Blessed Be The Peacemakers: “They Can’t Kill Us All.”


Yesterday, in solidarity with the 17 students killed in Parkland, FL., students all across the country left their classes for 17 minutes.  These students echoed the moral determination of their grandparents, almost fifty years ago, in nationwide student strikes following the murder of four student antiwar protesters at Kent State.  Check the Congressional Record, and you’ll find one speech  commemorating their bravery: this moving memorial by our Congressman With Guts. Listen:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Earlier today, we voted on memorializing the events — the tragic events — that took place 40 years and one day ago at Kent State University.  Americans today, most Americans, are too young to remember what happened then, but I think that those of us who lived through that time and many others who thought about it, or saw afterward what happened, have this picture in their mind. This is Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller at Kent State that terrible day, when four students were shot by American soldiers. I think we would honor them by remembering how and why they died, and that’s what I propose to do now.

In 1968, Richard Nixon ran for President. He said he had a secret plan to end the war.  That plan was so secret that apparently even Nixon himself didn’t know what it was; because when he was elected, he simply expanded the war.  In November of 1969, the My Lai massacre exposed to the whole world, not just to Americans but to the whole world, the sheer brutality of the war in Vietnam. The following month in December of 1969, the draft was instituted. American college students and others, everyone of a certain age, everyone knew that they would have to serve in Vietnam unless the war was ended.

And then on April 30th of 1970 — the first war ever announced on TV — President Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia by US forces. Almost immediately, there were protests at universities all around the country, including at Kent State.  And those protests grew and grew day-by-day. And the right wing immediately mobilized against these protests. In Ohio, the governor, Governor Rhodes, said quote, “They’re the worst type of people that we harbor in America.” — these students protesting against the war — ‘I think that we’re up against the strongest, well-trained militant revolutionary that’s ever been assembled in America,’ and President Nixon chimed in by saying that the anti-war protesters were ‘pawns of foreign communists’.

And so it was that four days after the announcement of the invasion of Cambodia, there was a protest that took place at Kent State University, Ohio.  20,000 students collected — assembled peaceably — to protest, and the National Guard was called in to drive them away. First, the National Guard attacked them with tear gas. The students took the tear gas canisters and threw them back at the National Guard. The National Guard drew its bayonets and charged the students, and forced them to a different location, but they still didn’t disperse, so at that point they shot them.  Four Americans died that day, including Jeffrey Miller.

The protests continued.

In fact, they grew.  Almost a thousand universities were shut down all across the country. For the only time in American history, we had a national student strike, everywhere in the country.  And at Jackson State ten days later, two more students were shot by the National Guard.  Shot dead.  And the thing that I remember most from that time is this sign written on a bed sheet and dropped from a dormitory window outside of New York University in New York, this noble sign: ‘They can’t kill us all.’

Let’s take a closer look: ‘They can’t kill us all.’

Now, then as now, together both times, there are people all around the world, and especially people in America, who want to live in peace — who think that no war is better than two wars, who think that we voted to end war, not to continue it.  And after all, we know in our hearts, they can’t kill us all.

There are people who think that we should be concentrating on education and not war, and we know they can’t kill us all.  There are people who think that we should be concentrating on our health, our own bodies, improving our living standards, rebuilding America instead of war, and they can’t kill us all.  There are people who believe, not only in America but all over the world, that we should be striving every day toward peace…toward peace — not toward war — and they can’t kill us all.”

Rep. Alan Grayson on Kent State: “They Can’t Kill Us All” – YouTube



Alan Grayson is a former US Congressman from Florida.

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