Friday, May 04, 2007

Today In History - Kent State Massacre

37 years ago, President Richard Nixon announced in a televised speech that U.S. forces had invaded Cambodia. This news sparked massive anti-war demonstrations around the nation as people (especially college students) protested the fact that President Nixon was now expanding the war which he had once promised to help end.

On May 1, 1970, a few days after the Cambodian invasion, a demonstration was held on the Commons area at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Later that night some minor vandalism occurred, a small crowd of protesters gathered, and police were dispatched to quiet the crowd. Beer bottles and rocks were thrown at the police that arrived and obscenities were screamed at them. After about an hour, the police had gained control and everything became quiet.

The next day, during another protest rally, the ROTC building on the Kent State Campus was set on fire. The mayor declared a "state of emergency" and requested help from the National Guard. As firemen and police officers attempted to extinguish the building they were pelted with rocks and bottles. That night the National Guard arrived on campus and began using tear gas and making arrests.

By May 3rd, nearly 1000 members of the National Guard were present on the campus. That night another rally was held on the Commons, but tear gas was soon used to disperse the crowd and the Guardsmen announced a campus curfew which forced students back into their rooms.

May 4, 1970 was the date a scheduled protest was to occur on the Kent State campus. Officials at the university tried to prevent the event by handing out thousands of flyers claiming the event had been cancelled. Regardless, approximately 2000 people gathered in the Commons area. The National Guard troops were again called on to disperse the crowd. The tear gas was mostly inneffective this time due to the wind. Students began throwing rocks and even threw the tear gas cannisters back at the soldiers. As the crowds became more unruly, a group of 77 National Guardsmen began to advance towards the students in an effort to control them.

Over the next several minutes, chaos ensued. The protesters retreated up and over Blanket Hill and out of the Commons area. Some of them did disperse and head towards the parking lot, but the majority of the angry crowd stood just to the left and the front of the troops which had followed them over the hill. The soldiers had topped the hill and found themselves facing a fence which enclosed a practice field. The Guardsmen did not want the students to believe they were retreating by retracing their steps back to the top of the hill, so they stayed in their current position against the fence. After about 10 minutes, the troop finally decided to head back towards the top of the hill. As they did, the students began slowly advancing towards them. As the bulk of the soldiers came back down into the Commons, some of the Guardsmen who had just reached the top of Blanket Hill turned and fired their semi-automatic weapons into the students.

In a matter of 13 seconds there were 67 bullets fired by 29 Guardsmen. 4 students lay dead and 9 others were injured. 2 of the 4 students killed that day had been protesters who were participating in the demonstration. The other 2 had simply been walking to class and were not involved in the incident at all.

No comments: