Student Demonstrations

Published: 1968
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI

Announcer: A familiar sound in 1968, the sound of students. None of the years in recent history has student unrest, student demonstrations, or student power, been so appeared as in 1968. The collective voice of students on campuses has been growing each year during this decade, and during 1968 once again, it was the voice of college students that was heard around the world.

One of the first meaningful and significant displays of student dissent was at Columbia University in New York City. There students led by groups such as the Students for Democratic Society, forced the University to close its classrooms, while students occupied University buildings to dramatize their disgust with the University policy.

Mark Rudd, Head of the Columbia Chapter of SDS, told what the student demands were.

Mark Rudd: “All disciplinary action now standing probations already imposed upon six students be immediately terminated, and a general amnesty be granted for those participating in this demonstration.”

“The construction of the Columbia gym in Morningside Park cease at once. Three, President Kirk’s banner demonstrations inside University buildings be dropped.”

Announcer: United Press International’s News of the Year 1968 will continue after this message.

The student action that seemed to have the most far reaching affect on a country and the world occurred in Paris. Paris in the spring was not the place to be during 1968. Student struck the Sorbonne in May, demanding that the famous old school changed its educational policies. The students' strike seemed to be the catalyst for a national wide strike of workers that eventually affected everyone in France.

By the time French President Charles De Gaulle had cleared the situation, millions of workers were out of work. The climax of the French student dissent came when students and Paris police clashed.

Unknown Speaker: “Tear gas shells are going off now. The explosions you hear are batons of police, to force back the demonstrators. The students are throwing rocks, people are throwing -- flying roof tags (ph) as shells, noisemakers, and throwing the rocks back in some cases.

"The two sides have been facing each other for nearly last two hours, at the bridge on the banks of the Seine. All the fire trucks are moving in, trying to bring the students to the side of them. The fire trucks, the water is going on now, water, and tear gas breaking up a whole section of the crowd.”

Announcer: In Rome a student demonstration eventually spread throughout the country. The cities of Turin, Naples and Florence, had bands of demonstrating students fighting with police with words, fist, and clubs.

Just before the Summer Olympics were to begin in Mexico City, it was students who fought with Mexican police and with the Army. They too were demanding the University’s reform to meet student requests. The demonstrations in Mexico City as in other cities turned bloody. An estimated 100 were killed, hundreds hurt, and thousands arrested.

If there was a college in the United States where there wasn’t a demonstration of some sort, it was in the minority. Young people demonstrated against U.S. policy in Vietnam, against the draft, civil rights, and the way the schools were being run.

But dissent was not limited solely to the young, adults participated too. Singer Eartha Kitt shocked the White House Luncheons sponsored by Mrs. Johnson when she rose on the luncheon table and attacked the United States involvement in Vietnam and the growth of juvenile delinquency.

Eartha Kitt: “I wasn’t thinking about what is proper and what is not proper. There was something that I had on my mind, I was speaking for the people whom I am involved with; not already in watch, but across the country. And when it comes to speaking my mind, protocol becomes secondary. As long as I did not use language that was offensive to anyone, I felt no reason or any fault in the way I handled myself.”

Announcer: Famous baby doctor Benjamin Spock was sentenced to serve two years in jail on charges of conspiracy to counsel young men to violate draft laws.

Benjamin Spock: “I don’t feel like a martyr at all, I don’t think I have ever been a martyr, and I don’t feel like a martyr now. I think I am more of a fighter, and I certainly have no inclination to stop fighting right now, I think we have only just begun.”

Announcer: There were demonstrations against antiwar demonstrators. In New York City a Loyalty Day Parade, intended to show support for the American soldiers in Vietnam.

Unknown Speaker 1: “Very good demonstrations here, the loyalty to our government, and we are very happy with the turnout.”

Unknown Speaker 2: “Never I have seen anything like it. I have never seen anything like we have got today.”

Unknown Speaker 3: “I think that they should not be allowed, because they are all scared to go to Vietnam, and that’s the sorry part of it. I am going to go, and I don’t think I could die for people like this. They are all a bunch of communists, and have decided to take over the country, they are a bunch of chickens.”