UCSD Students to Honor George Winne’s Self-Immolation and Protests 44 Years Ago
By Frank Gormlie / OB Rag
Forty-four years ago exactly, college and university campuses across America exploded in violent and non-violent protests against President Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam war. It was May 1970.
Over the course of the month, the nation would witness more than 450 university, college and high school campuses being shut down by student strikes that involved more than 4 million students. It was the largest American student protest before and since.
During protests, National Guardsmen killed four students at Kent State University on May 4, 1970 in Kent, Ohio, and Jackson city police and Mississippi state troopers killed one student at Jackson State College and a high schooler passerby, in Jackson, Mississippi on May 15.
On May 8, ten days after Nixon announced the Cambodian invasion (and 4 days after the Kent State shootings), 100,000 protesters gathered in Washington and another 150,000 in San Francisco. Nationwide, students turned their anger on what was often the nearest military facility—college and university Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) offices. All told, 30 ROTC buildings went up in flames or were bombed. There were violent clashes between students and police at 26 schools and National Guard units were mobilized on 21 campuses in 16 states.
Hundreds of college and high school campuses across the United States were brought to a halt and millions of American students and other citizens united in protesting the continued American war in Vietnam and the authoritarian state that the country had become.
It was one of the most catastrophic events in American history since the Civil War. It was a General Strike by students.
Historian Howard Zinn said:
”The spring of 1970 saw the first general student strike in the history of the United States, students from over four hundred colleges and universities calling off classes to protest the invasion of the Cambodia, the Kent State affair, the killing of two black students at Jackson State College in Mississippi, and the continuation of the war.”
And protests at local San Diego campuses followed the national pattern. San Diego university and college campuses were no exception to the explosive nature of protest at this point. San Diego State was shut down. At UCSD, a widely-supported student strike had rendered the La Jolla campus quiet except for the hub-bub of strike activities, leafleting, teach-ins, rallies, bonfires at night…
And then on May 9th or 10th, UCSD student George Winne immolated himself in protest of the war.
Fourty-four years later, students and faculty at UCSD, wishing to commemorate Winne’s action and the May 1970 Student Strike in general, have organized a Memorial on Friday, May 9 – this Friday – this year – to honor what happened. A Memorial Bench has already been installed, and at 3:30 pm, people will gather at the Bench to pay tribute to Winne and the student protesters of years past. All are invited.
See this facebook pager about the event.
In addition, a few historians – including yours truly – have formed the May 1970 Project in order to :
… to finding and compiling stories, reports, photographs, images and personal accounts of the May 1970 Student Strike that exploded in response to President Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and then to the killings of students at Kent State and Jackson State. …
Yet, outside of possibly some academic archives, there is not one single publication exclusively devoted to what happened during that cataclysmic month of May 1970.