May 4, 1970: Kent State Murders 50 Years Ago Today – ‘The Day the World Turned Upside Down’

by on May 4, 2020 · 5 comments

in Civil Disobedience, History, San Diego, War and Peace

Ohio National Guardsmen fire off tear gas canisters at protesting students on the campus of Kent State University.

Fifty years ago exactly, on May 4, 1970, was the day the world turned upside down for an entire American generation of young people. It was the day National Guardsmen on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio aimed their M1 rifles at crowds of unarmed, demonstrating college students and fired.

15 students were hit by bullets – four of them died either instantly or within minutes and eleven were wounded, one so badly he was maimed for life.

This day, then, stands out – as Pearl Harbor did for an earlier generation, as 9-11 did for a later generation. It was one thing to protest the Cambodian invasion and the war in Vietnam, it was quite another to be shot to death by American soldiers on an American college campus for protesting the wars.

The date May 4, 1970 will forever be associated with the murders of four young people. We say murders because the killings were unjustified, illegal – and no one was ever held accountable – not the soldiers, not the Guard commanders, not the Kent State administrators for calling the Guard to the campus, and certainly not the governor of Ohio who was then running for election on a “tough on students” stance who ordered the Guard out.

As we continue our series on the Rebellion of May ‘ 70 to commemorate the events half a century ago, we have to begin with what happened at Kent State, smack in the middle of the country. Without delving into the details of how Kent State demonstrators were corralled by the Guard skirmish lines, we simply lay out some of the bare, basic facts. (The best book on the events at Kent State is 67 Shots – Kent State and the End of American Innocence by Howard Means.)

Alan Canfora waves a black flag at kneeling Guardsmen. The Guardsmen did not fire their M1s at this moment and within seconds of this photo stood back up and moved on. Canfora was minutes later, wounded in his wrist.

Kent State University – Ohio

Monday, May 4

It was late Monday morning when there was an informal, word-of-mouth call to the Commons area for a noon rally. When the Victory Bell rang at 11:58, there was between 2,000 and 3,000 students gathering in the area to continue their protest of the war and the presence of guardsmen on campus.

Another some 1,000 students were also in the area on their way from classes to lunch. The first confrontation of the day between Guardsmen and students broke out, with stu­dents shouting and throwing stones, and Guardsmen hurling tear gas canisters into the crowd to disperse them. The crowd ran, was split in half, and backed against a chain fence near a football practice field.

Guardsmen continued their use of tear gas, and some even returned the rocks that had been thrown at them. Students also continued their barrage of stones and bricks, as well as attempting to return tear gas canisters that had been thrown at them.

When the student demonstrators divided up a second time to get away from the tear gas, Guardsmen found themselves surrounded and backed against the same fence the students had been blocked by minutes earlier. Guardsmen retreated; students moved with them. Whether an order was given to turn and fire, or whether someone started the ensuing barrage accidentally, is unclear.

The most iconic photo taken May 4, 1970. Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14 year old Florida runaway, is kneeling on the pavement, over the body of Jeff Miller, her arms raised in horror. The famous photo was taken by John Filo, a student and part-time news photographer.

What was clear was that Guardsmen began firing their weapons at 12:24 pm and in some 13 seconds, fired off 67 rounds. Some of the troopers fired into the ground in front of them, some fired into the air – but others fired directly at the crowds.

Allison Krause, an Honors student, had been active in the protest that early afternoon and also through the long weekend. There was a famous photo of her standing by a Guardsman with a lilac in his M1 rifle barrel. The bullet that struck her played havoc throughout her body, fragmenting her ribs, and penetrating her lungs. She was DOA on arrival at the hospital.

William Schroeder was 19 years old, when he appeared to have dropped in on the protests to simply check them out, like a tourist would stop at a street show. Schroeder was actually a ROTC cadet and ranked second in his ROTC class. Photos showed him with books and a notebook. He had begun walking away from the crowds when he was hit by a bullet in his back. The impact thrust him backwards to the ground. People rushed up to him to help him and he was still breathing when the ambulance arrived. He died either en route or moments after getting to the hospital.

Jefferey Miller, 21, was very active in the protests during the long weekend. On May 4, he tossed teargas canisters back at the Guardsmen and darted around, occasionally joining in the anti-war chants. An eyewitness reported that he had just thrown a rock and was shot the minute he threw it. A bullet went through his mouth. He was 95 yards from the Guard skirmish line and was the closest student to die. In the most iconic photo taken that day, the one where Mary Ann Vecchio, the 14 year old Florida runaway, is kneeling on the pavement, over a body laid out, with her arms raised in horror. That was Miller on the ground. After being hit, he stumbled a good 50 feet and collapsed onto a road in a “river of blood” – his own.

Sandra Scheuer had not attended any of the protest rallies – and certainly not that day. Friends described her as not having a political bone in her body. She was 130 yards away from the Guard skirmish line, walking between classes with a friend when the volley erupted. She was hit in the neck and had her jugular vein penetrated. She bled out before any help could arrive.

The Kent State Four: from L to R: Allison Krause, William Schroeder, Sandy Scheuer, Jefferey Miller

Besides the four dead, eleven were wounded. One of those wounded had been 250 yards from the skirmish line, and was struck in the back of the neck.

Within hours after the killings, University President Robert White ordered the Kent campus closed “indefinitely,” and most of the school’s 20,000 students began departing immediately for nearby airports, bus terminals, and railroad stations. Ohio Governor James Rhodes declared both the campus and city in a state of emergency, im­posed martial law on the town and a strictly-enforced 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Helmeted, rifle-toting guardsmen continued to patrol the nearly deserted campus and town. (Rhodes lost his election.)

When the news of what had happened got out, an entire generation stopped. Years later, a graduate of the University of Washington, described the moment:

“The entire nation gasped. Push had come to shove and shove had come to shooting. In a decade drenched in blood, nothing had quite the impact as the deaths of these four white students, alive one second amid the sunshine of a spring day on a Midwestern campus, sprawled dead or dying the next, their bodies ripped by the bullets of American soldiers no older than their victims.”

Today a memorial stands where students once did. The campus of Kent State University in Ohio.

For an entire generation of Americans, today will be forever marred by the tragedy at Kent State. Students in every state reacted in outrage, anguish and confusion. The following day, May 5, in fact, became the most violent day in US history as campuses exploded and hundreds of thousands of college and high school students stood up and rebelled.

The reaction, however, of white, middle-class America was quite different. Polls taken immediately after the shootings found many Americans faulting the students and not the Guardsmen. With time, though, public sentiment towards the Vietnam war suffered a tectonic shift and the Nixon administration pulled troops back from Cambodia earlier than planned and continued to withdraw US forces out of Southeast Asia. Eventually, the president was nearly impeached and forced to resign 4 years later. Today, no one supports the war – at least publicly.

A few notes are appropriate here. As mentioned earlier, no one was ever brought to justice for the unleashing of deadly force on the campus in Ohio. No criminal charges were ever brought and civil suits by the parents of those killed and wounded against the Guard and policy-makers were eventually dismissed.

