Tiananmen Square massacre takes place - HISTORY
Year
1989

Tiananmen Square massacre takes place

Chinese troops storm through Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing, killing and arresting thousands of pro-democracy protesters. The brutal Chinese government assault on the protesters shocked the West and brought denunciations and sanctions from the United States.

In May 1989, nearly a million Chinese, mostly young students, crowded into central Beijing to protest for greater democracy and call for the resignations of Chinese Communist Party leaders deemed too repressive. For nearly three weeks, the protesters kept up daily vigils, and marched and chanted. Western reporters captured much of the drama for television and newspaper audiences in the United States and Europe. On June 4, 1989, however, Chinese troops and security police stormed through Tiananmen Square, firing indiscriminately into the crowds of protesters. Turmoil ensued, as tens of thousands of the young students tried to escape the rampaging Chinese forces. Other protesters fought back, stoning the attacking troops and overturning and setting fire to military vehicles. Reporters and Western diplomats on the scene estimated that at least 300, and perhaps thousands, of the protesters had been killed and as many as 10,000 were arrested.

The savagery of the Chinese government’s attack shocked both its allies and Cold War enemies. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared that he was saddened by the events in China. He said he hoped that the government would adopt his own domestic reform program and begin to democratize the Chinese political system. In the United States, editorialists and members of Congress denounced the Tiananmen Square massacre and pressed for President George Bush to punish the Chinese government. A little more than three weeks later, the U.S. Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of China in response to the brutal violation of human rights.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Operation Dynamo at Dunkirk ends

As the German army advances through northern France during the early days of World War II, it cuts off British troops from their French allies, forcing an enormous evacuation of soldiers across the North Sea from the town of Dunkirk to England. The Allied armies, trapped by the ...read more

Congress passes the 19th Amendment

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.The women’s suffrage movement was founded in the mid-19th century by women who had become politically active through their work in the ...read more

Angela Davis acquitted

Angela Yvonne Davis, a black militant, former philosophy professor at the University of California, and self-proclaimed communist, is acquitted on charges of conspiracy, murder, and kidnapping by an all-white jury in San Jose, California.In October 1970, Davis was arrested in New ...read more

Battle of Midway begins

On this day in 1942, the Battle of Midway–one of the most decisive U.S. victories against Japan during World War II–begins. During the four-day sea-and-air battle, the outnumbered U.S. Pacific Fleet succeeded in destroying four Japanese aircraft carriers while losing only one of ...read more

The Battle of Midway begins

On this day in 1942, Japanese Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, commander of the fleet that attacked Pearl Harbor, launches a raid on Midway Island with almost the entirety of the Japanese navy.As part of a strategy to widen its sphere of influence and conquest, the Japanese set their ...read more

Walt takes command of 3rd Marine Division

Maj. Gen. Lewis Walt takes command of the 3rd Marine Division from Maj. Gen. William Collins. Walt was concurrently named Commander of the III Amphibious Force (III MAF), the first corps-level Marine Corps headquarters in history. As such, Walt was in command of two Marine ...read more

FDR asks for drought-relief funds

On this day in 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt asks Congress to appropriate $52.5 million to battle economic and social disaster in the American Midwest caused in part by a series of droughts in the Great Plains region. A series of great droughts that began in the 1920s and a ...read more

Express train crosses the nation in 83 hours

A mere 83 hours after leaving New York City, the Transcontinental Express train arrives in San Francisco.That any human being could travel across the entire nation in less than four days was inconceivable to previous generations of Americans. During the early 19th century, when ...read more

Angelina Jolie born

On this day in 1975, the Academy Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie (Voight) is born in Los Angeles, California.Jolie’s father, the actor Jon Voight, had been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for Midnight Cowboy (1969); he won the award for Coming Home (1978). Her mother, ...read more

Trains collide in Bangladesh

The collision of two trains in Jessore, Bangladesh, kills 76 people on this day in 1972. This disaster resulted from one simple error by a train-station operator. An express train loaded far beyond capacity, as is common in Bangladesh, left the southern port city of Khulna ...read more

Confederates evacuate Fort Pillow

Confederate forces slip out of Fort Pillow, Tennessee, a key stronghold on the Mississippi River, clearing the way for the Union capture of Memphis.Fort Pillow lay south of Island No. 10, the Confederates’ key defense from a Northern assault. Although considered a backup to ...read more

Henry Ford test-drives his “Quadricycle”

At approximately 4:00 a.m. on June 4, 1896, in the shed behind his home on Bagley Avenue in Detroit, Henry Ford unveils the “Quadricycle,” the first automobile he ever designed or drove. Ford was working as the chief engineer for the main plant of the Edison Illuminating Company ...read more