May 4, 1970. It was this day that the Ohio National Guard was called in to prevent a demonstration that was planned by student leaders. It was this day that would change the lives of many family and friends. It was this day that the Ohio National Guard opened fire on the Kent State University campus, killing four students and wounding 11 others. Ironically, the four students who were killed were not even a part of the protest.
The events that led up to this tragedy, happened a couple of days prior to May 4th. It all started with President Nixon invading Cambodia during the Viet Nam war and he did this without a formal war declaration from Congress. Nixon explained that the ten thousand troops he sent into Cambodia was merely a defensive position. However, college students began protesting this all across the United States and all were peaceful protests and rallies, even at Kent State. However, Saturday night, May 2, something happened in the city of Kent. Radical protesters and members of a motorcycle club got a little drunk and started protesting out in the streets. They smashed windows of banks and businesses, began throwing beer bottles at police cars and they also set bonfires in the middle of the main street. Apparently, none or very few, of these protesters were students of the university.
The mayor ordered a curfew and ordered the bars closed and that only exacerbated the situation and caused the riots to intensify. The next day, Sunday May 3, students from the university had come into the city and helped clean up the mess, however the business owners and mayor was upset with them even though the students were not directly involved in the vandalism here. The mayor called the governor and requested National Guard troops to come help enforce the curfew and to stop the protest that was planned for Monday, May 4th, at the campus.
When the National Guard arrived on the campus, Sunday night, May 3rd, they saw the ROTC building was on fire. Stories conflict on who started the fire but the general consensus was that it was more radical protesters.
On Monday May 4th, the rally was held even though the university had posted flyers saying it was cancelled, in hopes that no one would show up. When students showed up at the protest point, the National Guard began dispersing them and tried to move them down to the parking lots and away from the common area. Tear gas canisters were fired and some students picked them back up and began tossing them back at the soldiers. Then a gunshot rang out from somewhere and the soldiers began firing their rifles, killing four students and injuring eleven others.
Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder, and Sandra Scheuer were the four students killed and were four students who were not involved with the protest. None of the National Guardsmen were held accountable for the shootings. Colleges across the United States held vigils and protests for the actions of the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University, May 4th, 1970.