Friday, May 1st, 1970
At noon, Friday, May 1st, 1970, on a grassy green known as the Commons at Kent State University, about five hundred students gathered at the Victory Bell to peacefully and ceremoniously bury the Constitution in protest of President Nixon's announcement of the incursion into Cambodia.
That night, trouble began when students in the downtown area blocked a street and started a small trash fire. Soon the crowd began attacking nearby cop cars, and turned their attention from festivity to an antiwar protest. Police were soon called in, and in protest, about twenty people started breaking windows in nearby buildings. Conspiracies about radical activists arose between police and political officials, and the Ohio National Guard was contacted.
Saturday, May 2nd
Although an 8:00 P.M. curfew was set for the city of Kent and a 1:00 A.M. curfew for the campus, trouble once again arose when protesters set the ROTC building, which was, at the time, a symbol of America's involvement with Southeast Asia, aflame, first at around 8:30 P.M., and again around 9:45 P.M., after firefighters put it out. The Ohio National Guard accompanied firefighters the second time around, marking their first time on campus. They did not have the university's permission to be on campus because it was "located on state property," and therefore "needed no specific invitation."
SUNDAY, MAY 3RD
Angered by the arrival of the Ohio National Guard, students once again gathered at the Victory Bell around 7:00 P.M. to protest. Around 10:00 P.M., demonstrators staged a sit-in in the middle of an intersection and read a list of demands. One student went and talked to the police and was told that the National Guard would be leaving the front campus effective immediately, but when they all started to move back out of the intersection, the Guard announced over a loudspeaker that the curfew had been moved up from 1:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M. Feeling betrayed, the demonstrators threw rocks and yelled obscenities, only to be met with tear gas and bayonets. Students fled into the library and the Tri-Towers dorm complex, the latter of which many, even those who did not live there, were forced to stay the night. Two students reported being bayoneted.
monday, may 4th
The morning of May 4th began tentatively; the events of the weekend had the campus on edge. University officials met and discussed talk of a previously scheduled rally and left agreeing that it was to be banned. Leaflets were prepared and distributed, but many students did not see them due to living off campus or not retrieving them from their mailboxes until after the shooting. Nevertheless, students began gathering at the Victory Bell upon its tolling around 11:00 A.M. However, due to the centrality of it and the rally being scheduled at noon, much of the crowd that gathered were simply observers that were breaking for lunch, returning from a class, or heading to their dorms. By 11:45 A.M., the rally was entirely peaceful.
The National Guard, however, ordered the demonstrators to leave and disperse, but because of noise and distance, their orders were either not heard or entirely disregarded. The Guard was then ordered to fire tear gas at the rally, which, while it did prompt some students to retreat and scatter, was essentially ineffective due to wind gusts blowing away from them.
Demonstrators began throwing the tear gas canisters back towards the Guard, along with rocks and obscenities. The Guard began advancing, splitting the crowd, until eventually trapping themselves against a fence. The Guard gave orders for guardsmen to kneel and point their rifles, which, unbeknownst to students, were loaded with the safety off. After a 10 minute stand off between students and soldiers, the Guard began advancing back towards the crowd.
During this advancement, guardsmen wheeled around, pointed their rifles, and, in unison, shot for 13 seconds, expelling 67 rounds. The Guard would later claim that they fired in self-defense, but a film proved that at the time of the shooting, they were being approached by no more than 17 students, all more than 85 feet away. Four students were killed and nine were wounded.
the victims of may 4th
Allison Krause, age 19, was approx. 343 feet away when she shot in the chest. She was declared DOA at the hospital.
William Schroeder, age 19, was approx. 382 feet away when he was shot in the chest. He died in surgery approximately an hour later.
Jeffrey Miller, age 20, was approx. 285 feet away when he was shot in the mouth. He died instantly.
Sandra Scheuer, age 20, was approx. 390 feet away when she was shot in the neck. She died a few minutes later.
The list of wounded includes Joseph Lewis Jr., who was hit in the right abdomen and left leg, John Cleary, who was hit in the upper chest, Thomas Grace, who was hit in his left ankle, Alan Canfora, who was hit in his right wrist, Dean Kahler, who was hit in the back, Douglas Wrentmore, who was hit in his right knee, James Russel, who was hit in his right thigh and forehead, Robert Stamps, who was hit in his right buttock, and Donald MacKenzie, who was hit in the neck. Dean Kahler was permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
The shootings at Kent Sate have contributed to so much change;
- they spurred the largest student strike in U.S. history
- changed the public's views concerning the Vietnam War
- lowered the voting age to 18
- began a precedent that allowed public officials to be brought to court for their actions in office
- reminded us about the importance of our First Amendment rights.
They have acted as a defining moment in Kent State's history, and have taught much of the country about the importance of communication and the effects of young people.
Unfortunately, the sad irony of the situation is that although these people fought so hard for themselves, they have failed the new generation of young people. The same people that witnessed this tragedy are now the same people that are in office and ignoring the problems of today. These people watched their friends, fellow students, brothers, sisters, relatives die for protesting the Vietnam War, Nixon, and government corruption yet today stand by and do nothing to help our current issues.
As of 2015, the average age of all state legislators was 56 years old; as of 2018, the average age of the House of Representatives was 57.8, and the Senate being 61.8, among one of the oldest Congresses in U.S. history. Many of these legislators, including our current President, were born between 1944 and 1964, making them a part of the baby-boomer generation, named for the increase in babies following World War II. This generation was at the heart of student strikes and protesting around 1970, with their ages ranging from 6 to 26 years old at the time. Not only that, but this specific generation holds a disproportionate influence over America's legislation, with nearly twice as many members than their population would proportionately warrant.