Vietnam War Student Protests

Where did the student movement begin?

The US airplanes started bombing North Vietnam in February 1965 after North Vietnamese submarines invaded 2 US ships at the Gulf of Tonkin. President Lyndon B Johnson commanded the revenge attacks blasting armed targets in North Vietnam. There were some criticisms about how the government was battling the self-governing conflict to free the people of South Vietnamese from communist hostility.

At that time, students from the University of California at Berkeley were annoyed when the school suddenly tried to stop civil rights activism from engaging in political activism in the university. This saw the emergence of the Free Speech Movement to oppose these limitations on politicking and gathering.

Shortly after, students across the country formed such-like groups with the same petitions. From the University of Michigan, students formed the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and gave out a statement (the Port Huron Statement) disapproving of the US foreign relations and criticized the Cold War basic theories.

The student groups were divided into two with the New Left was more politically inclined and questioned about the current systems of authority. The other group adopted a culture that was not mainstream and endorsed sexual freedom and the use of drugs openly.

Vietnam and the upsurge of the anti-violence crusade

The US participation in the Vietnam War deepened and this became the pivotal point for political action amongst students. Student associations organized demonstrations and rallies, set draft cards on fire, and sang mantras. The US was heavily spending on the war. This added to shortages increasing rapidly and worsening of the economic situation back at home. This led to an outcry against the war from the American people including religious denominations, civil rights groups, and also some Vietnam veterans.

What role did the media play in the anti-violence crusade?

The media involvement in the anti-violence crusade grew not just in the anti-violence sentiment but also aggression directed to anti-violence protesters. Full pictures of killings and havoc were aired every night as investigative journalists started fact-finding missions. This made more Americans oppose the war. Furthermore, media reporting was often unfriendly to the protestors. This added criticisms from the conservative against the anti-violence crusade.

Student strike in May 1970

A nationwide week of student strikes was planned at the University of Washington in response to the increase in the Vietnam War in Cambodia. They were also protesting the assassinations of student activists at the Kent State University by National guardsmen. They also wanted to make the College an epicenter for the planning of activities against the conflict in Southeast Asia. The student protestors planned a strike that was to begin on May 4 th after what happened at Kent State. The following day, 6,000 students took part in protest gatherings and walked to the college grounds. They charged onto the expressway and blocked traffic for some hours as they walked to the city center. The protests continued for 2 weeks with the number of express-ways walks increasing, and several windows were broken during the protest. The impact of these protests was felt in the Capital Hill, Seattle town center, the university, and the university district.

There was a worrying turn of events in August of the same year by protestors at the University of Wisconsin. A bomb was planted and wrecked the office block that housed the Army Math Research Center. There was one fatality of a young scientist.

To quote academic writing expert Joan Young, a professional academic writer at, “Whether a disaster is man-made or natural, it can occur at any time and anywhere. The general response to any disaster is associated with rescue and relief operations that go right after the event. If we are well and adequately prepared, it is very easy to reduce the impact of that disaster. We can reduce the impact through raising awareness and understanding of all the preventive actions, together with knowing particular tools and
techniques. When a disaster occurs, these tools and techniques can be used to control the total damage to belongings and life. The biggest problem is the way a disaster occurs. The thing is that it usually occurs all of a sudden. Hence, for a disaster serenity to be reduced, the response has to be swift equally (De Boer, 2000).”

Opposing the draft

The protests continued in 1966, incited by changes made in the Selective Service System’s draft strategy. The draft proposed that there is a possibility of the half students who are at the bottom of the class would be retracted and they would be recruited. The students boycotted classes and took charge of the administration offices.

The University of Chicago made it to the headlines countrywide as they staged a three-day sit-in at the administration offices. The University of Wisconsin also followed suit that same month. Some students joined in the peaceful demonstration (the Madison Draft Protest) after the university promised to go over the draft policy. However, there was a lot of tension at other colleges such as Cornell. There was an attempt to plan a burn-your-draft-card protest by the students. In Harvard, the demonstrators confined Robert McNamara who was the Secretary of Defense in a police vehicle. They charged him with queries concerning the war.

Anti-Dow position

The initial anti-Dow demonstrations happened in October 1966, and there was a ripple effect as more than 100 protests happened in schools around the county in that same year. In February 1967, University of Wisconsin students organized their initial sit-in. Dow came back in October that same year and this sparked demonstrations and police retaliated, and the demonstrations turned violent for the first time.

That same year, a lot of students maintained the old practices of rebellion such as sending letters to the publishing managers and taking out flyers in college newspapers. The protest continued even as the anti-violent student body leaders were in talks with the Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

The counterattack

As soon as the protests began on various campuses, the government of America has been trying to appease the students. For instance, they backed the American Friends of Vietnam, (which was pro-administration) and even had a demonstration at the Michigan State University in June 1965. The body could not compete with the force or figures of anti-violent protests. The result of these demonstrations initiated a counterattack of backing for the leadership and focused on establishments such as Dow.

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