What if the Kent State massacre had never happened?

This writer is convinced that after researching campuses’ actions over the month of May 1970, something like it would have happened elsewhere. It could have been at Ohio State, or at a college in upstate New York, or in New Mexico where Guardsmen bayoneted nearly a dozen students and bystanders. For immediately after Kent State, law enforcement had second thoughts about shooting guns at unarmed students. Teargas and clubbings were okay, but not loaded M1 rifles. Without the precautions forced upon police and the Guard in multiple scenarios over the course of the next several weeks, there would have been more shootings, more killings and more wounded. But because Kent State did happen, there was a general chilling of the attitude of ‘let’s go get ’em’ in reference to quelling student protests.

Truly, if there hadn’t been the deaths of Allison Krause, William Schroeder, Jefferey Miller, and Sandra Scheuer more of their classmates of 1970 would have been buried sooner than they should have been. Their shocking deaths stopped more killings.

Today, there are commemorations of Kent State at Kent State – and other places of remembrance. And for one day, today, some of the national press will stop reporting about COVID-19 and pause to remember the Kent State Four – but not of much else that came down half a century ago.

Let us continue our narrative then of what did occur elsewhere in American on May 4, 1970.

(Here is the Introduction to the series, here is May 1, here is May 2-3, and here is the website.)


(Ed. note: many of the following photos are not necessarily associated with the text.]

University of Connecticut – Storrs

Voting 8 to 4, with 5 abstentions, the Student Senate moved to join the national strike – beginning on May 7. The Black Student Union joined in, as did the dormitory association and the rump SDS. The national student strike demands were endorsed; the release of all political prisoners, unilateral and immediate withdrawal from South East Asia, and an end to defense research and ROTC at universities.


Northeastern University

The Student Council held its emergency session before a crowd of between 1,000 and 1,400 students who packed themselves into the auditorium. Info and plans for a student strike were discussed, and the council easily passed a number of anti-war related motions as they flipped through the agenda. This meeting was before the Kent State massacre had occurred.

The council voted to have the university “become an open forum” to discuss the pressing issues facing the country; it gave its support to efforts to get an anti-war referendum on the Massachusetts ballot; it endorsed the student council president and in other’s activities in the National Student Association’s “Dump Dick [Nixon] Campaign”, and it lent support to a rally at the State House scheduled for the next day, Tuesday.

The difficulties came when the council debated the weightier proposals. Ultimately, the Council voted overwhelmingly “to sup­port a nationwide strike calling for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces in Southeast Asia,” “an end to university complicity with the war machine”, and “the release all men and women jailed as a result of their political, philo­sophical and moral beliefs.”

The votes came only after nearly two hours of heated and at times contentious debate, punctuated by cheers, hisses, boos and shouts from the audience. The question of political prisoners should be extended to draft resisters, one student representative said, and to victims of the narcotics laws. A junior quickly added, “And to women who take birth control pills in the state of Massachusetts.”

One of the Council reps shouted, “What is the relevancy of abor­tion to the situation in Cambo­dia? Draft resistance is irrelevant to the situation in Cambodia.” Another answered him,

“There are 25,000 AWOLS, 50,000 men avoiding the draft and 5,000 doctors suffering for giving illegal abortions. This is relevant.” Another stated the issue of political prisoners is “too vast and complex” to include in the strike. “We’re being naïve,” a senior charged, “if we don’t see a connection between our invasion in Cambodia and political prisoners.”

On the issue of supporting the national student strike, someone in the crowd yelled out that a one-day strike would accomplish nothing. “We must strike at least one week or forever,” he exclaimed. The crowd cheered. Then a freshman rep opined, “This university isn’t going to be closed, it’s going to be opened. Perhaps for the first time.” He was alluding to the workshops and discussions tentatively planned.

The crowd was expressing overwhelmingly in favor of the strike. The council voted and passed the strike issue by 30 to 15, 1 abstention. “This is a lot of intellectual bullshit,”a po­litical science teaching assistant, said. “If you want to strike you can go ahead and do it, just don’t go to classes.” When the motion then was offered to the audience – a clear majority accepted it. When the council also passed it, minutes later with a vote of 44 to 3, the auditorium erupted into chants, “Strike! Strike! Strike!”

Boston University

Students at BU engaged in such ruckus on Monday in joining the student strike and in their protest of Cambodia and Kent State, that on Tuesday, the administration ann­ounced it was closing for the year because a “massive ex­pression of student concern” had created a campus atmos­phere in which the personal security of students was threatened. Final exams were canceled as well as its sched­uled May 17 commencement ex­ercises, in which Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, (D-Mass.), was to have been the principal speak­er.

The 15,000 students living on campus were given 48 hours to pack their belongings and move out by Thursday, the 7th. Initially. However, BU students on strike declared the strike would continue and that they would not leave the campus. This pushback and adamant refusal to leave, which was backed by the fac­ulty, pressured the school to postpone the ultimatum until May 13. Various campus organizations had even offered refuge to students if they needed it.

During the night, the campus Army ROTC buildings were damaged. In response, the National Guard was placed on alert. At one point, police reported a Boston University freshman had burned himself from a fire bomb he intended to throw at the school’s administration building.

New York

It was announced Monday that all public schools in New York City were cancelled for Tuesday, May 5, to commemorate the four students killed at Kent State. The announcement was made by school board President Joseph Monserrat, who called on students, teachers and parents to make the next day “a day of prayer and soul searching as well as a day of rededication to the fundamental principles that make this great nation free.” The decision meant no school for the City’s one million public school pupils… and no city bus service for parochial and private schools.

Barnard College – New York City

An all-college convocation at the private women’s liberal arts college convened on Monday and formed the Barnard Strike Coalition to deal with the school’s response to calls for a national student strike. They first met at McIntosh Lounge, and within an hour, there were 400 students in attendance. President Martha Peterson subsequently called an All-College meeting for later in the day. When roughly 1200 students had gathered, President Peterson told them she disagreed with the war and was in sympathy with the goals of the National Student Strike, but the business of Barnard would proceed as per usual. She also stated that strikers must be aware of the consequences of their boycott.

This didn’t sit well with the students who voted to go on strike and to support the three national strike demands. They made the point, however, that the strike was not against the college but against Nixon’s policies and against business as usual at Barnard. At this point, however, neither the administration nor the faculty considered the student vote valid, despite three-quarters of the students on campus had participated in the decision.

Syracuse University

As many as 2,000 – 3,000 Syracuse students held an afternoon rally on the Quad to protest Cambodia and the renewal of bombing in North Vietnam. Speakers called for a student strike the next day, May 5. Many clenched fists punctuated the crowd, with “right on!s” shouted out during the rally. Then the crowd began to hear the news from Kent State, which “electrified” everyone.

