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.
FRIDAY, MAY 1
At noon, about 500 students gathered around the Victory Bell on the Commons, the traditional site for rallies. A group of history students, who organized the protest, buried a copy of the Constitution, which they claimed had been murdered when the U.S. 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 from Ohio State University talk about the recent disorders on their campus with the Ohio National Guard. Word spread quickly that another rally, one to oppose the Cambodian invasion, was scheduled for Monday, May 4, at noon. Friday night in an area of downtown Kent with a number of b, 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 the 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 nightsticks, actually in the opposite direction to which some of them lived. Fourteen persons, mostly stragglers, were arrested. About $5,000 in damage was done as 43 windows were broken-28 in one ban.
SATURDAY, MAY 2
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 student actions 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 5pm, shortly after assessing the situation, Mayor Satrom alerted the Ohio National Guard. KSU officials were unaware of this decision. Shortly after 8pm, 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 toward the dormitories to gain strength. Large numbers of people joined the march. The now 2,000 marchers swarmed down the hill, moved across the Commons, and surrounded the ROTC building, an old wooden World War II barracks that 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. The firemen arrived on the scene but their actions were impeded as some of the crowd attacked the firemen and slashed the hoses. The firemen eventually gained 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 and was astonished to see units of the Ohio National Guard arriving on their campus. The students then 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 and anti-ROTC 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 the ROTC building has never been satisfactorily answered by any investigative body.
SUNDAY, MAY 3
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 U.S. 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 demonstrators 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 served to heighten guardsmen's hostility toward students. Around 8pm, 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 9pm, 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 toward town, but were met by guardsmen n. 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 the 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 the guardsmen. Students were again pursued and prodded back to their dormitories. Tear gas inundated the campus, and helicopters with searchlights hovered overhead all night.
MONDAY, MAY 4
At 11am, 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 that Martial law was in effect, some 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, who were then told through 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 toward the students. Aware of the 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 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 in the Prentice Hall parking lot, about 100 yards away. Some students responded to the guardsmen 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 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 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 Blanket Hill, near the Pagoda of Taylor Hall, about a dozen members of Troop G simultaneously turned around 180 degrees, aimed and now fired their weapons into the crowd in the Prentice Hall parking lot. There was a verbal command to fire (as the 1975 Civil trial proved). A total of 67 shots were fired in 13 seconds. Four students were killed: Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder. Nine students were wounded: Joseph Lewis, John Cleary, Thomas Grace, Alan Canfora, Douglas Wrentmore, James Russell, Donald Scott Mackenzie, Robbie Stamps and Dean Kahler. Of the wounded, one was permanently paralyzed and several seriously maimed. (Map with location of wounded and slain students.)
Emerson College/MayDay on-line May 4 Chronology
For information on Alan Canfora, Dean Kahler, Joe Lewis and Robbie Stamps click HERE.
For a Chronology of Court Case having to due with May 4, 1970 click HERE.
|Photo Credits-identified by hyperlink designations|
|noon-John P. Filo
gathered-John P. Filo
sit-in-Akron Beacon Journal
bonfire-Akron Beacon Journal
Ohio Governor Rhodes-UPI
fully ablaze-Wide World Photos
guardsmen-KSU News Service
ran away-John P. Filo
retreating-KSU News Service
Blanket Hill-KSU News Service
students-KSU News Servic
teargas-Akron Beacon Journal
back and forth-KSU News Service
veranda-KSU News Service
aimed their weapons-Howard E. Ruffner
ordered-Howard E. Ruffner
retreat-KSU News Service
marched-John P. Filo
glance back-John P. Filo
crest-John P. Filo
turned-Howard E. Ruffner
fired-John A. Darrell, Jr.
Map-May 4 Memorial brochure
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