May 4th: We Can’t Forget the Massacre of Students at Kent State – 46 Years Ago

by on May 4, 2016 · 3 comments

in American Empire, Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Culture, Education, History, Life Events, Media, Organizing, Peace Movement, Politics, San Diego

Kent State, Ohio, May 4, 1970In Response to Nixon’s Invasion of Cambodia, American Campuses Exploded in Protest in May 1970

Today, May 4th, 2016, is the 46th anniversary of the infamous Kent State Massacre – where 4 students were shot to death by National Guardsmen during anti-Vietnam war protests on the Ohio campus.

Protests at Kent State were part of a wave of demonstrations that swept the country right after President Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia. Ten days later, 2 Black students were shot to death by police during an anti-war protest at Jackson State.

Students formed a National Student Strike and organized a campaign to bring a halt to the war. Eventually over 400 college and university campuses participated, and 4 million students took part as well as did a million faculty. It was one of the most catastrophic events in American history since the Civil War. It was a General Strike by students.

Howard Zinn said:

The spring of 1970 saw the first general student strike in the history of the United States, students from over four hundred colleges and universities calling off classes to protest the invasion of the Cambodia, the Kent State affair, the killing of two black students at Jackson State College in Mississippi, and the continuation of the war.”

(For the May 1970 Project – go here.)

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.

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. Check this out.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

michael-leonard May 4, 2016 at 10:55 am

Thanks, Frank, for this important remembrance. I wept again reading it.


tj May 4, 2016 at 5:57 pm

lots of lessons in this one…

thanks for the reminder – a tragic day indeed.



Cynthia May 5, 2016 at 3:55 pm

I was 17, just about to graduate from La Jilla High School and head to UCLA in the fall. Thank you for writing this. To many people May 4 has become Star Wars Day, but to me it will never be that.


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