Tag Archives: campus activism

Women’s Protest March (Trenton, NJ) and protest memories

Everyone else is weighing in, why not me? I’ve looked at very little of the social media since the march yesterday. My perspective may change…

I’ll start by saying that street protest isn’t my thing. It gives me cold anxiety. I’ve got baggage, in the form of ugly memories.

One memory is of a protest that “went wrong”. It may have left no historical traces… Around April 30, 1970, the United States bombed Cambodia and American campuses exploded. There was a protest march from my campus (I was a junior at Michigan State University) to the state capitol in Lansing. I joined the march, which seemed to have a good collection of marshals and other volunteers, and reasonable police cooperation. We’d been warned about tear gas, etc., and were a little jumpy. We walked along one lane of the main street between East Lansing and Lansing.

Presently, we were stopped, told to move to the sidewalk (?), told to sit, warned that we would hear sirens. Told “they’re on our side”. They came and went, without much fuss. We walked on. Then we saw the car that had been driven intentionally across the line of march. Two or three people had been taken to the hospital. The driver had been protected by marshals and/or police, and taken away for arrest. The car was smashed. It looked like it had been shot up. But there had been no gunfire. Marchers carrying umbrellas (it was rainy) had vented their anger on the windshield, which was punctured. We walked past, on the broken glass. I can’t remember anything about the rally at the capitol in Lansing. Could I hear a word anyone said? I can’t remember how I got home. Did they tell us there would be buses? Direct us onto city buses? Maybe I walked back. I’m also unable to remember with whom I marched. Perhaps I was alone.

Then came the shootings at Kent State in Ohio on May 4, 1970, when four students died and nine more were injured by the Ohio National Guard. (Wikipedia calls it a “massacre”.) It was a dark time. My roommate had nightmares. Our campus was in a state of civil disorder. No one could count on going to classes if they wanted to.

Michigan State (like many colleges) cancelled classes and encouraged students to go home. I spent the weekend on a farm near Kalamazoo, where it was so quiet we could hear the corn grow. We found that people away from the campus perceived more danger and disorder than we had actually experienced. But everyone worried and fretted.

And what did I do next? I escaped! Left the country! My application to the Exchange for Technical Experience was approved, and I was offered a summer job in the Netherlands! Off I went, for a summer of fun. What a relief!

This wasn’t what I meant to write. So… I don’t like demonstrations, and have barely participated since that time. Letter writers and citizen lobbyists are needed. And I ALWAYS, ALWAYS vote, in everything from primaries and school board races to national elections. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write about the Women’s March in Trenton.

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