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Lauren Kairys

on 18 March 2014

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Vietnam had recently fought for its independence in the 1940s & '50s & split into the Communist North (Viet Cong) & Democratic(ish) South. The US had gradually increased its support for South Vietnam to prevent the spread of Communism. Richard Nixon won the 1968 presidential election based partly on his promise of Vietnamization -- transferring combat duties from U.S. soldiers to the South Vietnamese.
with students & guards chatting pleasantly.
Students at Kent State held an antiwar protest,
By Sunday, the campus was filled with about 1,000 guardsmen.
Surprisingly, the atmosphere was friendly
On May 1st...
That changed when Gov. Rhodes held a press conference & called violent protesters "the worst type of people that we harbor in America." He also confused guardsmen & University officials, causing them to think that martial law had taken effect on campus. Small riots occurred that night & the anticipation for Monday's rally grew.
Flyers were posted, notifying students that all rallies were banned, yet by noon, the commons area was filled with nearly 3,000 people (only 500 of which were active protesters).
Monday, May 4, l970
Vol XCIII, No. 311
What started as a protest escalated
Four students were killed by gunfire
The Tragedy and Aftermath;
Five days before the Kent State incident, on April 30th, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon appeared on national television & announced that the United States was going to invade Cambodia & that he would need to draft 150,000 more soldiers to continue the Vietnam War effort.
Massive protests on campuses began throughout the country, including Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Compared to nearby Ohio State University, the Kent State student body was generally less liberal & more blue-collar; if anything dramatic was going to happen, it probably wouldn't happen at Kent.

So . . . why did it?

Their names were Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer & William Schroeder. Scheuer & Schroeder weren't participating in the protest - they were only walking to class. Nine more people were wounded, one of whom, Dean Kahler, was paralyzed. Professor Glenn Frank helped prevent further loss by pleading with students for 20 minutes not to provoke the guards any further.
The shootings were followed by chaos throughout the community. The school was closed, & there was a telephone system breakdown in the area. Initial reports listed two Guardsmen as dead, & local citizens feared reprisals from "outside agitators." Rumors flew & many living in the area heard things like:

Nixon's announcement that we would be invading Cambodia, where the Viet Cong had its headquarters, seemed like a betrayal of his promises.
The announcement was also interpreted by opponents of the war as a step backward, & it immediately prompted nationwide antiwar protests, in what Time called "a nation-wide student strike."
At Kent State, the first of these was held the next day, on Friday, May 1st.
burying a U.S. Constitution
to represent how Congress was violating the document by waging a war that it had never officially declared. A second rally was planned for Monday.
That night, the town of Kent was restless . After visiting the bars & becoming increasingly rowdy, crowds built bonfires in the streets, broke windows & threw bottles at police cars. The mayor of Kent, Leroy Satrom, declared a state of emergency in the town, shutting down bars & dispersing the crowd using tear gas.
Fearing more riots, Satrom asked Gov. Rhodes to dispatch the Ohio National Guard on Saturday. Before the Guard arrived, a crowd of about 1,000 protesters gathered around an ROTC building on Kent State's campus & burned it to the ground.
Gen. Robert Canterbury ordered an end to the rally as the crowd became unruly & began to throw rocks. Canterbury told his men to load their weapons & use tear gas. The guards pushed the protesters over Blanket Hill, into the Prentice Hall parking lot & a football field. Realizing they were cornered by a fence, the guards retreated back up the hill. When they reached the top, 28 guardsmen (out of about 70) turned and began firing their guns.
>Snipers are coming in from out of state to even the score.
>LSD is now in the water supply.
>The revolution will begin at Kent.
>Two hundred students from Akron will overrun the town.
>Police are on the lookout for Weathermen believed to be disguised as National Guardsmen
The Nixon administration seemed to point fingers at the protesters for provoking the guardsmen. Nixon's response to the shootings was simply, "When dissent turns to violence, it invites tragedy" while VP Spiro Agnew said it had been "predictable" and the President's speechwriter referred to the guardsmen as "a bunch of scared kids with guns." However, the shootings DID lead to protests on college campuses throughout the country as well as a student strike, causing more than 450 campuses across the country to close with both violent and non-violent demonstrations.
Wounded Kent State student John Cleary is attended to by other students, who helped save his life
Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway, screams as she kneels over the body of fellow student Jeffrey Miller after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard
John Filo's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Vecchio would become an iconic image of the shooting and the entire Vietnam War.
"I don't care whether you've never listened to anyone before in your lives. I am begging you right now. If you don't disperse right now, they're going to move in, and it can only be a slaughter. Would you please listen to me? Jesus Christ, I don't want to be a part of this … !"
>Immediately after the shooting, geology professor and faculty marshal Glenn Frank began pleading with angry students, who were ready to launch an all-out attack on the National Guard.
Just five days after the shootings, 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington, D.C., against the war, the new troops being sent into Cambodia & the killing of unarmed student protesters. Singer & songwriter Neil Young saw the photos taken at the scene & wrote the song "Ohio" in commemoration of the tragedy.
Students dive to the ground as the National Guard fires on faculty and students
A presidential commission that investigated the matter concluded that the tragedy was "unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable" while a 1970 FBI investigation into the shootings found, among other things:
>There was no sniper.

>The Guardsmen had not been surrounded.

>They [the Guardsmen] could have resorted to tear gas rather than

>The rock throwing had not been widespread or as dangerous as claimed by
General Canterbury.

>The shooting was "not proper and not in order."

The case went through court in several trials. The judge in the federal trial dismissed it early on because of the weak case brought against the guardsmen. An Ohio grand jury put blame on the university officials and protesters, but not the guardsmen. The civil trial was appealed several times before it was settled out of court in 1979. The victims and the families of the students killed eventually received the collective sum of $675,000, which the State of Ohio paid. The reparations came with a signed statement from the guardsmen in which they expressed their regret of the tragedy.

No official apology was ever issued.
Parallels Project;
Lauren Kairys
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