Wilson almnus recounts 1970 student walk out

Talya Lehrich

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Last year’s production of the musical “Hair” was not an unrealistic interpretation of an event that took place at Wilson in 1970. Following the Kent State Shootings – a massacre at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, by the Ohio National Guard, who opened fire on a student protest of the Vietnam War, killing four – students all over the country protested in solidarity with the school. Wilson’s students were no exception.

“There was going to be a regular student council meeting that morning,” said Wilson alumnus Matt Finucane, who was a senior and student body president at the time. Finucane encouraged friends with any thoughts on the invasion of Cambodia and the shooting at Kent State to come to the gathering. The meeting soon became so packed that the designated room could no longer adequately accommodate all the students interested in participating in the potential strike. After relocating to a larger space, the students took a vote on whether or not to host their very own strike. “The motion carried by a significant margin,” said Finucane.

That same day, students fled the building, heading to demonstrations around the city. Finucane went over to American University.” “The AU students at that time were leafletting.” said Finucane. They were handing out informational leaflets regarding their protest. Eventually the AU protesters were tear gassed, and Finucane assisted the volunteers in rehabilitating the tear gassed students. Though this discouraged the students, they continued to protest. “ Many students marched down town and did a protest march,” he said. “They marched as far as they could.”

On the second day of protests, more students had returned to school, yet many still remained on strike. “The school administration had not really tried to stop us from conducting a strike on the first day. Naturally, upon reflecting, they were not happy with the idea that the students had left the school and were planning to continue the strike for a second day,” said Finucane. Despite their efforts to end the strike, teachers were sympathetic towards the cause and the students’ drive to make a difference.

Along with standing up for a relevant issue, “I think it also helped give my fellow students an additional experience at being an activist,” said Finucane. Living in DC has provided that experience to many Wilson students throughout the years.