14 Apr 2008

Olympic History - Tlatelolco massacre

Mexico 1968. President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, was determined to stop the demonstrations and, in September, he ordered the army to occupy the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the country's largest university. Students were beaten and arrested indiscriminately. Rector Javier Barros Sierra resigned in protest on September 23.

Student demonstrators were not deterred, however. The demonstrations grew in size, until, on October 2, after student strikes lasting nine weeks, 15,000 students from various universities marched through the streets of Mexico City, carrying red carnations to protest the army's occupation of the university campus. By nightfall, 5,000 students and workers, many of them with spouses and children, had congregated outside an apartment complex in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco for what was supposed to be a peaceful rally. Among their chants were ¡No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revolución! ("We don't want Olympic games, we want revolution!"). Rally organizers did not attempt to call off the protest when they noticed an increased military presence in the area.

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The massacre began at sunset when police and military forces — equipped with armored cars and tanks — surrounded the square and began firing live rounds into the crowd, hitting not only the protestors, but also other people who were present for reasons unrelated to the demonstration. Demonstrators and passersby alike, including children, were hit by bullets, and mounds of bodies soon lay on the ground. The killing continued through the night, with soldiers operating on a house-to-house basis in the apartment buildings adjacent to the square. Witnesses to the event claim that the bodies were later removed in garbage trucks.

Tlatelolco massacre - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Mexico Olympics of 1968 saw African-American protests reach a world-wide audience when two black athletes used a medal ceremony for the 200 meters to protest about the lack of real civil rights in America.

One of the greatest sprinters in the world in 1968 was Tommy Smith. By the end of his athletics career, Smith had equaled or broken thirteen world records. Close behind him in the rankings was John Carlos. Both were team mates at San Jose State College. In the build up to the games, all African-American athletes were urged to boycott the games by the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). A member of OPHR was Harry Edwards who was a friend of both sprinters and had influenced Smith and Carlos even before the Mexico games. Though a boycott never materialised, both Smith and Carlos agreed on a protest at the medal ceremony for the 200 meters which both were expected to be at.  More