In response, the crowds broke up and many students roamed the campus late at night on Monday May 4th and into the early morning hours, breaking windows in more than three dozen campus buildings. There was one report that the college bookstore had been set ablaze. At the same time, roadblocks and barricades were set up on all streets leading into campus. Signs with the words “Strike” and “This university is closed” were seen everywhere on campus. “Strike” was painted on many buildings and traffic signs. By 3 a.m. the students had drifted back to their dorms. Campus police made no arrests. A first aid station was put together quickly in a Chapel but there were no reports of injuries.


University of Scranton

Sit-in plans in protest of Cambodia concocted the night before bore fruit. A large group of Scranton students moved over to a street which bordered the campus where a couple dozen sat down across the road. Several hundred other students watched from the sidewalks. The students sitting in then got up and moved to the commercial district, a few blocks away, with the crowd of other students following. When they reached the center of the shopping area, they sat down again. When police arrived, a number of those in the road got up and left the civil disobedience; twelve remained and were peacefully arrested. Later in the afternoon they were all released after posting court costs. They became known as the “Scranton Twelve.”

When news from Kent State permeated the campus, the Scranton Twelve and the group Reunion mobilized a march to confront the President of the university. About one hundred students came before Very Rev. Aloysius Galvin, who after some discussion, agreed to lower the flag to half-mast in honor of the slain students killed earlier that day. Yet Galvin refused to come out publicly in support of the protests, plus he refused to cancel classes. He had not yet been able to form his conscience on the war, he told the students. And he added, if he cancelled classes, that would infringe on the rights of students who supported the US in the war.

Undeterred, the students pressed forward, and at a meeting later that night, formed a Strike Committee and selected student members to organize the strike planned for classes for Tuesday morn­ing.

University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia

Roughly 2,500 students, staff and faculty walked out of their classrooms and offices and gathered at the Palestra for an antiwar rally response to Nixon’s Cambodian invasion. During the rally, one speaker announced that he had just received a telegram: the National Guard had opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University.

One of the speakers at the microphones shouted out, “Are we on strike?!” The tumultuous response to her question from the crowd left no doubt – the assembly had signaled its approval and the student strike took off. The strike had exploded during finals. And in a show of solidarity, most of the professors granted extensions and postponements. Sociology Professor Philip Pachoda explained, “We are not primarily concerned with shutting down the University… In the face of this grave crisis almost all members of the University now perceive the need to suspend ‘business as usual.’”

New Jersey

Rutgers – New Brunswick

After nearly four hours of intense, emotionally-charged debate before an overflow crowd of students in a hot Rutgers Gymnasium, the Rutgers College Faculty voted 120 to 122 against the proposal to halt classroom instructions for the remainder of the academic year – only a two vote margin – in lieu of the national crises. Another vote on the proposal was again defeated. At this point, Robert Barton, associate professor of English, got up and verbally objected to the vote; he said, “two votes is not enough of a majority on an issue like this.”

Barton objected to the vote on the pretense that the “ROTC faculty members here tonight are not voting for me or for the Student Body, but for the Pentagon.” He continued, “thirteen or fourteen of the votes came directly from the Pentagon,” referring to crucial votes that defeated the measure that had come from the military science professors of the faculty.  These comments brought the student crowd to its feet with sustained shouts of “strike now! strike now!” and other epithets. The chairman – once the chants had died down – announced that if there was one more outburst, he would adjourn the meeting. At that, one student stood up and yelled “try it!” Others yelled “Strike! Strike!” The chair declared the meeting adjourned.

Immediately the thousands of people in the gym marched out, onto College Ave and proceeded for Old Queens – school’s principal administration building – to stage an emergency rally. From there more than 200 students entered the building with plans for an indefinite occupation until demands were met for the abolition of ROTC on campus and the cessation of defense department research. Over the hours, hundreds poured through the halls of Old Queen.

That night, the night of May 4 – the day of the Kent State shootings -, hundreds of students slept in the halls and offices of the building to show support for the strike while many other students camped out in front to show support for the occupiers. One of the members of the strike committee hailed the sleep-in a success. “We were all together and supported the strike.”

Yet some didn’t feel all this “together-ness” and solidarity. Some students had a feeling of mistrust for the strike committee, as, yes, it had come out in support of the occupation, the sit-in at Old Queens, but had not endorsed the occupiers’ demands – the abolishment of ROTC, the end of Defense Department contracts, and the demand that no campus worker be docked for time lost due to actions of strikers.

Cracks also began to appear between the original occupiers and the hundreds who streamed through the doors of Old Queens with their sleeping bags. The atmosphere of the sit-in – once tense with rumors of imminent busts and probable appearance of the National Guard and full of political discourse – had changed into a circus, where, as new people entered in the onrush of the newfound support for the strike, they grabbed every bit of available space and all the food left for protesters. People ended up sleeping everywhere, under desks, in the middle of floors and hallways, on staircases.

Caught up in the excitement of occupying a University building, and perhaps, as some thought, just playing striker, many students stayed awake all night babbling, laughing or playing cards. About midnight, food ran out while more and more people continued to stream in with their blankets and sleeping bags. This all irritated the original sit-in students, who watched as the environment shifted from serious political protest into a near rock-concert atmosphere, as people came in the building in support of the occupation who had refused the occupiers speaking at the mass rally and asking for support for the sit-in demands. On the other side, some were upset with the strike committee for not instilling in people who came in for the sleep-in to understand the politics of the situation. During the night, some of the occupiers even demanded of those who intended to come in not to enter if they were not willing to get arrested with them.

Seton Hall University

Late Monday, agitated Seton Hall students rallied on its campus – less than 5 miles west of Rutgers in Newark. As the crowd grew larger and more unruly – with the news from Kent State broadcast earlier that day – it moved to the main ROTC building. Sometime after 1 a.m. between 50 and 150 students raided the ROTC and ransacked several offices. Someone tossed a firebomb into one of the ROTC buildings and it started a small fire. Soon after firemen and police were summoned to the campus. And by time police arrived it was around 3 a.m. and the crowd had grown to 500.  The acting president of the school, Msgr. Edward Fleming, eventually talked to the crowd and convinced them to disperse. No injuries nor arrests were reported that night.


University of Maryland – College Park

Between 11 and 11:30 am, 2,000 to 2500 people gathered for a rally on the mall in front of McKeldin Library. It was part anti-war protest and part protest against the police for their use of teargas back on Friday, May 1, during protests against the Cambodia invasion. Minutes later, dozens of students took over the Administration Building, but only remained a short time and caused no damage. At that point, by 1 pm, 2500 demonstrators marched onto Route 1, blocking traffic – for the third time in as many days. The action this time was next to busy shopping center. This was the largest protest crowd that had formed at that point.

In an effort to unplug the protests, the administration agreed to a request by student government to suspend classes the next day, May 5, so students could participate in a “Foreign affairs Study Day” with workshops and speakers. This decision was announced via loudspeaker to those blocking Route One in the mid-afternoon but failed to dissuade the students from ending the occupation on the road.

It wasn’t until 6 pm when riot police moved in to take control of the situation. By that hour, Gov. Marvin Mandel had mobilized 500 National Guard, 350 State Police, 70 Prince George County Police, 200 Baltimore City cops, and other local police. Also by then, news of the Kent State shootings had reached the campus – and this news intensified the student protests.

