Kent State Essay Research Paper On April

Kent State Essay, Research Paper On April 30th, President Nixon announced on national television that a massive American-South Vietnamese troop offensive into Cambodia was in progress. “We take these

Kent State Essay, Research Paper

On April 30th, President Nixon announced on national television that a massive

American-South Vietnamese troop offensive into Cambodia was in progress. “We take these

actions,” Nixon said, “not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia, but for the

purpose of ending the war in Vietnam, and winning the just peace we all desire.”

These were familiar words to a war-weary public. Some felt that this decision was essential for

attaining a “just peace” and sustaining America’s credibility in the world. Yet others, particularly

students, believed that this action represented an escalation of the war and a return to ex-President

Johnson’s earlier hopes for a military victory. As the fires from the artillery began to burn in

Cambodia, a raging fire of protest spread across the United States. At Kent State University, the

reaction to Nixon’s announcement was similar to that of other campuses across the nation.

On Friday May 1,1970 at noon about 500 students gathered around the Victory Bell on the

Commons, the traditional site for rallies. A group of history students, who had organized the

protest, buried a copy of the Constitution, which they claimed had been murdered when US troops

were sent into Cambodia without a declaration of war by Congress. Three hours later, Black

United Students held a rally, which had been scheduled before Nixon had made his announcement.

Some 400 people gathered to hear black students talk about recent disorders with the Ohio

National Guard on their campus. Word spread quickly that another rally, one to oppose the

invasion of Cambodia, was scheduled for Monday, May 4, at noon. Friday night, one of the first

warm evenings of the spring, several hundred students gathered in downtown Kent in an area with

a number of bars, known as “the Strip,” on North Water Street. A spontaneous anti-war rally

began in the street. Twice, while the rally was in progress, passing police cruisers were hit with

beer bottles. Afterwards, police stayed away from the area. Meanwhile, more people were leaving

the bars. Many in the crowd chanted anti-war slogans, and a bonfire was set in the street. The

crowd blocked traffic for about an hour and then moved toward the center of town. Some

members of the crowd began to break windows. Primarily “political targets” were attacked,

including banks, loan companies, and utility companies. After being informed of the events, Kent

Mayor Leroy Satrom declared a “state of emergency,” and arbitrarily ordered all of the bars

closed. Kent police, along with the mayor, then confronted the crowd. The riot act was read and

police proceeded to clear the area. People inside the bars were ordered to leave, forcing hundreds

more into the streets. The crowd was herded toward the campus with tear gas and knight sticks,

which was in the opposite direction in which some of them lived. Fourteen persons, mostly

stragglers, were arrested. About $5000 in damage was done as 43 windows were broken–28 in

one bank.

On the morning of May 2, some KSU students assisted with the downtown cleanup.

Rumors of radical activities were widespread, and KSU’s ROTC building was believed to be the

target of militant students that evening. During the Vietnam War, students on many college

campuses opposed the presence of ROTC and often were successful in forcing the removal of

ROTC from their campuses. A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed on the city of Kent, and

students were restricted to the campus. At 5 p.m., shortly after assessing the situation, Mayor

Satrom alerted the Ohio National Guard. KSU officials were unaware of this decision. Shortly

after 8 p.m., about 300 people gathered on the Commons, where a few anti-war slogans were

chanted and a few brief speeches given. An impromptu march began and participants headed

towards the dormitories to gain strength. Large numbers of people joined the march. The now

2,000 marches swarmed the hill overlooking the Commons, crossed the Commons. Then they

surrounded the ROTC building, an old wooden World War II barracks which was scheduled to be

demolished. Windows were broken and a few persons eventually set the building on fire.

Plain-clothed police who were standing nearby made no attempt to stop the students at this point.

Firemen arrived on the scene but their actions were abandoned because some of the crowd

attacked the firemen and slashed their hoses. The blaze quickly died out.

The firemen eventually regained control and the fire died out. The building was ignited again. This

time, however, firemen arrived with massive police protection. Police surrounded the building and

dispersed the students with tear gas. The firemen again got the fire under control. The crowd then

moved to the front of the campus. The students retreated to the Commons to find the ROTC

building smoldering at both ends. Within minutes, the building was fully ablaze. The crowd then

assembled on the wooded hillside beside the commons and watched as the building burned. Many

shouted anti- war slogans. In the first two weeks of May, thirty ROTC buildings would be burned

nationwide. Armed with tear gas and drawn bayonets, the guard pursued students, protesters and

bystanders alike, into dormitories and other campus buildings. Some stones were thrown and at

least one student was bayoneted. The question of who set the fire that destroyed ROTC building

has never been satisfactorily answered by

any investigative body.

