As the national debate about professional athletes taking a knee during the
national anthem rages on, it’s important to remember the significance of non-violent
protest in our country. Even at Harper College, students have used non-violent action to
express their disapproval since its early years. According to Trygre Thoreson in Harper
College: The First 50 Years, students used a variety of non-violent protests in the
Vietnam era. “At about 11 o’clock on the morning of Wednesday, May 6, 1970 a small group of Harper students approached the flagpole on the main plaza and, without permission, lowered the flag at half-staff” (Thoreson 41).
The reasoning for lowering the flag was because “overanxious National Guardsmen” shot four “peaceful student protestors” at Kent State University, Ohio. This made college students from across the nation rage about what happened. As Thoreson illustrates through this example, non-violence has been a big part of the Harper College community. A Harper student responding to the protests at Kent state said, “you’ve gotta break the rules occasionally to make a point.” Another Harper student explained the meaning behind lowering the flag as “a symbol of mourning.” A lot of men went to college to avoid being drafted. Therefore, the college enrollment rates rose quickly so that young men could avoid the brutal and cruel threat of being drafted.
During the Vietnam War, Harper College classes remained in session. Some students boycotted classes just to be a part of the protest activities and war debates. During the 1960’s – 70’s people took actions in many different ways. The book Harper College: The First 50 Years, Thoreson also points out that Columbia College students did plays with anti-war skits. They also did a fundraising dance for the moratorium. Moratorium means a temporary prohibition of an activity; students were calling for suspension of the war.
Just like Harper students boycotted classes to attend a protest and challenge the Vietnam War, many people today demonstrate by kneeling during the national anthem at sporting events or by marching in rallies such as those in the Black Lives Matter movement. Today, many people show protest by kneeling in sport shows while playing the national anthem. Also, some wear the color black, for black lives matter. Many other people also wear rainbow colors, by representing gay pride. Another thing that hasn’t changed is creating signs and banners with key words such as “peace” and images like peace signs to represent the protests. Reasons why people protested back in the 1960’s – 1970’s were because of Vietnam, Lennon B. Johnson rallies, and the 1967 riot in Detroit.
The riot in Detroit involved many different things such as lack of affordable housing, economic inequality, black militancy, and worst of all police brutality. Till this day, there is police brutality and people are still protesting about it. There are also Anti-Trump rallies, Gay Pride Parades, and many more for example Black Lives Matter and Women’s March around the nation.
Non-violent protest has been a big part of the Harper community – even during Harper’s
early years. Harper students and staff should continue to speak-up against injustices just as we did then, including protests in 2016 and 2017 when the state delayed funding for MAP (Monetary Award Program) grants for students enrolled in school in Illinois who need funding. Students, faculty, and staff gathered in the rotunda in building D to advocate for the state of Illinois to maintain funding that is critical to students’ education and some even headed to Springfield to protest with other college students. Without the active engagement of Harper students and other college students in the protests, MAP grants may have never been reinstated. College students at Harper and everywhere play an essential role in fighting injustice through non-violent protest.