By time the riot police charged the student protesters, they were in no mood to be compliant and were fairly outraged; they retreated to the campus but kept throwing rocks at police. Fast on their heels, police followed them onto the school, and began shooting off teargas cannisters. A wholescale battle erupted – with an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 students and other protesters faced off with over 500 police officers. Students were chased across campus, dozens were injured – most minor -, but 4 were hospitalized. One anthropology graduate assistant was wounded in the rear from a police shotgun shooting buckshot. There were 100 to 200 arrests made.

Students were told to return to their living quar­ters but many had already evacuated the dorms due to being filled with tear gas. Two hours later at 8:30 pm, Gov. Mandel declared a state of emergency, ordered a curfew imposed on the area from 8:30 pm to 6 am, and then called in the National Guard – 600 troops to assist police; they had been sta­tioned at an armory a few miles away. Six hours after the arrival of police, order had been restored with Guardsmen patrolling the grounds of the college through the night to the next morning.

As police helicopters buzzed the campus and armed troopers and police patrolled the campus and enforced the curfew, the appearance of order prevailed by midnight. Gov. Mandel had placed a National Guard officer, Adjutant Gen. Edwin Warfield III, in “complete command” of operations on campus. Back then, the governor was derisively called “Marshmallow Marvin” by the students – and despite a somewhat liberal track record as head of Maryland – he was forced to resign in 1977 after a conviction on political corruption charges, ending his 26 -year career in state government. (His conviction was later overturned.)

Washington, DC

George Washington University

The night of Monday, May 4, student representatives from more than 30 colleges and univer­sities met at George Wash­ington University to organize a National Strike Committee. Most of the schools represented were Eastern schools and were either already striking or planning to strike. They hashed out and agreed on a strike with four objectives and demands: end repression of Black people, particularly the Black Panthers; withdrawal of U.S. troops from Southeast Asia; end the uni­versities complicity in the war effort (ROTC, government re­search, etc.); and seek the support of the labor movement.

Forging a National Strike Committee had its challenges what with the swiftness and spontaneity of the demonstrations spreading like wildfire across the country. There was also a desire for local control and a distrust of being directed nationally. Many of the reps expressed a distrust of the different national organizations such as the National Student Association, the New Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam (Mobe), or any new group they would form. They said their schools would determine the goals and forms of their actions, and not follow the dictates of a national committee they could not control.


University of Virginia

Students at the University of Virginia were spurred to action after the news from Kent State had reached them. A student strike was in the air. On Monday evening from 1,000 to 1,500 students rallied on the steps of the Rotunda. Students had composed a telegram denouncing the war to be sent to Nixon and they wanted University President Edgar Shannon to sign it. A huge group then marched to Carr’s Hill, where President Shannon resided, and met with him. Besides demanding he sign the telegram, the protesters also demanded the right to protest peacefully and the removal of sidearms from University police. On the shaky grounds that signing and sending Nixon the telegram would not change his Cambodian decision, Shannon refused. Dejected, the student crowd turned back towards campus.

Monday May 4, 1970 200 students occupy Maury Hall.

Around that time, the vice-president of the Student Council, began summoning students with a bullhorn to head over to Maury Hall, the building that housed the National Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC). Upon their arrival, the students found the building was locked up. While some students tried to negotiate some kind of agreement with administrators to hold a nonviolent sit-in, others went around the building, broke windows and gained entry.

The occupation provided students with a rallying point. They were already wound up from the news of the Kent State events and with Shannon’s refusal to sign the telegram, it had just added fuel to the students’ passion. With the illegal action going on, administrators had their own meeting to figure out how to respond.

Inside the seemingly spontaneous take-over, strike leaders had discussion on plans. They put together a participatory democracy format, formulated a formal list of demands which they gave to the administration including: calling on the government to curtail the Cambodian invasion, to withdraw American military forces from Southeast Asia, to end repression of the Black Panthers, and seeking to terminate the university’s ROTC and military research programs -an end to university ties with the military, increased black enrollment, and recognition of the rights of students and university employees. When administrators negotiated the situation with them, they informed the students of a possible court injunction against them.

North Carolina

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

At North Carolina State University at Raleigh, about 400 students attended a midnight memorial service for the Kent State students killed earlier in the day. Leading the service at the Memorial Bell Tower, Reverend Taylor Scott, Episcopal Chaplin asked that they, the students “have enough courage to still walk tall. We are here for tears, not anger. Let there be no marching.” Scott said, “we are here to mourn the deaths of four stu­dent, not to make political speeches. The war has come home. The thing about war is that it kills people, and four people are dead.” He also read the list of the Kent State dead.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A fire was set during the early hours of Monday, in the headquarters building of the Air Force ROTC on campus. After a false alarm came in about a fire in the Naval ROTC armory to the Chapel Hill Fire Department at 1:09 am, a blaze was discovered in the AFROTC area. It was extinguished and damage was confined to a window and some attic area, with an estimated damage of $1,000 according to the AFROTC commander. “It’s not too bad,” the colonel said. “It could have been a hell of a lot worse.”

A campus security officer said the cause of the fire was “definitely arson.” Police found “evidence of volatile liquid and a melted plastic jar” near the area of the fire. The building itself – built during World War II as a temporary structure – was set to be torn down that summer to pave the way for new social science buildings. The Chapel Hill Police Department was in the process of investigating the incident and campus security patrols were stepped up.

Later in the day, the committee coordinating UNC student body protests of the Cambodian intervention denied any connection with the fire and in general condemned any violence on the campus.


Emory University, Atlanta

Banjo-strummer Pete Seeger came to Emory University in Atlanta the night of the Kent State shootings. After the concert, over 200 Emory students crammed in the Winship Rathskeller to hold an emergency meeting to decide what action to take. There was so many people, the meeting was moved up into the lobby. Once it got going, the gathering found consensus in supporting actions and the call for a strike by the National Student Association (NSA), to begin Tuesday, May 5.  Once a strike had been settled, discussion focused on how to publicize it and how to urge other students to get involved. Ideas evolved into acts, as they decided to put together a leaflet for mass distribution and place banners up in strategic locations around campus.


University of South Florida – Tampa

Students at the University of South Florida who were outraged by the tragic news from Kent State held a late-night meeting Monday at the University Center patio. The meeting included members of the student government and campus activists. They wanted the campus to go on strike and as the meeting continued into the early hours of the next day, they reached an agreement on a strike and on holding a memorial for the slain students on Tuesday. Other students joined them and preparations began. Some painted signs and posters for the strike, others called professors, chairmen and deans seeking support for the strike. Others printed off leaflets to inform the campus community about the four deaths, the strike and the memorial service. Later, students at USF prided themselves on being the first Florida university to hold a student strike.

Florida State University at Tallahassee

At Florida State University at Tallahassee, activist students called to have classes cancelled for two days in response to the Kent State shootings. A large antiwar rally was held later on Landis Green, an open area commonly used for rallies and other events by students. It was during this rally that several confrontations between antiwar students and ROTC officials occurred.

