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.
5 May 1970: Thousands of University of Washington students
occupying and blocking Intersate Highway 5 (I-5) and facing state troopers in
riot gear as they protested the killings of 4 students by the national guard at Kent State University and the
invasion of Cambodia.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership conference, told 5,000 peace demonstrators yesterday that the Viet Nam war is a “blasphemy against all that America stands for,” and that President Johnson is more interested in the Viet Nam war than in the war on poverty.
Dr. King had led the demonstrators in a parade in State street. At his side was Dr. Benjamin Spock, co-chairman of the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, a sponsor of the parade and rally.
Atrocities Equal Cong’s Speaking in the Coliseum, Dr. King said, “We are committing atrocities equal to any perpetrated by the Viet Cong. We are left standing before the world glutted by our own barbarity. We are engaged in a war that seeks to turn the clock of history back and perpetuate white colonialism.”
Dr. King said the United States spends $322,000 for each enemy that is killed and it spends $53 for each person in the “so-called” war on poverty.
“And much of that $53 goes for salaries of people who are not poor,” he said.
Peace Lovers Organize “Those of us who love peace must organize as effectively as the war hawks. As they spread the propaganda of war, we must spread the propaganda of peace. We must combine the fervor of the civil rights movement with the peace movement. We must demonstrate, preach, and teach, and organize until the very foundations of our nation are shaken.”
Dr. King left immediately after he spoke, and the audience began to leave with him. Dr. Spock, who followed Dr. King to the rostrum, spoke to a half empty house.
Dr. Spock called America the aggressor in Viet Nam and charged that our government has succumbed to an unhealthy distortion of reality.
“Accusation Isn’t True” “Lyndon Johnson launched attack on North Viet Nam claiming that it was engaged in a direct military effort to take over South Viet Nam. But history shows—to anyone willing to read it—that this accusation was not true.
“For 13 years our government has been trying, unsuccessfully to gain control of South Viet Nam, by means of a Quisling puppet regime and more recently by armed invasion.”
Dr. Spock to Quit After the rally, Dr. Spock, 64, said he plans to retire from his post at Western Reserve university to devote more time to the peace movement.
Another speaker, Emil Mazey, secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers, said, “There has been a tremendous credibility gap in the information that the American people have been fed concerning Viet Nam.”
He called upon President Johnson to redouble efforts to achieve peace.
Peaceful Pacifists During the parade, the demonstrators marched along peacefully carrying numerous signs protesting the war and identifying some of the groups of marchers.
Most of the spectators went about their shopping business after brief glances at the parade. Here and there along the route were groups of young men who carried signs saying “We support our men in Viet Nam” and shouting “We hate communists” and “we want Rockwell.” This was a reference to George Lincoln Rockwell, head ot the American Nazi party.
In the Fall of 1969, students of Southwest Texas State University (TXST) protested for the immediate end of the Vietnam War. They were met with opposition, not just from other students, but from school administrators who made it incredibly difficult for them to assemble. Before one of their peaceful, quiet sit-in’s they were told they could only assemble when classes were not in session, meaning only from noon to 1 PM or after 4 PM. The students found this to be unfair and protested anyways. An estimated 70 students took part in the protest, and at one point had as many as 1,000 students halt to observe them. The University called the police and gave activists 3 minutes to all leave. All but 10 did. Those ten, known as the San Marcos 10, were then expelled from the university for one year, and went on to sue the school. They lost the case and the Supreme Court refused to hear it, but their demonstration will always be a huge part of TXST history.