The ohio National Guard
The Ohio National Guard was called to Kent due to the violence on campus. Many people, though they were not against the idea behind the demonstrations, were against the violent nature.
The local police forces were not equipped or prepared to deal with riots of such magnitude and after several nights of demonstrations that left thousands of dollars of damage, many seemed grateful for the presence of the guard.
The attitude on campus was mixed. Some, tired of the nightly protests were happy to have the Guard on campus. Others, many of whom were part of the protests, were only angered further by their presence.
Left. “Close-up of National Guard personnel in jeep,” Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections and Archives, accessed August 6, 2019, https://omeka.library.kent.edu/special-collections/items/show/1401.
The shooting brought the Vietnam War to American soil, shocking many who thought that they would always be safe at home.
The events of May 4th and the days leading up to the shooting shifted the American public's opinion about the war. As citizens were forced to confront the fact that they were not safe just because they weren't on the frontlines, voices of the younger generations rose up and pushed for changes that still affect us today.
“National Guard personnel walking toward crowd near Taylor Hall, tear gas has been fired,” Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections and Archives, accessed August 6, 2019, https://omeka.library.kent.edu/special-collections/items/show/1426.
May 4th and the subsequent national student strike (involving over 4 million students and closing more than 450 campuses across the US) brought about a lot of change not only culturally into the U.S. but into law as well.
It forced American's to realize there may come times that they must fight to protect the five freedoms of the 1st Amendment, sparking arguments over whether or not the banning of the May 4th protest was unconstitutional and, if it was, how could their rights be protected?
It had been easy to put one's trust in the government and the military but the shocking events of May 4th led many to question their faith in our institution.
Questions are the first step toward change. The questions raised by the shooting and protests that followed changed our nation and taught lessons which must always be remembered should we strive to avoid another tragedy like May 4th.
The shooting spurred discussion, the second step to change. Discussions about how riot control and protests have to be handled and how situations can be diffused without violence.
The National Guard developed more non-lethal tools for dispersing crowds (such as rubber bullets) and reorganized their crowd control tactics including wearing different protection, controlling lone agitators, and delivery of messages.
“Burned out ROTC building, two National Guard personnel in foreground,” Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections and Archives, accessed August 6, 2019, https://omeka.library.kent.edu/special-collections/items/show/1378.
Following closely behind the shooting at Kent State came the student strike of 1970. Across America upwards of 4 million students went on strike, demonstrations took place in nearly 900 universities throughout America as well as marches in cities such as Washington D.C. and San Francisco.
Right. “National Student Strike May 6, 1970,” Cornell University - PJ Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography, accessed August 6, 2019, https://digital.library.cornell.edu/catalog/ss:19343688.
The shooting helped to bring about the ratification of the 26th Amendment, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. Although this is something most now take for granted, the fight for a voting age of 18 was a long one, with the line "old enough to fight, old enough to vote" being a popular slogan.
The shooting also encouraged the end of the draft, one of the most unpopular aspects of the war. Many students involved in the demonstrations before and after the Kent State shooting were veterans of the war and the trauma of the battlefield was a common thread among those affected by the demonstrations and those who were not. This provided many an insight into the minds of those with whom they may have otherwise disagreed.
In 1973 it was announced by the Selective Service that there would be no further draft calls.
Right. “Crowd in parking lot, including man with black flag, some people are covering their faces,” Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections and Archives, accessed August 1, 2019, https://omeka.library.kent.edu/special-collections/items/show/1443.
One of the most memorable parts of the student demonstrations against the Vietnam war was the shock to many that young people could be invested in current events and world politics and, beyond that, that their actions could make a difference.
The power of young voices is not something to be ignored and today, many young activists are leading the fights for gun control, LGBTQ+ rights, environmentalism, and many more.
The resolve and courage of the students across the country who, in the wake of a tragedy like no other, gathered to mourn, honor, and take up the torch of the slain and injured students, serves as an inspiration to all those who follow in their footsteps and as a reminder that out of catastrophe there will always be those who rise to the call.
These sentiments are echoed today as, through tragedy after tragedy, our nation and young activists rally together and raise their voices knowing that, as our country's history shows, young people can make a difference.
“Crowd of people,” Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections and Archives, accessed August 6, 2019, https://omeka.library.kent.edu/special-collections/items/show/1399.