It is not surprising that FSU had early protests against Cambodia and Kent State, as the campus had been nicknamed “the Berkeley of the South,” although in truth it had never experienced the intensity and violence of the California campus during those anti-Vietnam war years.


Antioch College – Yellow Springs

Stirred by the news from Kent State, nearly 500 students of Antioch College declared that the campus was on strike at a campus-wide meeting. They also voted to endorse the three national strike demands. And quickly, picket lines were established outside many classroom buildings. A spokesperson stated students were responding to “repression against the Black Panther Party, the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, and the shooting of four student comrades at Kent State.” The strike would continue, he said, until the demands – the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Southeast Asia and the freeing of all political prisoners – were met unconditionally

Case Western Reserve University     – Cleveland

Some hundred CWRU students blocked Euclid Road on the campus in protest of the war.

Ohio University – Athens

When news of the killings at Kent State rushed through the campus of the Ohio University at Athens that afternoon, a spontaneous rally was held at the War Memorial – often the site of student gatherings and protests. People were urged to return later that night for a more organized demonstration and to discuss the possibility of a peaceful strike on campus.

In the early evening the College Green was packed for the protest – with one estimate of 3,000 students as the outrage, anger and curiosity gained momentum. It was one of the largest events ever held on the College Green. With Cambodia and the violence of Kent on everyone’s minds, the speakers spoke of “non-violence”, “unity” and to “keep cool.” Many of the speeches were by religious men, including the Rev. Tom Jackson and the Rev. Torn Niccolls of the United Campus Ministry, Rev. Robert Hughes of Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd; and Rabbi Joseph Polak of Hillel.

Rev. Jackson moved the audience when he said, “Moratoriums are dead. But gotta try a moratorium for one day,” he said, and he ridiculed “the words ‘jock,’ and ‘hippy’ and ‘yippy’ and any other words we use for an excuse to beat up on one another.” He spoke of watching TV reports coming in from Kent State and he said, “I saw a kid on television today who said, ‘I thought they were firing blanks until I saw her head split open.’” He paused, “Can’t we stop splitting open heads?” Jackson told the crowd to “do something embarrassing tonight, like stop killing ourselves, or maybe love each other.” The reverend received a sustained round of applause as he moved from the podium.

Rev. Hughes called for a prayer, and said, “As we pray for the dead, we must also pray for the living. God knows we have seen enough killing to last us a lifetime.” Then it was announced that the four religious leaders – Jackson, Hughes, Nicholls and Polak – were conducting a three-day hunger strike to protest “the senseless killing and murder in Cambodia and at Kent State.”

The tenseness on the moment was evident when the rock band who had donated the sound equipment used for the rally tried to play. They were shouted down. One student got up and yelled, “what the hell are we going to listen to music for when our brothers and sisters are lying dead!”

Another speaker, Doug Arnett, Democratic candidate for the 10th District in Congress, criticized Nixon. “In 1954 Washington implemented a domino theory,” he said, “and is trying to implement it in 1970. Richard Nixon has not only got us deeper in Vietnam, but he has also got us into Cambodia. Is this a new plan called ‘Cambodianization’?” coining a new term.

Then the crowd became quiet, when an unidentified female student from Kent State University who had left that campus the night before, got up in front of the throng. “It’s good to be down here,” she said, “and not have men in uniform running around.” There was heavy emotion in her voice. “You don’t know what it’s like – this is the only peaceful campus left … we don’t need anyone else to die. You see people running and the flames and the tear gas …. it’s so damn scary.”

Thousands of students then voted to strike Ohio University for two days – Tuesday – in sympathy for the four students who were shot to death at Kent State, and Wednesday – in support of a national student strike called for by student leaders across the country. Discussion of the strike continued well after 10 pm.

Youngstown State Univ.

At Youngstown State University, there was a funeral service late in the day on Monday, May 4 for Sandra Scheuer – one of the four students killed just hours earlier by National Guard troops at Kent State. Scheuer was from Youngstown. The next day, the Youngstown campus newspaper, The Jambar had a large box on the front page, with a photo of Scheuer with text, next to a headline that sent shivers through locals when they read it, “YSA Summer Coed Among Kent Dead – Sandra Scheuer”. The article read:

Miss Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, one of the four students shot yesterday at Kent State Univer­sity. was a native of Youngstown, a 1967 graduate of Boardman High School, and formerly a summer school stu­dent at YSU. According to one source close to Miss Scheuer she attended the rally yesterday on the KSU Commons protesting President Nixon’s movement of US troops into Cambodia, but at the time she was shot she was merely a spectator.

Youngstown friends close to Miss Scheurer remember her as an extremely vibrant, friendly girl who as far as anyone knows had utterly no connection with any militant or activist organ­ization. Rather, she is remem­bered as the typical, popular, pretty coed. At Boardman High School she was active in school activities and made the honor roll. She was a member of Ohev Tzedek Temple in Boardman.

Inside the box, the text stated:

Sandra Scheuer

Four students at Kent State University are dead as a result of a senseless demonstration, and a senseless order to kill.

It is impossible to sympathize with any spontaneous National Guard decision to fire on students when one is involved personally with one of those students killed.

Sandy Scheuer, of Youngstown, was a person incapable of inciting a riot, incapable of throwing a rock, incapable of calling a policeman a pig, and incapable of ever hurting anyone. To accuse her of any of these crimes would be an outrageous lie. Yet today she is dead.

Not only is her death “unfortunate” as newsmen put it, it is senseless and without reason.

Our reaction to her death is one of bitterness, hate, and alienation. There can be nothing gained. All are punished.

Student Bill Jones had attended the memorial for Scheuer and after returning from the services, he and a half dozen friends were just hanging out in his apartment. Suddenly there was a knock at the door and a dozen Youngstown police officers burst in, helmeted and armed with rifles and a warrant. Apparently, there had been a report of a Russian-built submachine gun in the apartment. Holding the young students at gunpoint, police conducted an intensive search of Jones’ apartment and three other residences. Four cops guarded the doors to prevent anyone from escaping.

It all grew out of a patrolman’s report that an unidentified informant had stated he had seen two males with a Russian submachine gun commonly used in Vietnam and Russia, supposedly enter the front door of Jones’ address. Jones explained. Earlier that day another student named Gene had been carrying a plastic Mattel machine gun during some of the campus rallies. Jones had accepted a ride home from him and the two entered Jones’ home – with the guy carrying the toy gun. Later, Jones left for the funeral and his friend left after that and took the toy with him. The next morning the two took the Mattel gun to the city police station – and it was confiscated.

University of Akron

On Monday night, May 4 – hours after the Kent State shootings a mere 15 miles by car away, students at the University of Akron held a candlelight march through downtown Akron.