May 3 was a relatively quiet day. By now, however, the campus was fully occupied by

Ohio National Guard troops, and armored personnel carriers were stationed throughout the

campus. Although some students and guardsmen fraternized, the feeling, for the most part, was

one of mutual hostility. That morning, Ohio Governor James Rhodes, who was running for US

Senate, arrived in Kent and along with city officials, held a news conference. Rhodes, running on a

“law and order” platform, attempted to use this opportunity to garner votes in the primary

election, which was only two days away. In a highly inflammatory speech, Rhodes claimed that the

demonstrations at Kent were the handiwork of a highly organized band of revolutionaries who

were out to “destroy higher education in Ohio.” These protesters, Rhodes declared, were “the

worst type of people we harbor in America, worse than the brown shirts and the communist

element…we will use whatever force necessary to drive them out of Kent!” Later that evening, a

National Guard commander would tell his troops that Ohio law gave them the right to shoot if

necessary. This merely sent to heighten guardsmen’s hostility toward students. Around 8 p.m., a

crowd gathered on the Commons near the Victory Bell. As the group increased in size, Guard

officials announced the immediate enforcement of a new curfew. The crowd refused to disperse.

At 9 p.m. the Ohio Riot act was read. Tear gas was fired from helicopters hovering overhead, and

the Guard dispersed the crowd from the area. Students attempted to demonstrate that the curfew

was unnecessary by peacefully marching towards the town, but were met by guardsmen. Students

then staged a spontaneous sit-in at the intersection of East Main and Lincoln Streets and

demanded that Mayor Satrom and KSU president Robert White speak with them about the

Guard’s presence on campus. Assured that this demand would be met, the crowd agreed to move

from the street onto the front lawn of campus. The guard then betrayed the students and

announced that the curfew would go into effect immediately. Helicopters and tear gas were used

to disperse the demonstrators. As the crowd attempted to escape, some were bayoneted and

clubbed by guardsmen. Students were again pursued and prodded back to their dormitories. Tear

gas innundated the campus, and helicopters with searchlights hovered overhead all night.

On May 4, at 11 a.m., about 200 students gathered on the Commons.

Earlier that morning, state and local officials had met in Kent. Some officials had assumed that

Gov. Rhodes had declared Martial Law to be in effect–but he had not. In fact, martial law was not

officially declared until May 5. Nevertheless, the National Guard resolved to disperse any

assembly. As noon approached, the size of the crowd increased to 1,500. Some were merely

spectators, while others had gathered specifically to protest the invasion of Cambodia and the

continued presence of the National Guard on the campus. Upon orders of Ohio’s Assistant

Adjutant General Robert Canterbury, an army jeep was driven in front of the assembled students.

The students were told by means of a bullhorn to disperse immediately. Students responded with

jeers and chants. When the students refused to disperse, Gen. Canterbury ordered the guardsmen

to disperse them.Approximately 116 men, equipped with loaded M-1 rifles and tear gas, formed a

skirmish line towards the students. Aware of bayonet injuries of the previous evening, students

immediately ran away from the attacking National Guardsmen. Retreating up Blanket Hill, some

students lobbed tear gas canisters back at the advancing troops, and one straggler was attacked

with clubs. The Guard, after clearing the Commons, marched over the crest of the hill, firing tear

gas and scattering the students into a wider area. The Guard then continued marching down the

hill and onto a practice football field. For approximately 10 minutes, the guard stayed in this

position. During this time, tear gas canisters were thrown back and forth from the Guard’s position

to a small group of students n the Prentice Hall parking lot, about 100 yards away. Some students

responded to the guardsmen’s attack by throwing stones. Guardsmen also threw stones at the

students. But because of the distance, most stones from both parties fell far short of their targets.

The vast majority of students, however, were spectators on the veranda of Taylor Hall. While on

the practice field, several members of Troop G, which would within minutes fire the fatal volley,

knelt and aimed their weapons at the students in the parking lot. Gen. Canterbury concluded that

the crowd had been dispersed and ordered the Guard to march back to the commons area. Some

members of Troop G then huddled briefly. After reassembling on the field, the Guardsmen seemed

to begin to retreat as they marched back up the hill, retracing their previous steps. Members of

Troop G, while advancing up the hill, continued to glance back to the parking lot, where the most

militant and vocal students were located. The students assumed the confrontation was over. Many

students began to walk to their next classes. As the guard reached the crest of the Blanket Hill,

near the Pagoda of Taylor Hall, about a dozen members of Troop G simultaneously turned around

180 degrees, aimed and fired their weapons into the crowd in the Prentice Hall parking lot. The

1975 civil trials proved that there was a verbal command to fire. A total of 67 shots were fired in

13 seconds. Four students: Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder

were killed. Nine students were wounded: Joseph Lewis, John Cleary, Thomas Grace, Robbie

Stamps, Donald Scott MacKenzie, Alan Canfora, Douglas Wrentmore, James Russell and Dean

Kahler. Of the wounded, one was permanently paralyzed, and several were seriously maimed. All

were full-time students.