Student protests and movements began happening as early as the University of Paris strike in 1220 but became significant in the 1960’s when protests became violent and in some cases even deadly. Peaceful protest marches by students asking for lower tuition, democracy and access to public education are often met with police in riot gear holding tear gas and baton sticks. If beatings, blood and gore make you cringe you may want to prepare yourself for these student protests. With death counts in the hundreds to snipers on the roof tops fighting off the uncontrollable crowds, there was no chance for these protests to go well. Fully loaded tanks surrounding schools, officers storming dormitories when students are sleeping, and the kidnapping of the protestors are just a few examples of how crazy these protests can get. From the famous and horrible Tiananmen Square incident to the current protests in Hong Kong that are becoming more violent as the days pass; here are 10 student movements that quickly turned violent. In chronological order; prepare yourself for the most violent of demonstrations.
10 May 1968 Protests, France
What began as one small protest against the closure of the University of Paris at Nanterre and the expulsion of several students quickly turned into a month and half of utter chaos with not only many other student protests taking place but the working population going on strike as well. The History Channel tells us that street battles with local police took place with barricades being set up and tear gas being dispersed. Several hundred people were injured with several deaths being reported. Allegations that police took part in the burning of cars and other riot acts were at the fore front of this at first small protest gone horribly wrong.
9 Tlatelolco Massacre, Mexico, 1968
CNN reported that on the eve of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City thousands of student protestors gathered in Tlatelolco Square to call for a greater democracy. Armored cars and tanks quickly surrounded the unarmed protestors and opened fire. Allegations took place that the army had hired snipers to shoot from windows and rooftops into the crowds. Although there is no official death count it is believed that anywhere between 200-300 students died that day and thousands were arrested. What was a peaceful demonstration with no threat of violence quickly turned into one of the deadliest protests in Mexico.
8 Athens Polytechnic Uprising in 1973
Students went on strike at Athens Polytechnic to regain freedom when it came to military regime and barricaded themselves inside a radio station that broadcasted throughout Athens. They called on people to join them in the fight and thousands began protesting inside and out of Polytechnic. That is when things went horribly wrong. The government sent in tanks to surround the school and as students were evacuating one of the tanks went crashing through the entrance. This sparked military snipers to start shooting the fleeing students and with all that said and done the death toll reached 24, with hundreds of other suffering injuries.
7 Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989
One of the most well known and bloodiest student protests on this list happened in June of 1989 when students took to Tiananmen Square to mourn the death of communist Hu Yaobang. In the matter of a couple weeks thousands of students poured into the square in acts of organized hunger strikes. At the peak of the protests it is believed over 500,000 people occupied the square. A peaceful protest turned deadly when the government ordered the army to clear the square, sending in tanks, troops with guns and tear gas. Thousands died under the treads of tankers, by the bullet of a gun or by being trampled as many ran to escape.
6 Trisakti Shootings, Indonesia 1998
According to an article in the NY Times a peaceful demonstration demanding President Suharto’s resignation at Trisakti University in Jakarta went horribly wrong when police open fired, killing four students and injuring dozens. After a long march and a sit-in blocking the streets; demonstrators were encouraged to return to the university campus where police in riot gear awaited and began shooting. This protest gone wrong triggered days of deadly aftermath; with fire being set to buildings full of people, stores being looted and street clashes with the police involving beatings and deaths. It took only one week for the regime to fall but Jakarta will never forget the violence that rocked its core.
5 Tehran 1999 Student Protest
Students across Iran were calling for a reform and press freedom in demonstrations that clashed with police day after day. But things didn’t really get violent until July 9th, 1999 when unmarked police officers stormed a Tehran University dormitory that students were occupying. Officers broke down doors, shattered windows, set fire to the beds and threw students out of the windows. BBC reported the next day chaos erupted and students along with citizens hit the streets staging demonstrations. Police fired tear gas, hit students with batons and sticks and arrested and tortured many. Although only lasting five days these events were horrific and violent seeing many deaths and injuries to those involved.
4 Chilean Student Protests 2011
The Guardian reported that what began as a peaceful student protest on issues of public education funding turned seriously violent with 874 people being arrested in August 2011 after attempting to storm the presidential palace. Hundreds of police in riot gear were awaiting them on arrival and did not hesitate to use tear gas and other forceful measures to strike back. Over 90 officers were injured; hundreds of protestors injured and an entire department store was engulfed in flames during this one incident. With hundreds of thousands of people protesting at one time; both peaceful and violent protests remain ongoing.
3 Quebec Student Protests 2012
A motion to raise university tuition is what invoked a widespread series of student protests in Quebec in 2012; with over half of the student population in the province participating. It took two months of peaceful protests for things to finally turn violent and in May 2012 riots erupted in numerous cities. Police officers were attacked with petrol bombs and hand weapons; protestors were doused in tear gas, and had rubber bullets fired at them. Thousands were arrested and hundreds injured over the course of these protests making them the most violent Canada has ever seen CBC news reported.
2 Iguala Protest 2014, Mexico
No one knows the exact details of how it happened but on September 26th, 2014, 43 out of 100 male students went missing after traveling to Iguala Mexico to protest at a conference led by the Mayor’s wife. Most feared the protestors were dead, captured by the local police and handed over to be killed; a fact that was confirmed months later by the Washington Post. These protestors were intercepted on the way to the conference and gunned down when they tried to flee. Dozens of protests took place with clashes against police using petrol bombs and rocks as weapons and setting fire to buildings in response to this horrible tragedy.
1 Hong Kong 2014 Student Protests
What has been months of mainly peaceful protests by Hong Kong students fighting for democracy, erupted in violent clashes in December 2014 reports Time magazine. Tired of waiting in the streets for a turnaround from the government, protestors surrounded government offices and charged at police officers. The officers were ready with batons and pepper spray and over 40 people were hospitalized in one night. Protestors fought back throwing water bottles with anger, that hasn’t been seen before. Police have been arrested for alleged assault on both protestors and reporters during the course of these demonstrations. Bringing traffic to a halt and setting up demonstration lines is no longer working for these protestors and more violence is surely to come in Hong Kong in 2015.