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.”