University of Notre Dame – South Bend

It was in the afternoon of Monday, May 4 when about 1,500 to 2,000 students met on the main quadrangle of the University of Notre Dame to discuss whether the school ought to support the nationwide student strike. Commencing the rally was Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame, who stressed that, “no moment in the modern history of this country has been more divided regarding priorities.” Stating he knew of the “sincerity and courage” of President Nixon but his decision to expand the war was “a mistake.”  He said that he disagreed, “Because one great need of this nation today is for unity of purpose, clear priority of values and vision regarding where we might go together. Vietnam runs counter to all of these present desires.”

There comes a time in life, he said, when “moral righteousness is more important than empty victory.” He would be willing to sign a statement to Nixon, he declared, that would denounce the wars expansion and show support for the immediate US withdrawal from Southeast Asia. Hesburgh also said it was time for the nations of Southeast Asia to develop and govern themselves, which is something “no force of arms from North, East, West, or South can create.” He wanted to “commit our persons and our future to a better America and a better world.”

Some have said this was one of the most important speeches Father Hesburgh ever delivered. As he spoke, word was quickly spreading about the four students killed at Kent State. He warned, “Striking classes as some univer­sities are doing, in the sense of cutting off your education, is the worst thing you could do at this time, since your education and your growth in competence are what the world needs most, if the leadership of the future is going to be better than the leadership of the past and present.”

Father Hesburgh urged students not to engage in a class boycott. He went on and defended the R.O.T.C. program at Notre Dame, pushing the narrative that said the country needed a well-trained officer corps with a philosophical and ethical education. But he eloquently hammered away on the war.

“This may seem rather undramatic advice to a genera­tion that seeks instant answers to horribly complicated situa­tions. As one of your elders, may I suggest that together we state our uncompromising revul­sion to the course of this war and all current wars.

“It has divided the nation – those favoring the Vietnam war being mainly those who have had no part in the suffering and dying an easy option. It has drained our young life, in death and mutilation, it has wasted resources desperately needed in our nation and around the world for more serious problems, it has cast us as a nation in the character of a pariah, supported in our aims by almost no one of importance in the world’s opinion.”

“I have tried to understand the recurrent military logic that the war must be widened to be narrowed, escalated to be de-escalated, but with all the good will in the world, I find it difficult to follow a logic that has grown more barren, more illogical and more self-defeating in promising victory through defeat. Military logic reached its highpoint when we were told of Vietnamese villages and villagers: We had to destroy them to save them.”

Speaking of the students, Hesburgh said, “Not one of you wants to be a coward, a traitor, or an ungenerous American. But if I read your conscience right, neither do any of you want to be a partner to what you honestly conceive to be evil, unjust, or just plain wrong or idiotic.”  When he ended, he was met with “thunderous applause.”

History professor John Wil­liams followed Hesburgh on stage, and came down heavily on the duplicity of the Nixon administration, where Nixon had vowed to end the war but then recently expanded it. He lambasted Nixon’s claim that “the United States will not be defeated or humiliated,” by conceding, “We have been defeated and humiliated.”

Williams proposed more positive actions than the moratoriums or “poli­tical Woodstocks” of the previous fall and cited the need to “do some­thing to halt the war machine where we’re at.” He called for the elimination of “Nixon’s sanctuaries on our campuses.”

In contrast to Hesburgh who saw the Indochina war as a “mistake”, Williams explained it was the inevitable result of many years of American policy, calling it as the “technological machine raging out of control.” He advocated Notre Dame join with other universities as Stanford, Rutgers, Maryland, and especi­ally Yale to form a “communiversity” which would be “dedicated for people’s education and people’s democracy.” This would “create education mean­ingful and relevant to the prob­lems of our time.”

The third speaker was Jim Engel, an organizer of the South Bend draft union. He had recently returned from Cuba where he had cut sugar cane with Cubans and Viet­namese, and he emphasized, the atmosphere of brother­hood that existed there. Engel supported the class boycott and said “education must deal with the needs of the people. If institutions do not do so, we must eliminate them.” ROTC should be eliminated, he advocated, as well as all war research at Notre Dame. He closed with, “the power we have is people and people is where it’s at… All power to the people. Venceremos.”

The student body president, Dave Krashna, was up next. He called for a general boycott of classes, to abandon “normal educational proce­dures.” He focused his criticism not only against the war but also against racism, sexism, and militarism. Krashna cited the Cambodian expansion as the “catalyst” that prompted him to propose the boycott. He called upon the people of Notre Dame to “stop, look, and listen and absolutely say ‘stop’ to the education we’re getting at this time.” His call for a general strike of students and faculty was not as an end to education, but as a beginning of education of another kind on militarism, racism, and sexism at Notre Dame.

For his own part, Krashna admitted to co-signing, with approximately fifty other student body presidents, a petition to impeach President Nixon. Krashna also received a thunderous ovation.

The St. Mary College representative speaker at the rally was Carol Cusick, a woman’s liberationist. She urged St. Mary’s students to “join in a united strike force with Notre Dame.”

Condemning Nixon’s decision to expand the war and attacking his priorities, she accused him of  imposing American culture on the “Third World” in an effort to attain economic control of it.

A two-year veteran of the Viet Nam war, speaker Buck Ryan described it as a “frustrating experience,” adding, “The war, right or wrong, wasn’t going anywhere.” Nixon was not concerned with the problem of right or wrong, Ryan exclaimed, but said the president’s attitude was “at best amoral, at worst immoral.” He told the audience, “we’re taking a moral stand.”

As Commander in Chief, Nixon had his fighting forces, his advisors and also the Congress, he told the crowd. Supporting the strike, he said would “let Nixon know he’s alone.” The final speaker, Tim Kendall, urged the students to adopt a “personal resistance” to the war machine, even though it is often “scary as hell.” The cause of the war, he said, was the American lifestyle itself and ending it was impossible without radically changing that lifestyle.

The nature of the strike was briefly outlined; picket lines would be set up around O’Shaughnessy Hall, the Engineering building, and other classrooms at Notre Dame and St. Mary’s campuses. Vol­unteers would canvass the faculty offices in the library as well as the individual class­rooms.

When the rally broke up, over 100 students stuck around to discuss strike tactics, with some assigned to the picket lines that went up at all the major classroom buildings around campus. Small groups began meetings to plan further discussions and demonstrations. Discussions were to take place this morning and a rally was scheduled for 1:30 that afternoon.

Immediately, the Student Union issued a statement supporting the strike and declared an end to the normal functions of the Union for the duration of the strike, as what was normally done had lost its meaning in light of the national crises. “We join in saying ‘NO’ to the war and calling for its halt,” their statement said. It was also announced that the Union was being transformed into centers of strike activities. “We are working with the organizers of the strike, cooperating whenever possible. The time has come for normal activities to stop.”

At the afternoon rally in the Fieldhouse, president of the student body Krashna announced that student government and the strike committee were commit­ted to an indefinite strike. By then students had organized a strike steering committee made up of 17 people. Formal strike activities for the next day, Tuesday, included discussions on the war, the strike’s relevance, and talks on racism and sexism. A leafletting drive in South Bend was planned, as well as a rally and a march to St. Mary’s.

