May 4, 1970: ‘4 Dead In Ohio’ … We Won’t Forget

by on May 4, 2011 · 20 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Education, History, Organizing, Peace Movement, Popular, San Diego, War and Peace

 

Kent State, Ohio, May 4, 1970

Kent State, Ohio, May 4, 1970. This is John Filo’s famed picture of Mary Vecchio over Jeff Miller’s dead body.

Originally posted on May 3, 2009

May 4, 1970: Four students murdered, nine wounded by National Guardsmen, on the campus of Kent State in Kent, Ohio.

Allison Krause, William Schroeder, Jefferey Miller and Sandra Scheuer were killed in the 13 second fusillade of 67 shots fired by the Guardsmen, after an order to fire was given.

No one has ever been held accountable for this massacre. And no one will ever be. But we won’t forget.

For YouTube videos of the massacre, go here.

(The above was originally posted May 4, 2008.)

“Four dead in Ohio,” sang Crosby Stills Nash and Young.  It was an event and song that described a generation. It became an anthem to many, as a remembrance to a horrible, murderous day – a day when the Vietnam War came home.

“The chickens have come home to roost,” the saying goes.

Another saying that anti-war protesters had chanted back then was: “Bring the war home!”

The National Guardsmen beat us to it.

How the Hell Did Things Get So Bad ….

You have to go back to the historical context to really understand how things got so bad that National Guardsmen opened up with live bullets on defenseless demonstrators on a college campus in middle America. (Here’s one account.)

In 1968 Richard Nixon was elected with his promise to end the Vietnam War, a war that President Johnson had beefed up substantially after taking over when JFK was assassinated. Significant anti-war protests had been occurring and increasing in intensity since 1965. They grew so intense that they forced Johnson to bow out of the ’68 presidential contest. With the Democrats themselves split over the very issue of the War – a split bloodily manifested in the streets of Chicago during Mayor Daley’s romp against demonstrators – Nixon was able to nudge past Hubert Humphrey and enter the White House as the “peace candidate”.

But when Nixon actually expanded the war in Southeast Asia by invading Cambodia / Kampucha in the early Spring of 1970 – the kids – the college kids who were the foot soldiers of the anti-war movement – went ballistic.

College and high school campuses across the nation exploded in protests. Sit-ins, take-overs of campus buildings and ROTC facilities were commonplace.

Even in San Diego

It was true, that even in San Diego, colleges campuses were on fire -so to speak. Here’s how we described it in our earlier histories:

San Diego Campuses Explode

San Diego university and college campuses were no exception to the explosive nature of protest at this point. San Diego State was shut down. At UCSD, a widely-supported student strike had rendered the La Jolla campus quiet except for the hub-bub of strike activities, leafleting, teach-ins, rallies, bonfires at night…

In early May striking students from college campuses all around San Diego county wanted to show their unity in opposing the war; the idea was to stage one joint action to protest the widening US involvement by targeting one prime military facility. At the planning meeting attended by hundreds of students from SDSU, UCSD, Cal-Western, City College, the community colleges, a few high schools, various ideas were thrown about, until almost by universal acclamation, the target was decided: the Naval Electronics Laboratory up in Point Loma.

So, one early weekday morning in mid-May, 3,000 students converged at the entrance of the Lab along Catalina Boulevard –in the usually sedate and conservative neighborhood of Point Loma. The entrance to the military facility was effectively blocked by the sheer numbers of students walking across the boulevard, bringing business at the Lab to a halt for several hours. No disrespect was shown drivers, there was no violence, no arrests were made, — just a solemn slow-moving mass of people circulating in front of the entrance — San Diego Police officers hung back, their numbers entirely dwarfed by those of the protesters.

A week into the student strike, California Governor Ronald Reagan — who could not appear at a college campus without causing a disturbance — signed an order closing all the state university and college campuses. This gubernatorial decree effectively ended — for awhile at least – the college bases of the anti-war movement in California.

_____________________

We do remember. Please save a quiet moment today for these martyrs. There is also a commemoration at Kent State today. The 39th Kent State Commemoration.  Check this out.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dave Gilbert May 3, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Thanks Frank, I’ve been playing that tune on my guitar for the last couple of weeks… http://obrag.org/?page_id=132&page=2

Ohio
Lyrics by Neil Young

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Here’s a live albeit rough version of CSN&Y performing it 4 years later

Now I’m wondering if their song Chicago was about Ken Secor’s piece?
http://obrag.org/?p=6917

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avatar Frank Gormlie May 3, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Dave – thank you, I was about to post the lyrics myself, but ya beat me to it.

