40th Anniversary of Kent State shootings

Kent State University Campus

Photo of the Kent State University Campus. Image from WikiMedia Commons.

Tuesday, May 4, marks the 40th anniversary of the Kent State Shootings. Also called the May 4 Massacre, during the incident National Guard soldiers opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators and protesters on the Kent State University campus in Ohio on Monday, May 4, 1970.  In the end, four were dead and nine wounded, none of whom were less than 71 feet away. None of the dead were older than 20, and two weren’t even protesting.

Background on the Kent State Shootings

Kent State University, as many universities of the time, had seen a series of protests and demonstrations against the Vietnam War.  In 1969, President Nixon took office, having been elected on a platform of reducing or stopping the war outright.  Instead, November of 1969 revealed the My Lai Massacre, the institution of the draft lottery and in spring of 1970, the escalation of the war into Cambodia.

Trouble begins

Friday, May 1 1970, a student protest took place at Kent State.  The invasion of Cambodia was announced the day before, and students and others in the area were incensed. A series of demonstrations took place over the weekend, and it got out of hand.  The Mayor requested the Governor declare a state of emergency, and James Rhodes, then Governor of Ohio, called the National Guard into the area on Saturday, May 2.

The Events of the day

Monday, May 4, a protest demonstration was scheduled to take place on campus, though it had been ordered canceled by authorities. It took place anyway, and the National Guard launched tear gas at the students, which was rendered ineffectual by the wind. Rocks and tear gas canisters were thrown in retaliation.  A total 77 soldiers advanced on the protesters, who left the area.  After a pursuit in which the National Guard marched in the opposite direction the students were fleeing in, and upon seeing the protesters again, the soldiers opened fire, 67 shots in total.

The dead and wounded

Four died as a result of the shooting:

  • Jeffery Miller – 20
  • Allison Krause – 19
  • William Schroeder – 19; Shot in the back while en route to class. Attending on ROTC scholarship.
  • Sandra Scheuer – 20; Shot in the throat while en route to class.

Nine more were wounded. Not one of the victims were armed.  Only one lawsuit was brought successfully against the National Guard and Governor Rhodes.

The fallout

The aftermath of the Kent State Shootings was a period of turbulence and unrest. As a consequence, President Nixon had to be taken to Camp David as a result of unrest in the capital.  A report by the Scranton Commission, a government panel which studied demonstrations and unrest, found the National Guard was unjustified in opening fire, and no command was issued to do so.  To this day, it remains one of the darkest chapters in American history.

Other recent posts by bryanh