"Tin Soldiers and Nixon's coming; four dead in Ohio" - Lyric from Neil Young's song "Ohio".
Today is May 4, 2010 and is he 40th anniversary of the Kent State Massacre by Ohio National Guardsmen against students at the Kent State University campus. On April 30th, 1970, President Nixon sent troops into Cambodia after he said that he was going to start withdrawing troops from Viet Nam just a few days earlier on television.
This caused war protests all over the country but none are remembered as the protest at Kent State University. The protest actually began on May 1st, 1970 when about 500 students gathered on the Commons, a grassy knoll at the university where student gatherings were commonly held. During this protest, the gathered students watched one student bury a copy of the U.S. Constitution while they watched another student burn his draft card. At approximately 1PM, the students left the protest to go to class but they had planned to meet here again on May 4 to continue the protest.
Later that night in the town of Kent trouble began to brew and escalated into a small scale riot shortly after midnight. Some students of the university, some bikers and out-of-towners began throwing beer bottles at cars, smashed storefront windows and the window of a bank, which set off an alarm. By the time the police had arrived, they saw a crowd of over a hundred people gathered and a small bonfire was set in the street. They were also assaulted with beer bottles and verbal obscenities. It was about an hour before they, the police, were able to restore order and by this time, most of the bars in the town were closed as they wanted to avoid trouble.
On Monday, May 4th, 1970, about 2,000 students had gathered at the Commons on the University campus after school administrators had tried to cancel the event and it was a couple of days after the mayor of Kent had declared a state of emergency and ordered a mandatory curfew. He also asked the governor of the sate to send National Guard troops in to help maintain order. The National Guard was on the campus ordering the students to disperse from the protest. That order was met with rocks being thrown at the Guardsmen. Tear gas was used to help disperse the crowd but the winds made it virtually ineffective.
The troops marched on the crowd with their bayoneted rifles leading the way and at one point, National Guardsmen turned and fired on the crowd around Taylor Hall and in a parking lot. No one knows why the Guardsmen fired or who fired the first shot but when it was all said and done, nine students were injured and four students were killed. Most of the students who were shot were not even part of the protest and were just watching while they changed classes.
The Kent State Massacre was a sad and unnecessary part of our history and will never be forgotten. About four million students across the country had protests and universities were closed the next day after the tragedy and to this day, no one was held responsible for the incident.