June 4, 2020
Day 156 of 366
June 4th is the 156th day of the year. It is the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, a United Nations observance that was established on August 19, 1982. Originally focused on victims of the 1982 Lebanon War, its purpose expanded to “acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental, and emotional abuse.” The day affirms the UN’s commitment to protect the rights of children.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Clean Beauty Day, National Old Maids Day, National Cheese Day, and National Cognac Day. IT is also recognized as National SAFE Day, which is an event that brings awareness to gun safety and responsible storage of firearms.
Historical items of note:
- In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers publicly demonstrated their montgolfière. It is better known as the hot air balloon.
- In 1784, Élisabeth Thible became the first woman to fly in an untethered hot air balloon. Her flight covered four kilometers in 45 minutes, reaching 1,500 meters altitude.
- In 1855, Major Henry C. Wayne departed New York aboard the USS Supply to procure camels to establish the U.S. Camel Corps.
- In 1876, the Transcontinental Express arrived in San Francisco after traveling 83 hours and 39 minutes from New York City via the First Transcontinental Railroad.
- In 1907, actress Rosalind Russell was born.
- In 1912, Massachusetts became the first state of the United States to set a minimum wage.
- In 1917, the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded. Laura E. Richards, Maude H. Elliott, and Florence Hall received the first Pulitzer for biography (for Julia Ward Howe), Jean Jules Jusserand received the first Pulitzer for history for his work With Americans of Past and Present Days, and Herbert B. Swope received the first Pulitzer for journalism for his work for the New York World.
- In 1919, the United States Congress approved the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees suffrage to women, and sent it to the states for ratification.
- In 1928, German-American therapist and author Ruth Westheimer was born.
- In 1939, the Motorschiff St. Louis was denied permission to land in Florida. Carrying 963 Jewish refugees, the ship had previously been turned away from Cuba. Forced to return to Europe, more than 200 of its passengers later died in Nazi concentration camps.
- In 1940, British forces completed the evacuation of 338,000 troops from Dunkirk in France. To rally the morale of the country, Winston Churchill delivered his famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech to the House of Commons.
- In 1944, Rome became the first Axis capital to fall to Allied forces in World War II.
- In 1960, author Kristine Kathryn Rusch was born.
- Also in 1960, English television presenter, comedian, singer, former footballer, and Doctor Who companion Bradley Walsh was born.
- In 1961, singer-songwriter and producer El DeBarge was born.
- In 1964, actor Sean Pertwee was born.
- In 1970, Polish-Swedish actress, model, and Bond Girl Izabella Scorupco was born.
- In 1971, actor and producer Noah Wyle was born.
- Also in 1971, actor James Callis was born.
- In 1975, actress, filmmaker, humanitarian, and activist Angelina Jolie was born.
- In 1982, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was released.
- In 1986, Jonathan Pollard pled guilty to espionage for selling top secret United States military intelligence to Israel.
- In 2010, the maiden flight of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, named Falcon 9 Flight 1, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40.
In 1989, the Tiananmen Square protests were suppressed in Beijing by the People’s Liberation Army.
The Tiananmen Square protests, also known as the Tiananmen Square Incident and the June Fourth Incident – 六四事件, literally the six-four incident – were student-led demonstrations that started on April 15th and were forcibly suppressed almost two months later when the government declared martial law.
This led to the Tiananmen Square Massacre, in which troops with assault rifles and tanks fired at the demonstrators and those trying to block the military’s advance into the square. Estimates of the death toll vary from several hundred to several thousand, with thousands more wounded.
The protests were sparked by the death of pro-reform Communist general secretary Hu Yaobang. Amid the backdrop of rapid economic development and social changes in post-Mao China, these protests reflected social anxieties about the country’s future, both among the populace and the political elite. The economic reforms of the 1980s developed a nascent market economy that helped some but not all, and the legitimacy of the single-party political system was challenged.
The country faced inflation, corruption, limited preparedness of graduates for the new economy, and restrictions on political participation. Students raised their voices, calling for greater accountability and due process. They wanted democracy, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech.
At the height of the protests, nearly 1 million people assembled in the Square.
Authorities responded with both conciliatory and hardline approaches, revealing deep divisions in the party. A student-led hunger strike galvanized support for the demonstrators around the country, spreading the protests to 400 cities, and forcing party leadership to use stronger measures. The State Council declared martial law on May 20th and mobilized approximately 300,000 troops to Beijing. In the early morning hours of June 4th, they advanced into the city and began killing both demonstrators and bystanders.
The international community, human rights organizations, and political analysts condemned the action and the government. The Chinese government responded with widespread arrests of protesters and their supporters, suppression of other protests around China, expulsion of foreign journalists, and strict control of information by stifling the media, demoting and purging officials, and authoritarian strengthening of security forces.
It is considered a watershed event in world history, but the limits established on the Chinese people have kept the Tiananmen Square event one of the most sensitive and most widely censored topics in China.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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