A Missed Stitch In Time: An Essay On The Kent State Shootings

1467 words - 6 pages

On Monday May 4, 1970 four young people were shot and killed by Ohio National Guardsmen. Another nine were wounded, one so badly as to be permanently paralyzed from his waist down. Between 61 and 67 bullets were fired by 29 of the 77 guardsmen who were at Kent State that day. In these 13 seconds of gunfire, only a few of the soldiers aimed at the students, most of the guardsmen shot at the ground or into the air (4Waysite).In 1968 Nixon became president, and promised to bring an end to America's involvement in the Vietnam War. During Nixon's first year of presidency, America's involvement did indeed seem to be dwindling. However, in late April of 1970, the United States invaded Cambodia, widening the war. A national television and radio announcement was made on April 30, 1970, by Nixon himself, saying that the invasion of Cambodia's purpose was to attack the headquarters of the Viet Cong (Lewis).On May 1, 1970, all across American college campuses, those in which the anti-war sentiment ran high, protests erupted. Kent State was no exception. The protests began innocently enough, but the events quickly escalated into violence between the protesters and local police. The exact cause of this outbreak of violence is still widely debated today, although, there were cases of bonfires being built in the streets, cars being stopped, police cars hit with bottles, and store windows broken. The entire Kent police force was called to duty, as well as officers from surrounding communities. Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom declared a state of emergency, as well as calling in backup and closing all the bars. This declaration only proved to increase the size of angry spectators, causing the police to resort to tear gas to disperse the crowd from the downtown area, and leading them several blocks closer to the college campus (Lewis).On May 2, Major Satrom held a meeting with the city officials and a representative from the Ohio National Guard and asked for Governor Rhodes to send the Ohio National Guard to Kent. Due to threats and rumors spreading of radical revolutionaries aiming to destroy the city and the university, Satrom called the Governor's office at 5 p.m. to make an official request for assistance from the Ohio National Guard. The guard arrived at Kent State at about 10 p.m. to encounter a chaotic scene. The wooden ROTC building adjacent to the Commons was ablaze. The building burnt to the ground with over 1000 demonstrators surrounding it. Nearly 1000 Guardsmen occupied the college campus on May 3rd, making it appear like a military war zone.The anti-war rally that was held May 4 had been planned three days previously, on May first. That morning, University officials attempted to inform the student body that the rally had been banned. However a crowd began gathering on the Commons as early as 11 a.m. By noon the Commons area held approximately 3000 people. Estimates are inexact, and change depending on where you read your information, only about 500 main...

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