public focal point of this demonstration involved the occupation of Conservative Headquarters at Millbank Tower in Westminister and the clashes with police with left 14 injured and 50 arrested.
The demo was officially named “Fund Our Future: Stop Education Cuts” or “Demo-lition 10.11.10” by the nus and ucu. It was promoted with a number of methods by members of university student unions including; flyers, posters, a facebook event, and word of mouth.
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The official route of the demonstration, as organised by the nus and the ucu was pre-approved with the Metropolitan Police Service. Starting at Guards Avenue 1 marchers moved from Whitehall past Downing Street 2, the home of the Prime Minister, and then past the Houses of Parliament 3 finishing outside Tate Britain 4. However a number of protesters, despite attempts by nus organisers to stop them, surrounded 30 Millbank 5, where the campaign headquarters of the Conservative Party is located.
"We say Fi
Since the demonstration was organised by the nus and ucu the majority of the crowd were students currently studying at university and their lecturers, but others included journalists, photographers and a number of mps. Members of the crowd chanted slogans such as: "No ifs, no buts - no education cuts", "They say cut back we say fight back", "When I say Tories - you say scum"
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A number of protesters moved away from the pre-approved route to surround 30 Millbank, where the headquarters of the Conservative Party is located. Forcing themselves past a very limited police presence, around two hundred protest broke into the building, whilst others, approximately thousand more cheered them on from outside. A number of the protests that had broke into the building made their way to the roof with someone throwing a fire extinguisher off that just missed an officer. The damage caused and violence of the protest left fourteen people injured and fifty arrested.
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There were protests held around the country running along side the London demonstrations. This protest was held in Bristol on the 30th of November, known as â€œthe second day of actionâ€?, the located centred around the Bristol University campus, with the police kettling protesters to keep them in one location. In contrast to the protest held in London by the nus and ucu, this protest was organised by members of colleges and university. This saw the heavy use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to promote the event.
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Due to the result of the pervious protests in London, the police force was ready to take action to keep the protest in order. The use of ketteling and the officers using their batons against a crowd of which the majority were college and school children, was a key factor leading members of the crowd to become violent and in turn there were a number of arrests that followed.
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A writer in British newspaper The Guardian, writing several hours before the government voted on the topic, noted that:
It seems likely the tuition fees bill will pass but I'd still argue that â€“ whatever your view on the merits of the new fees system â€“ the protests have been a success at least in calling politicians to account for broken pledges, something you see rarely theses days.
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