What did happened at Kent State when war protesters confronted the National Guard troops on campus? Why did the National Guards use arms on students? Could it have been avoided? It is well known that the reason students at Kent State, or any other college campus for that matter was protesting. It was a direct result of the United States involvement with the Vietnam War. However it was a specific attack that garnered the nation’s attention.
The United States participated in a secret booming campaign against the Vietnamese Liberation Army. Unfortunately, many of the enemy bases were located in a neutral Cambodia. (McCubbrey, 2009) In fact, President Richard Nixon announced to the nation that the troops were invading. He is seen pointing to the country of Cambodia to educate the American public. (Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media., 2014) It was after this national TV broadcast that those opposed to the war, which included college students exploded into protests.
On May 1, 1970, an anti-war rally was held at Kent State. There were speeches given by students and “a copy of the Constitution was buried to symbolize the murder of the Constitution as Congress never called a war.” (Hensley, 2014) A rally was called for May 4th in the afternoon. On May 2nd, Mayor Satrom was concerned about the possible violence and rhetoric would ensue. Plus the ROTC building was set on fire prior to the rally on May 4, 1970. It was at this point Ohio Governor James Rhodes arrived at Kent on Sunday morning. He stated that campus protestors “were the worst type of people in America and stated that every force of law would be used to deal with them.” (Hensley, 2014) Clearly it was the comment the fed the flames for the protestors.
In fear of the protests, Governor Rhodes called in the Ohio National Guard. He instructed General Canterbury of the National Guard made an order for the demonstrators to leave. The demonstrators became angry and fought back with rocks. It was at this point the General advised his Guardsmen to load their weapons. Some Guardsmen had guns pointed in the air, shooting shots. Other Guardsmen pointed their guns at the students. In hearings, the Guardsmen testified that they were frightened of the crowd. Many Guardsmen shot their guns at the students. Over 61 shots were fired in a 13 second period. (Hensley, 2014) Nine students were wounded. Four students were killed. Their names were Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder. (Hensley, 2014)
In a trial of 1975, a jury voted 9 to 3 that the Guardsmen were not legally responsible for the deaths of the four students. Later, it was discovered that there was a threat to a jury member. Finally in January 1979, there was an out of court settlement to the defendants. There has never been an event since Kent State. Clearly there are still protests throughout campuses still for one issue or another. In November 2011, a protest reaction that caused the nation to stir occurred at UC Davis by police officers spraying pepper spray into students’ eyes with no provocation whatsoever. (You Tube, 2011) College students in other countries who protest are violently assaulted for protests. Also, police actions existed against Occupy movements across the United States to protest bank bailouts and social change. Hopefully a lesson was learned that using lethal force during peaceful means will never happen again.
Hensley, T. L. (2014). The May 4 Shootings at Kent State University: The Search for Historical Accuracy. Retrieved from Kent State Department of Sociology. : http://dept.kent.edu/sociology/lewis/lewihen.htm
McCubbrey, D. (2009). Business Fundamentals. The Global Text Project.
Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. (2014). Nixon announces invasion of Cambodia. Retrieved from Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media: http://chnm.gmu.edu/hardhats/cambodia.html
You Tube. (2011, November 18). UC Davis Protestors Pepper Sprayed. Davis , California.
Occupy WallStreet. (n.d.). Occupy WallStreet. Retrieved from http://occupywallst.org/