50 years ago ...

14th -15th of May 1970

Jackson State Killings



In 1970, the African-American students of the Jackson State College (now Jackson State University), a historically black college in Jackson, Mississippi were often victims of racial harassment and attacks by white motorists passing through Lynch Street, which divides the campus.

On the night of May 14-15th, around 100 students demonstrated against the racist violence as well as the imperialist invasion of Cambodia and the massacre at Kent State that happened 10 days earlier. Several white motorists called the police and claimed that the protestors were throwing rocks at them on Lynch Street (witnesses later claimed that the group that threw rocks was not a part of the protests).

At around 9:30, a few of the protestors began rioting when they heard a rumor that Fayette mayor and civil rights leader Charles Evers and his wife were murdered, setting fires and turning over a dump truck. In response, the fire department was called in to put the fires out, but they were attacked by the rioters and the police was soon called in.

A total of 75 Jackson police officers and state policemen armed with pistols, shotguns, carbines, and sub-machine guns arrived and blocked the street and cordoned the area around the campus while the National Guard blocked the west end of the street with Armored Personal Carriers (although the Guardsmen were given weapons, they had no ammunition in them). They soon gathered and drove the protestors over to the Alexander Center, a women's dormitory, and positioned their weapons towards the protestors for no apparent reason. The students allegedly responded with chants and some threw bricks at the policemen, who were only 100 feet (30.48 meters) away from the protestors.

At 12:05 am, a police officer was suddenly hit by a piece of debris and fell. The policemen then fired over 460 rounds upon the crowd for over 30 seconds, riddling the building with bullets and shattering all the windows. The crowd scattered and several people were shot and trampled in the process. When the shootings stopped, 2 people were killed by gunfire and 12 were wounded from the gunfire, the falling glass, and from being trampled in the chaos.

The 2 killed were:

Phillip Lafayette Gibbs - A 21 year old student and civil rights activist who was the son of a sharecropper and hoped to become a lawyer. He had a wife and an 18 month old son.

James Earl Green - A 17 year old high school student and grocery store worker. He was merely walking through the campus on his way home from work when he was shot. He was watching the events from across the street.

The students who were wounded were Fonzie Coleman, Redd Wilson Jr., Leroy Kenter, Vernon Steve Weakley, Gloria Mayhorn, Patricia Ann Sanders, Willie Woodard, Andrea Reese, Stella Spinks, Climmie Johnson, Tuwaine Davis, and Lonzie Tompson. Some of the students, who laid on the ground bleeding, weren't given medical attention until after the officers picked up their shell casings.

The police immediately told reporters that they "acted in self-defense" and that they were allegedly being shot at by a sniper in the Alexander Center as well as the area where they murdered Green. The city authorities also denied that their police was involved in the shootings.

On June 13th, almost a month after the incident, Nixon established the President's Commission on Campus Unrest in order to investigate the shootings as well as the Kent State massacre and other incidents. During the hearings, several students the university administration and staff testified. In the end, no police officers were ever arrested or convicted of the shootings, although the commission concluded

"that the 28-second fusillade from police officers was an unreasonable, unjustified overreaction...

A broad barrage of gunfire in response to reported and unconfirmed sniper fire is never warranted."


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Sadly, the shootings and other fascist violence are actively ignored and even covered up by the bourgeoisie who hopes to hide its crimes completely or dismiss it as "mistakes from a bygone time" when such crimes continue to happen today and will continue to happen and intensify under the deteriorating conditions brought on by the imperialist crisis.

The only way to bring justice to the people killed and murdered by the police at Jackson state and elsewhere is with the final destruction of the very class dictatorship responsible for their oppression, for the imperialist wars, and for their murders and injuries.