Peace organizations gather at Peace Park for 50th anniversary of Kent State and Jackson State shootings

Peaceworks, Veterans for Peace and those opposed to war came together at Peace Park to remember those who lost their lives in the shootings.

In May 1970, students at Kent State University and Jackson State University were shot and killed while protesting the Vietnam War. Fifty years later, members of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks and Veterans for Peace gathered at Peace Park to remember the lives lost in the shootings and the rededication of the park.

Paul D. Blackman, co-founder of Mizzou Student Mobilization, changed the name and led the dedication of the park 50 years ago. McAlester Park officially became Peace Park in April 1970.

“We needed something to say this campus was against the war and for something: peace,” Blackman said.

Mark Haim, the director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, and Dan Viets, former vice president of Mizzou StuMo, organized this event to commemorate those killed at Kent State and Vietnam.

While both the rededication of the park and the shootings took place 50 years ago, Haim said he hopes the rededication will inspire recognition of the lives lost in the shooting and a movement toward “a peaceful, just future.”

At Kent State, nine students were wounded and four died. Viets said he saw no excuse for the deaths, and pointed at parallels between the protestors and National Guard members.

“National Guard troops who killed and wounded many others were the same age as the students, and were in the National Guard mainly to avoid going to Vietnam,” Viets said.

10 days later, police fired at Jackson State protesters, wounding 12 and killing two.

Prior to the shootings, Blackman and many others were not anti-war. However, Blackman said, “Kent State changed public and student opinion,” and led Blackman and Viets to create an SMC chapter at MU. The National Mobilization Committee designed to end the war in Vietnam, formed in November of 1966. Also known as The Mobe, the organization held large demonstrations opposing the war.

Blackman and Viets experienced these protests first hand in 1970. After founding the SMC chapter, they traveled to Washington where nearly 500,000 protesters marched peacefully. After Washington, Blackman and Viets returned to Columbia and attended the anti-war rally at Columbia College.

“I think it's really important that students remember what happened 50 years ago at this campus where there were the largest demonstrations that ever took place on this campus for several days in a row in the first and second week of May,” Viets said.

Around 2,000 MU students gathered on the Quad in May of 1970, forcing the chancellor to meet with protesters.

Haim said that students should work to create a “peaceful and just future” that is based on cooperation and caring, not war and militarism.

“We still are a militarized country, a country involved in interventions all around the world,” Haim said. “Something has to change.”

Edited by Emmet Jamieson | ejamieson@themaneater.com

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