The Kent State shooting was a tragic event that occured on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Unarmed college students were fired at by the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970. Four students were killed in the massacre, two of them being women. Nine others were wounded. One of the wounded students was then paralyzed for the rest of his life ( Kifner, par. 1-3).
multiple students trying to help a wounded protestor
the Ohio National Guard marching towards the students
The reason the National Guard even had to be called was because of the fact that there was a student protest which was protesting the Cambodian Campaign. The Cambodian Campaign was announced by President Nixon on television on April 30th. The Cambodian Campaign was essentially a series of United States military operations in eastern Cambodia and in Vietnam. The students protesting wanted to remove all troops from the Vietnam War, and saw the Cambodian Campaign as putting more troops into the war effort.
These protests at Kent State were peaceful at the beginning, but quickly got out of hand.Things escalated quickly and a few protestors decided it would be a good idea to set the ROTC building at Kent State on fire. These students wanted to make a point and show the country that they were not going to sit back and watch President Nixon make 150,000 more soldiers get drafted for a war that the majority of the country did not support.
a man laying, dead, after being shot by the Ohio National Guard
Students running away from the Ohio National Guard after shots were fired
the cover of Life Magazine following the Kent Massacre
Timeline of events:
Friday, May 1: On Friday, there was a small peaceful demonstration of around five-hundred students on the small field in the middle of campus so that their presence would be known. The crowd dispersed quickly because students had to attend class, but they decided to plan a much larger rally for May 4th to show Nixon and the rest of the country that they would not stand for the expansion of the Vietnam War in Vietnam or Cambodia. These protesters were angry. Nothing that they had done in the past was making any difference to the war. There was a widespread belief that Americans should “bring the war home”. People were doing all sorts of things to catch the attention of the media and the rest of the country. One student buried a copy of the Constitution, to symbolize how Nixon killed it.
Later Friday night, people downtown were creating chaos. People were smashing in store windows, throwing bottles at police cars, and even broke into a bank. Word spread quickly, and more and more people came downtown to join in on the vandalism. Store and bar owners were scared, and most decided to shut down early that night. When the police became involved, there was a group of around one-hundred and fifty people. These people were being disrespectful to the police officers, and the Kent Mayor had no choice but to call all members of the Kent Police Force to duty and ask surrounding counties for help from their police departments. He then declared a state of emergency, and turned to the Ohio Governor, Jim Rhodes, for assistance. Police were then shortly able to disperse the crowd using tear gas (Kent Library par. 1)
Saturday, May 2: People in Kent were scared for their own safety. Rumors were circulating the city about how people were on the way to destroy the city and to show the government that Americans were serious about pulling out of the Vietnam War. Mayor Satrom had a meeting with an Ohio National Guard member, and called Governor Rhodes and asked to mobilize the Ohio National Guard into Kent. His request was granted, and the Ohio National Guard arrived in Kent at 10 pm. When the National Guard arrived, a major protest was already underway. The Ohio National Guard arrived in Kent just in time to see the ROTC building burning. The people who were responsible for the fire were never caught. The Ohio National Guard was able to end the protest by using tear gas, arresting people, and using brutality (Kent Library par. 2)
Sunday, May 3: The day started with Governor Rhodes delivering a speech at the Kent Firehouse, calling all student protestors un-American, and told them that they are taking matters into their own hand that they did not directly control. They were standing in the way of the United States, their own education, and the safety of the residents in Kent.
"We've seen here at the city of Kent especially, probably the most vicious form of campus-oriented violence yet perpetrated by dissident groups. They make definite plans of burning, destroying, and throwing rocks at police and at the National Guard and the Highway Patrol. This is when we're going to use every part of the law enforcement agency of Ohio to drive them out of Kent. We are going to eradicate the problem. We're not going to treat the symptoms. And these people just move from one campus to the other and terrorize the community. They're worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. Now I want to say this. They are not going to take over campus. I think that we're up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America."
After that, Sunday was pretty quiet. There was a small protest that turned into a sit in, where a few students were hoping to meet with Mayor Satrum. This never happened, and the students had to return to their dorm rooms due to a curfew that was put into effect in Kent. (Kent Library par. 3).
Monday, May 4: The original protest that was scheduled for the 4th was still planned for noon. Police and campus officials tried to cancel the protest, but two-thousand people still showed up. The Ohio National Guard tried to disperse the students, but there simply were too many and they were too strong willed. There was nothing that anybody could do to get the students to leave. They were arresting students who would not leave. These students then would react by throwing rocks at the National Guard. The National Guard then decided to use tear gas, which was unsuccessful due to how windy the conditions were that day. The students continued to throw rocks and say mean things to the National Guard and policemen.
Once it was clear that they were not going to disperse, the National Guard then decided to march towards the crowd with their bayonetts out, which forced the students to retreat deeper onto campus. The Ohio National Guard then followed the students, and ended up on a practice field around fifty yards away from a parking lot where many students were. Some of the Guardsmen pointed their guns at the parking lot, while others talked over what they should do next. They decided to go back to where the original protest was, and began to head that way. While retreating, sergeant Myron Parker turned around and started shooting his .45 pistol at the crowd of students in the parking lot. The Guardsmen closest to the parking lot heard these shots, and turned and shot their rifles at the crowd too. At least thirty of the seventy seven Guardsmen fired shots into the crowd, even though it only lasted fifteen seconds. The Guardsmen claimed to have been fired upon by a sniper, even though there still is no proof of that to this day. Many of the Guardsmen testified later on that they were scared for their lives, even though all of the students were over fifty yards away and unarmed. Two of the students who were shot and killed were not even participating in the protest, they were simply walking to class (Kent Library par. 4)