On May 1st, 1970, 500 students and protesters gathered on the campus of Kent State University. They were protesting the start of the Cambodia Incursion, which, for them, symbolized the continuation of the war, something that directly contradicted one of Nixon’s promises during his campaign- to END the war. Between Nixon’s announcement of the Cambodia Incursion on April 30 th and the planned rally on May 4th, the city of Kent was overturned. Protesters were throwing rocks at police officials and fire trucks. Local storefronts were vandalized.
On May 2nd, The National Guard arrived. The campus and town of Kent were invaded with tear gas and protests over the handful of days before the massacre. Kent Mayor LeRoy Satrom contacted Governor Rhodes and put a State of Emergency in place. He closed down the bars, which only angered the protesters and citizens further. During a press conference at the Kent firehouse, Ohio’s Governor, Jim Rhodes, said the following:
“We’ve seen here at the city of Kent especially, probably the most vicious form of campus-oriented violence yet perpetrated by dissident groups… they make definite plans of burning, destroying, and throwing rocks at police and at the National Guard and the Highway Patrol.
…this is when we’re going to use every part of the law enforcement agency of Ohio to drive them out of Kent. We are going to eradicate the problem. We’re not going to treat the symptoms. …and these people just move from one campus to the other and terrorize the community. They’re worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes. They’re the worst type of people that we harbor in America. Now I want to say this. They are not going to take over [the] campus. I think that we’re up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America.”
12:00 pm on May 4 th , about 2000 people gathered; many more looked on, watching from the outskirts of the Commons, not participating in the protest. When it was clear that the presence of their armor and guns weren’t going to deter those gathered from continuing with their protest, the National Guard started to take charge of the situation. Guns were fired. Many scattered but some stayed to stand up to the invading guardsmen. Sadly, some of the students injured/killed
in the shooting weren’t even protesting; they had been walking by or just watching the onslaught of violence on their beautiful campus. The shootings killed four students and wounded nine. Two of the four students killed, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller, had participated in the protest. The other two, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder, had been walking from one class to the next at the time of their deaths. None of these deaths were necessary. All of them could
have been avoided.
Please take a moment to reflect and remember the people lost in this unnecessary and unfortunate nightmare. Remember Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder, as well as the nine others who were injured. As you post “May the Fourth Be With You” and put on your Baby Yoda shirt, please remember the Kent State Massacre.