May 4 - Guns & Gavels: Kent State, Haymarket Massacre & Corporate Rule

Violence comes in many forms: gunfire for sure, but also striking gavels. 

Thirteen unarmed students were shot, four killed, by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University on this day in 1970 during a peace rally opposing U.S. expansion of the Vietnam war into Cambodia. It marked the first time students were gunned down at an anti-war event in U.S. history. The massacre sparked organized walkout strikes by roughly 4 million students at colleges, universities and high schools across the nation that had been called on May 1. It resulted in an upsurge in public opposition to the Vietnam war. 

May 4 is also the anniversary of the “Haymarket Massacre.” Police gunfire killed one and injured several other nonviolent picketing workers supporting an 8-hour workday on May 3 in Chicago. The peaceful labor demonstration the next day at the end turned violent when a bomb was thrown at the police. The resulting gunfire killed 11 people. It remains unknown who threw the bomb. Seven people were sentenced to death, even though no evidence was presented linking them to the bombing. 

Exploding bombs and gunfire are obvious sources of violence – not only in the past but currently in the devastating wars in Ukraine, among many nations, and mass shootings in our schools and communities across the country.

But violence is also caused by the striking of the gavel in courts when judges, including Justices of the United States Supreme Court, make decisions affirming and expanding constitutional rights of corporations that strikes at the very heart of our right to make laws protecting ourselves, communities and the natural world.

Supreme Court-granted corporate rights makes it legal to place poisons in our food; to hide dangerous workplace conditions from public inspection; to pollute and plunder our air land and water; to preempt locally passed laws that protect communities; to prevent supporting local farmers and businesses over mega businesses; and to politically bribe candidates and elected officials (called political campaign “donations” or “contributions” rather than what they are -- political “investments”).

[Watch the 4 1/2 minute, Why We Need the We the People Amendment, narrated by Peter Coyote]

It’s all legal. It all creates massive violence as it exploits people, places and the planet. 

And it all -- corporate rule and the corrupting influence of big money in elections -- will continue, actually increase, as it has over the last century-plus, unless we do what students in 1970 and workers in 1886 did – be bold, come together, build a movement and take action for real change. 

Then it was for peace and worker justice. 

Now it’s to abolish corporate rule (a corporation is not a person) and end the doctrine that “money equals free speech” by passing the We the People Amendment – as an important step to create real democracy -- for the very first time. 

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