Indiana University – South Bend

Ready to go on Monday was a week-long series of events beginning that day that students at the South Bend campus of Indiana University had organized over the weekend. Scheduled from May 4 to May 9, and called “IUSB Cambodia Week,” it was in direct response to Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia to “Protest President Nixon’s Southeast Asian Policies of Murder.”

Sponsored by the campus Coalition for Peace and local reps of the National Student Association, the week’s events on campus included a reading of war dead, a ceremonial digging of a grave on campus, the digging of symbolic foxholes, guerilla theater; a teach-in on draft resistance, a history of Cambodia, Southeast Asia, and the United States. The week would be topped off with a rock concert and a mass march with the wider community in downtown South Bend on Friday, May 9th.


Loyola University – Chicago

Over a dozen students at Loyola University decided something had to be done on campus in response to Nixon’s troop movement into Cambodia. Called together by students, they met in a room in Mertz Hall to plan an action. They included student government types, some anti-war activists and new faces. They agreed to join in with the growing national strike movement and call for a non-violent strike for that Wednesday, May 6. The group grappled with how to mobilize their fellow students. One had some ideas. Suggesting that any prior publicity would undercut the momentum of student support for a strike, she explained:

“We have to surprise students when they walk on campus Wednesday morning. If we can raise a ruckus Wednesday morning with bands on the athletic field, leafleting at Mertz, picketing at Damen, and bullhorns all around, we can maybe stop classes.” The group decided to hold a final planning meeting for Tuesday afternoon. They didn’t know then that the slaying of four Kent State students that day would break the back of Loyola apathy.

Northwestern University – Evanston

At Northwestern University in Evanston, the most powerful faculty group met at night and called for an emergency meeting of the faculty senate for the next day at 5:30 pm. At that meeting, the General Faculty will present the Senate with a proposal calling for a strike Wednesday.

Meanwhile 700 miles to the east in Washington, D.C, a representative student from NU met with the National Student Mobilization Committee as they grappled with national strike issues. NU Student Body President Eva Jefferson later reported back that the only point of agreement at the meeting was to support an indefinite student strike that would last until the end of the school year.


University of Wisconsin in Madison

Just hours after the shootings at Kent State the Wisconsin Student Association at the University of Wisconsin at Madison held its very first meeting with a newly-elected student senate – and things were tense. The Senate adopted a resolution supporting a general student strike, encouraged by the Senate President who had just returned from Washington D.C. where he had worked with the National Student Association to coordinate the nationwide strike.

A student network named the United Front, a coalition of campus political groups, organized a peaceful rally for Monday in response to Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia – and a slew of other issues. What they hadn’t planned on was the eruption on campuses across the country that day due to the Kent State murders. By time the 3,000 people assembled for the rally, tensions were high and outrage was boiling.

Andy Himes, vice president of the Wisconsin Student Association, presented the United Front’s four demands; immediate withdrawal from Southeast Asia, freedom for all political prisoners – including pressure on the University to make a payment of $30,000 to the fund for the Milwaukee Three; an end to the school’s participation in the war machinery; and an end to worker oppression by US corporations and support for public and private employees’ right to strike. No mention of Kent State or a demand relating to the National Guard on campuses. Himes told the crowd, “This time we must shut the University down. Not just clas­ses but research as well.”

Other speakers included a member of the Mother Jones Revolutionary League, who accused the U.S. of “waging a war of genocide against the people of Laos, Cambo­dia and Vietnam.” He said, “Victory to the Pathet Lao, and victory to the NLF. Vic­tory to the Cambodian people.” An editor at the Daily Cardinal, cried, “We’re going to fight the military on this campus and we’re going to strike hard and we’re going to win!” By time the last speaker got up, the crowd had become impatient and clapped rhythmically and chanted, “Free Bobby Seale! Free Bobby Seale!”

A member of the Mother Jones group got up before the crowd and asked them, “Why don’t we take a stroll over to the math research building?” With that, the bulk of the assembled students surged to the Army Mathe­matics Research Center near Bascom Hill, only to be met by a line of University police officers who blocked their advance. Flowing past the police line, the crowd marched to the Army ROTC training building at Linden and Babcock Streets. Most of the building’s windows were taken out and a small fire was ignited in a trash can and bulletin board.

Police reinforcements soon arrived and with liberal doses of tear gas, dispersed the protesters and put out the fire. The dispersed crowd didn’t scatter but divided up into small groups and engaged police in street skirmishes, bombarding them with rocks and other items at hand. The police responded with more tear gas. The three levels of police, University, local city and Dane County police became more aggressive and cleared the Library Mall area, and at times indiscriminately clubbed people as they advanced. By a quarter after 10 pm, the student union had been hit so many times with tear gas, the first two floors were choked with the gas and had reached an unbearable level. An hour later, at 11:15 pm, the National Guard were called out.

Over the course of the skirmishing, seven people were arrested, most charged with disorderly conduct. By midnight, nine people had been treated for tear gas at the University Hospital, and two others were admitted with head and abdominal injuries. A reporter for the campus newspaper, the Daily Cardinal, was also beaten by police despite his press card and his gas mask confiscated by Dane County cops.

Shortly before midnight, a firebomb hit the home of a professor of aerospace and head of Air Force ROTC, Thrown through a second floor window, it hit a closet and set clothes on fire, causing about $2500 to $3000 worth of damage.

Around that same time, Kroger’s food store on Un­iversity Avenue caught fire and ended up being gutted. It took four engine companies and 50 firefighters to put the blaze out over the course of several hours. The fire spread to a three-story frame rooming house adjacent to the store’s rear. The Fire Department was investigating, but many thought it was due to arson.

The manager said the Krogers chain would absorb the $600,000 loss, while the 30 employees would be reassigned to other Krogers in Madison. As onlookers watched the fire fight, reportedly, “several people expressed happiness at the event while others seemed impassive or angry.” Kroger’s, according to The Daily Cardinal, was to many students, “a symbol of exploitation,” and being next to campus dormitories, had charged students exorbitant prices for years.

Wisconsin State College – Oshkosh (Now: University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh)

Monday, a group of students from Wisconsin State College met with members of the Oshkosh City Council and insisted that a dangerous road through campus, Algoma Boulevard, be immediately closed, permanently, due to the threats to life and limb. The issue was what had let to the construction of a barricade across the thoroughfare on Friday, May 1, and a clash between students and police. Councilmembers told the assembled students the matter would be on the agenda for that night’s meeting. Council President Byron Murken told them that action such as the students were demanding could not be taken immediately, that the legislative process was sometimes a slow pro­cess. In the end, the Council continued their refusal of immediately dealing with the safety hazard.

Upset over the city’s stance, about 1,500 angered students returned to Algoma by 10:30 pm. Students piled trash and old car tires on the street at Osceola, soaked the pile with gasoline and ignited it. The fire depart­ment was called in once the blaze began threatening nearby homes. While waiting orders to extinguish the flames, the firemen were bombarded with rocks from the demonstrators. It must be noted here, less than 12 hours earlier, students had been shot dead at Kent State. This certainly was also on the minds of the rebels that night.