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avatar Dave Gilbert May 3, 2009 at 7:52 pm

No wait, the song Chicago was about the 1968 DNC. And yet the lyrics fit perfectly for the late 1800’s there as well. http://obrag.org/?p=6917

Sorry, that city just has such a rich tradition of American history.
http://growingbolder.com/articles/living/politics/dnc-chicago-1968-192208.html

Chicago

Graham Nash, 1970

Though your brother’s bound and gagged
And they’ve chained him to a chair
Won’t you please come to Chicago
Just to sing
In a land that’s known as freedom
How can such a thing be fair
Won’t you please come to Chicago
For the help we can bring
We can change the world –
Re-arrange the world
It’s dying – to get better
Politicians sit yourself down,
There’s nothing for you here
Won’t you please come to Chicago
For a ride
Don’t ask Jack to help you
Cause he’ll turn the other ear
Won’t you please come to Chicago
Or else join the other side
We can change the world –
Re-arrange the world
It’s dying – if you believe in justice
It’s dying – and if you believe in freedom
It’s dying – let a man live it’s own life
It’s dying – rules and regulations, who needs them
Open up the door
Somehow people must be free
I hope the day comes soon
Won’t you please come to Chicago
Show your face
From the bottom to the ocean
To the mountains of the moon
Won’t you please come to Chicago
No one else can take your place
We can change the world –
Re-arrange the world
It’s dying – if you believe in justice
It’s dying – and if you believe in freedom
It’s dying – let a man live it’s own life
It’s dying – rules and regulations, who needs them
Open up the door
We can change the world

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsKvj7KoRWg

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avatar Frank Gormlie May 3, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Dave, thanks again. In the song, the lyrics :

“Though your brother’s bound and gagged
And they’ve chained him to a chair”

refer to Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, a defendant in the Chicago 8 trial, who was bound and gagged in the courtroom by Judge Julius Hoffman. The Chicago 8 were on trial for supposedly causing riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

All charges and/or convictions against them were later dropped or overturned. The Skolnick Report – the official report of the commission assigned to access the Chicago riots – determined that it had been – in their words – “a police riot”.

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avatar Gary Gilmore May 4, 2009 at 8:55 am

As I look back & reflect on The Kent State Killings I’m both embarrassed and proud to be an American. Embarrassed because the world got to see my government use live ammunition and open fire on fellow Americans who were doing what was expected of them and that is protesting a government that was not listening to its people. And proud of what happened afterwards. A huge protest all over the country with the pinnacle being in Washington DC. There was no apathy and there was no fear. The incident galvanized it for me. It was Us against Them and the law was on our side. The more they clubbed us and the more pepper gas they used on us the more it became apparent that they had lost. Kent State was the epiphany for me. I will always look at my government with wary eyes. For me that’s what the framers of the constitution provided for and that’s my obligation as an American. Allison, Jeffrey, William and Sandra will never be forgotten. Neither will Nixon.
GG

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avatar Frank Gormlie May 4, 2009 at 9:46 am

Here is a link to a long (47 min) video of the sequence of events that unfolded at Kent State, Ohio, from April 30 to May 4, 1970. It is very well done and very professional, with interviews with former students and former National Guardsmen. http://www.factualtv.com/documentary/13-seconds-The-Kent-State-Shootings

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avatar Bonita May 26, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Time for me to finally move on. It’s been a long time coming, but the change will do me good.
Peace and love be with you KSU.
Love,
Sunshine 1970

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avatar Editordude May 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm

We were going to re-post this tomorrow but realized it was already the favorite page of our readers today, other than the home page, so up it went.

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avatar Dave Sparling May 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Rest assured that generals on a Hollywood stage telling us how well a war is going, then Ollie North interviewing soldiers in clean blood free uniforms will never excite the lazy public enough to cause a Vietnam style protest. That is why the merchant bankers set up an arranged marriage between corporate media and the Military Industrial Complex. The New Pearl Harbor and the FAKE war on terror would never have survived a Vietnam era press.

