Guest Author - Vance Rowe
Jeffrey Glenn Miller; age 20
Allison B. Krause; age 19
William Knox Schroeder; age 19
Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20
These are the names of the four students who were killed by Ohio National Guardsmen on May 4, 1970 at the Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.
On April 29th, 1970 President Richard Nixon ordered 30,000 American soldiers to aid the South Vietnamese Army in an attack on Cambodia to destroy North Vietnamese Army strongholds there. He did this without the approval of congress which in turn caused Congress to pass legislation to limit the presidentís executive power. College students across the United States also protested this action, especially because when Nixon was elected to the presidency, one of his promises was to end the United States involvement in the Viet Nam War. The students were not only protesting this but were also protesting the fact that the draft was being reinstated and college deferment was being taken away. Students began protesting peacefully by burning their draft cards, moving to Canada and to other countries to avoid being drafted.
On May 1st 1970 about 500 students gathered on a grassy knoll at the Kent State University and held a protest as well in which they burned a copy of the US Constitution stating that Nixon had already killed it. At 1 pm they ended the protest and went to class and planned on meeting back here on Monday May 4th for another protest. However a few protests got out of hand over the weekend in the city of Kent and the mayor asked for the National Guard to come in and enforce a curfew the mayor had issued. On Saturday May 2nd some college students began protesting in the city along with other anti-war activists including transients and a motorcycle club. A bonfire was set in the middle of the street, beer bottles were thrown at police cars, storefront windows and a bank window were broken so the mayor ordered a curfew and shut the bars down earlier than they would have and this fueled the anger of the protestors. All of Kentís police were called into duty as well as policemen from neighboring towns and counties to help enforce the curfew.
On Sunday May 3rd some of the students came into the city to help with the clean-up to mixed reactions of the business owners. Fearing more trouble from protestors the mayor called the governor and asked for help in enforcing the curfew. The governor called in the Ohio National Guard at 5pm but the soldiers didnít make it to Kent until about 10pm. They forced the people off of the streets with tear gas and the protesters moved to the Kent State University campus where the abandoned ROTC building was burned down and the fire department had a hard time battling the flames because the protestors were hindering them by throwing rocks at the firemen and cutting their hoses so other fire departments had to be called in to help quench the blaze.
On Monday May 4th, the National Guard was in full force on the university campus. University officials, knowing about the planned protest today tried to stop it by passing out flyers saying that the protest was cancelled but that ploy didnít work. More than a thousand students showed up on the Commons to protest like they had planned but the National Guard tried to disperse them by marching on them with their bayoneted rifles at the ready and also used tear gas. Students were not easily swayed to disperse and threw rocks at the guardsmen as well as tossing their tear gas canisters back at them.
One of the guardsmen eventually fired upon the students in the parking lot with his 45 caliber pistol and at least 29 other guardsmen fired their rifles at the unarmed students in the Prentice parking lot as well.
Approximately 67 rounds of ammunition were fired in a matter of about 13 seconds, although witnesses said it seemed longer than thirteen seconds. The students were about to attack the guardsmen after the shots but were stopped by a number of faculty who implored the students not to give in to the violence.
In the aftermath, some of the National Guardsmen were brought to trial and the sergeant who first opened fire said there was a sniper shooting that them and that is why they opened fire. This was never proven but the Guardsmen were all found not guilty in the trial. College students across the country caused more than 450 campuses to shut down by striking with both violent and non-violent protests for this tragedy, the invasion of Cambodia and the Viet Nam war as a whole.
Four students were killed and nine others were wounded, one was permanently paralyzed. Two of the students that were killed were not even a part of the protest. They were on their way to class and all of the people who were shot were all students in good standing at the university.