Police Brutality and Political Imprisonment
The decade of the 1960s opened with violent episodes of police brutality during Civil Rights protests and concluded with the killing of four students at Kent State University. Throughout this tumultuous period, a power struggle occurred between students, activists, conservatives, and the local, state, and federal governments. In response to what many citizens and government officials regarded as incidents of disorderly conduct, the police responded with violent and forceful measures including the use of pepper-spray, tear gas, batons, fire hoses, and deadly ammunition.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, state-sponsored violence against activists/protesters reached its peak in the late 1960s. Whether through the political imprisonment of Huey P. Newton, a leader of the Black Panther Party [Figure 7, Figure 9], or the deployment of local law enforcement and the California National Guard to end the People’s Park Movement [Figure 6], law enforcement and the National Guard were used to suppress political activism and radicalism. In the case of the People’s Park Movement, the state-sponsored violence resulted in the death of James Rector, who was killed by deputies from the Alameda County Sheriff's Department [Figure 6].
In May of 1970 students at Kent State University in Ohio protested the spread of the Vietnam War into Cambodia by holding demonstrations and burning the ROTC building on campus. In the midst of these protests, the Ohio National Guard fired upon the crowd, resulting in the deaths of four students [Figure 8].