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avatar annagrace May 3, 2010 at 3:10 pm

On May 4, 1970, I was twenty years old, sitting in a Poli-Sci class. There was no end of current events to discuss that semester- flag burning, illegal search and seizure, the use of executive power, waging war and the wages of war. But it was the last week of the semester before finals. It was a gorgeous spring day- something to be appreciated in Pittsburgh. The windows of the classroom were open and we were all looking longingly at the expanse of bright green grass outside and we were already thinking about the summer ahead. And then suddenly there were people running and shouting and banging on the classroom doors and we all spilled out onto the Commons with no idea about what was happening except for “shootings at Kent State students dead.”

I was paralyzed with fear and a deeply visceral sense of foreboding that only deepened when I saw that iconic picture in the evening news paper and on the news. It was unimaginable to me, it had never occurred to me, that our own government would turn loaded rifles against its own citizens, its own children. It was 1970, and a long hot summer lay ahead.

That image of Mary Vecchio kneeling beside the dead body of Jeff Miller is burned into my brain. It is 2010 and that photograph is no less arresting today than it was then, except that today I am looking back through time at my own younger self in that image of Mary Vecchio’s raw grief. This is what it meant to bear witness to the unimaginable. Dropping to one’s knees in shock, opening one’s arms in supplication to what? The agony in that face. The still body in front of her. At this moment, I think of Greek tragedy and I feel terribly terribly old.

On May 4 1970 I lost my innocence. Up to that point I had been absorbing and thinking about issues and ideas that were completely at odds with those of my own upbringing. Something coalesced inside of me that day that would become seminal to the woman whom I have become.

To Dave Gilbert’s musical comments I add CSNY’s:
“Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground
Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SK6Nj-buTwg

The death of Allison Krause, William Schroeder, Jeffrey Miller and Sandra Scheuer was a waste of four young lives. Never again.

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avatar fstued May 3, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Interesting memories of my generation, not necessarily pleasant. I was in an engineering school at the time and editor of the school paper. In my steel design class the professor decided the discussion class would be on my editorial instead of steel. I wasn’t real popular with a bunch of engineer types that week. I have no regrets many of the students felt different when there number was called.
Maybe there is something ot be said about a non volunteer fighting force

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avatar joe tucker May 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Well & good, but NO ONE seems to remember Jackson State, Mississippi, 15 May 1970, 2 students killed & 12 wounded, same situation, ‘ceptin’ the students were black. Once again, the racism that infects us all makes itself known. Why not Kent St AND Jackson St??? Incidentally, 58% of Americans, including substantial numbers of faculty & administration & even parents of the students, approved killing the students.

WAKE UP, America!!! HAH! Never……….

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avatar Frank Gormlie May 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Not true, Joe. We posted an article with photos the last two years here on this blog. Do a search.

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avatar annagrace May 3, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Joe- where were you on May 15 2010? Please tell us how you responded to what happened then. Without all of our voices the truth can never be served.

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avatar Frank Gormlie May 3, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Joe, I think she meant May 15 1970.

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avatar annagrace May 3, 2010 at 5:10 pm

So true…..

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avatar david May 3, 2010 at 8:49 pm

i was thinking about jackson state as i was scrolling thru the commentaries. thank you Joe for your post.

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avatar rak May 3, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Well, maybe not no one. There’s a Wikipedia entry [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_State_killings ], although that doesn’t have the impact of someone’s personal recollection of how the event was burned into their memory. Joe, I’ll bet you remember where you were.

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avatar Editordude May 4, 2010 at 7:51 am

Joe, David, Anna and rak, please be advised that the OB Rag posted a very good commemoration to the Jackson State killings on our blog in 2008 and I believe we reposted it again last year. Go to http://obrag.org/?p=765

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avatar Goatskull May 4, 2011 at 11:46 am

I know this is kind of off topic about the song itself, but is there any info out there as to what became of the Guardsman who gave the call to fire and the individuals who actually pulled the trigger? It’s just a sad fact that they move on with their life despite loss of life they caused. I am always a big supporter of our veterans and very much in the mentality of hate the war but not the warrior, however there are those who went above and beyond what I believe is acceptable. My Lai anyone? And of course this. I know it’s wishful thinking, but I’d like to see these guys show some cajones and come forward and just give their thoughts and feelings despite possible repercussions.

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