Horrors in My Lifetime:
April 30, 1970 - President Nixon announced that the US had invaded Cambodia, a significant escalation in the war in Southest Asia. Two years earlier, he was re-elected in part on his promise to end the country’s involvement in Viet Nam. This announcement ignited protests across the country, especially on college campuses and among those of draft age.
[Keep in mind the building violence of the 60s: assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, RFK - both in 68 -, the chaos in Chicago, the “Days of Rage”, Altamont, Helter Skelter, attacks by and on the Black Panthers, My Lai, and instead of ending the war, the government instituted the first draft since WWII in Dec 69.]
Kent State University in Ohio was no different. Protests began relatively small but increased in size and intensity over the next few days.
On Friday May 1st, violence erupted after the bars closed in downtown Kent at midnight. This set the authorities on edge. Even though students had been among the rioters (it wasn’t all students), other students showed up on Saturday to help clean up.
Sat May 2, the Mayor hears of rumors and threats of more violence against the city and the university. At 5pm. he called in the National Guard. By the time they arrived at 10pm, the violence had grown again and the ROTC building was afire. Tear gas was used, as it was the night before, so that firemen could reach the building. One student was bayoneted.
Sunday was slightly calmer. The Governor of Ohio made inflamatory statements about the protesters on TV (they were ‘un-American’, a charge that is still thrown around haphazardly today) and the Mayor announced a curfew. There was still some confrontations between students and soldiers and a few more bayonet wounds were suffered.
None of the protested who were bayoneted were armed.
At noon, Monday, May 4th, a protest that had been planned on the 1st and scheduled. University officials distributed leaflets saying the protest had been cancelled. 2000 people showed up.
Over the course of a short time, the National Guard units at first ordered the students to disperse, had rocks thrown at them, used tear gas, advanced on them, pulled back, fixed bayonets, began to retreat, and then fired from a low hill on the students before them.
29 of the 77 Guardsmen fired their rifles after a sergeant fired his handgun. 67 shots were fired. “The shootings killed four students and wounded nine. Two of the four students killed, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller, had participated in the protest, and the other two, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder, had been walking from one class to the next at the time of their deaths. Schroeder was also a member of the campus ROTC battalion. Of those wounded, none was closer than 71 feet to the guardsmen. Of those killed, the nearest (Miller) was 265 feet away, and their average distance from the guardsmen was 345 feet.” (from wikipedia). Beside those killed, 9 were wounded.
All were unarmed.