Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming, we're finally on our own. This summer I hear the drummin', four dead in Ohio from the song “OHIO” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Today is May 4, 2014 and is the 44th remembrance of the Kent State tragedy in which Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on protesting college students at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine others and permanently paralyzing one student.
President Nixon was elected to office in 1968 and promised to end the war in Southeast Asia but in 1969, he sent troops into Cambodia without an official declaration of war from Congress. Nixon said he sent the troops to Cambodia for support and not increase the war in Viet Nam. Students all over the country began protesting on college campuses. On May 1, 1970 about 500 students held a protest on a grassy knoll on he campus until 1 PM when they dispersed to go to classes. They even buried a copy of the Constitution stating that Nixon had killed it anyway. The students made plans to meet and protest again on Monday May 4th.
However, the protests reached the city of Kent itself and around midnight, people began smashing store front windows, threw beer bottles at police cars and broke the window of a bank, setting off an alarm. By the time the police had arrived, a small bonfire had been set in the street. These protestors were not all students either. They were a mix of students, bikers and local transients, about 120 in all. The bars were all closed as ordered by the mayor and this just exacerbated the situation. Finally, protestors were broken up by tear gas and they found their way to the university campus where the protest continued and the ROTC building was burned down. The arsonists were never caught and no one was hurt in the fire.
On Sunday, May 3, students went into the town and helped clean up the mess left from the riot and the mayor said that there will a curfew in effect until further notice. At 11pm, students made a sit in on Main street and the National Guard, ordered into service on the previous day by Governor Rhodes, announced that the curfew was now in effect and that the crowd had to disperse and return to their dorms. The sit in was staged in order for the students to have a talk with the mayor. Students were forced back to the campus by National Guardsmen wielding rifles with bayonets and some students were injured by the bayonets.
On Monday, May 4, knowing about the protest that was planned a couple of days prior, University officials handed out leaflets stating that the protest was canceled but that didn't stop about 2,000 students showing up for the protest. The National Guard ordered the protestors to disperse and marched upon with bayoneted rifles and firing tear gas at them. Students began pelting the soldiers with rocks and even threw tear gas canisters back at the soldiers. The students retreated and formed again at other areas on the campus. When the National Guard began walking away as the students formed in the parking lot and on a football practice field, the Guard turned and some of them fired their weapons into the crowd. No one knows why the Guard fired and they said that there was a sniper firing at the Guard. When the bullets stopped, four students were dead, nine injured and one permanently paralyzed.
It was a dark day in our nation's history and one that would live in infamy for many years to come. The names of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder will never be forgotten on the Kent State campus and throughout the city. Scheuer and Schroeder wer not even part of the protest. They were just walking to class when they were killed.
This article does not do the tragedy justice. Please follow my links to read more about the tragedy.