may 4, 1970

USA. Ohio. Kent. May 4, 1970. Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14 year-old student, kneels beside Jeffrey Milley who’d been shot by the National Guard. Though the photo that first circulated turned out to be manipulated, this is the original, un-doctored version. This picture won the Pulitzer Prize.

The Kent State shootings occurred at Kent State University and involved the shooting of college students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen fired into a group of unarmed students, killing four and wounded another nine—some marching against the Vietnam War and American invasion of Cambodia, some walking by or observing the protest from a distance. 

Guardsmen had on the previous day used tear gas to disperse protesters and, by May 4th, rallies were banned and classes resumed. But 2,000 people gathered in what quickly turned into confrontation. Tear gas and bayonets were met with rocks and verbal taunts, which were met with more than 60 rounds of gunfire. In 1974, all charges were dropped against eight of the Guardsmen involved. There were 28 guards who admitted to firing on top of the hill, 25 of these guards fired 55 rounds into the air and into the ground, 2 of the guards fired .45cal pistol shots, 2 into the crowd, and 3 into the air, one guard fired birdshot into the air. The guardsmen fired 61 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected public opinion—at an already socially contentious time—over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.

Photograph: John Filo/Getty

It would be great if everyone could take a moment today to remember Jeffery Glenn Miller, Alison B. Krause, William Knox Shroeder, Sandra Lee Scheuer. They were only nineteen or twenty years old. Two were protesting the invasion of Cambodia. Two were just trying to get to class.

None of them deserved to die.

May their deaths not be in vain, may their legacy live on and someday let us not be afraid of the innocent falling at the hands of an authority figure with a gun.

On May 4, 1970, just days after the announcement the Pentagon intended to send U.S. troops into Cambodia and Laos, constituting a de facto expansion of the war on Vietnam contrary to then president Richard Nixon’s campaign promises, a unit of under-trained scared young Ohio National Guardsmen fired into a crowd of unarmed anti-war student protesters at Kent State University and changed the course of Vietnam antiwar movement history.

Sixty seven gunshots and thirteen seconds later there were four dead unarmed students, blood on the hands of the Ohio National Guard, and college students across America began ripping their institutions of “higher education” a new asshole.

The “Days of Rage” promised by the Weatherman faction of SDS at Chicago a year earlier became multiple years of major disturbances on campuses large and small throughout the United States.

The rallying cry was…

Bring the war HOME!

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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young “Ohio” (1970)