Around midnight, a half-dozen protesters armed with shovels, a sledge hammer and picks attacked the street, and by 1:30 am a hole through the two-inch asphalt extended the entire width of Algoma and roughly 25 feet in length. An hour earlier, the Winnebago County Sheriffs had been alerted, along with county and city police from surrounding communities. But by 2 am, most students had left the site. With riot squads lining Algoma from Elmwood to Osceola, city crews worked the early hours to clean up debris and repair sections of the street that had been torn up earlier. During the demonstration, seven people were reported injured, one woman student hit in the head with debris and six police officers.

Reporters with the campus newspaper, Oshkosh Advance– Titan queried a number of student protesters on what had brought them out to the protest. Apparently most were there as a protest of the killing of four students at Kent State Uni­versity, or a show of opposition to President Nixon’s involvement in Cambodia, and for some it was a combination of the Cambodian invasion, the killings at Kent State University and the Algoma Blvd. problem. Oshkosh City Manager Angus Crawford told the student reporters, “I think it’s a combination of the international situation with Cambodia, the Kent State situa­tion and the Algoma problem. Algoma just happens to be the local problem.”


University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

A large rally involving between 4000 to 5000 students and faculty members occurred on the campus of the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities Monday at noon. The peaceful gathering voted to go on strike over American military involvement in Cambodia. The voice vote endorsed the strike and these demands: immediate withdrawal of American troops from Southeast Asia, that the Faculty Senate also endorse the strike and amnesty for participants. Strike coordinator William Tilton declared the strike “50-percent effective.”

The assembly also asked that the University sever all ties with ROTC, that the federal government halt political repression and free all political prisoners, including Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, and that Minnesota Governor Harold LeVander call a special session of the legislature to pass a measure to withdraw Minnesota servicemen and tax dollars from the war. In response, Minnesota President Dr. Malcolm Moos expressed “grief” at the events in Cambodia, but refused to close the school down.


University of Iowa – Iowa City

The quiet of the weekend was shattered on Monday, May 4. When students at the University of Iowa heard the deadly news, some 500 of them gathered and marched on the National Guard Armory on Melrose Avenue, directly west of the campus. They chanted, “Remember Kent State!” and “Abolish R-O-T-C!” After breaking a few windows at the armory, the crowd progressed east into downtown Iowa City. The campus itself straddles the Iowa River whereas downtown is on the eastern bank.

Once downtown, the crowd split up and about 300 protesters sat down in a key intersection. Police showed up and attempted to roughly force the students to disperse. At least a dozen were arrested initially. But many in the crowd engaged in pelting the police lines and local businesses with rocks.

In the early hours of Tuesday, Iowa Highway Patrol and Johnson County Sheriff deputies – in full riot gear – marched through the streets and broke the crowd up. A few more arrests were made, a few students felt the sting of the nightsticks, but many didn’t scatter and hugged the curbs. Those arrested were taken to the Civic Center police headquarters and the crowds followed. It wasn’t until 4 am did all the students depart. 51 had been arrested and 50 windows were reportedly broken. Most of those arrested for disorderly conduct were University students.


Washington University

The night of May 4, at least 2,500 anti-war protesters gathered at the Air Force ROTC building. To shouts of “Kent State, Kent State,” the demonstrators charged repeatedly into the building, shattering windows, throwing furniture, and soaking the interior with gasoline. The building was soon set afire while ten campus policemen stood by and watched. Firemen had been driven off while trying to fight the blaze. Finally, a squad of about 20 helmeted policemen, carrying nightsticks, began moving toward the protesters. The students were soon dispersed, and the fire put out, but not before one end of the building was virtually destroyed.


Nebraska University

At a 1:30 pm rally on the north side of the Student Union held as an open discussion of protest plans, a senior in education grabbed the microphone, said he was tired of rhetoric and made a rabble-rousing speech calling for a march on the local draft board. Another senior backed him up and the two immediately set out for the offices. They looked back and half the crowd were following them, including an assistant professor of political science, who also was tired of talk.

Strung over about two blocks, the crowd tried to plan its strategy as it moved toward its target. The rabble-rousing senior said, “The level of militancy rose as we walked. Slogans changed from ‘Peace Now’ to ‘Power to the People!’” When they arrived at the downtown office building, the demonstrators climbed the usually quiet marble stairs to the local Selective Service offices on the 9th floor. Police met the demonstrators and blocked them from the offices at first, and then relented and allowed only four to enter. One of them was the assistant professor who asked that the draft board be shut down for the day. When officials refused, students responded, “we’ll leave if they do.”

Sometime during the afternoon word came of the deaths of four students at Kent State University, and a second wave of about 150 protesters started for the draft board building to hold a silent vigil outside.

Riot-helmeted police appeared at the other end of the corridor. Since some damage had been done to the building (a door kicked in), the protest was declared an illegal assembly, and police ordered the demonstrators to leave. A debate ensued between police and demonstrators about what to do, with eight protesters finally deciding to be arrested, including the two rabble-rousers. Another five were detained as they waited for the elevator to return. People returned to campus and began raising bail money. Others followed those arrested to the police station. By 6 pm, they had been released to their attorneys.

That evening nearly 200 demonstrators occupied the Military and Naval Science building and one of the spokespeople said the students were occupying the building to protest President Richard Nixon’s Indochina policy. Their demands included University amnesty for all students ar­rested at the draft board and a suspension of ROTC classes until the Indochinese war ended. They refused to leave until the demands were met. Their numbers swelled to nearly 1,000 over the course of the night.

Campus police had been present throughout the duration of the protest and reported no incidents. Several times during the night time occupation, representatives met with University administrators to hash out their demands and status of the protest. Finally, at 3 am, the president issued a statement saying that no campus rules had been broken and the students could remain in the building as long as they didn’t disrupt classes or destroy University property.

Organizers urged their comrades to stay in just one portion of the building and not to disrupt any classes. The demonstrators sat on the floor and munched down donuts which had been brought in for breakfast. Some ROTC students gathered on the upper level of the building and looked down on the protesters. No ROTC instructors showed up at 7:30 am and the ROTC students departed. Finally at close to 9 am, the University President arrived and threatened them with arrest if they didn’t leave in 15 minutes. The occupiers got up and left at 10 am.

North Dakota

University of North Dakota – Grand Forks

A loosely-organized group of students and faculty, calling itself the Strike Committee, issued the call Monday afternoon after learning of the Kent students’ deaths, which came during an anti-war demonstration on the Ohio campus. Over 4000 leaflets had flooded the campus by Monday night, including one which asked students to “remember those students and the cause for which they died. We must tell the U.S. government that it cannot make war on students. It cannot continue to make war on Vietnamese, Lao­tians and Cambodians.” Several petitions were also being circulated by students, one of which asked that impeachment proceedings against the President be initiated by the U.S. House of Representa­tives. That petition had almost one hundred signatures by late Monday night.


University of Oklahoma – Norman

With dissident activity slow to materialize on Oklahoma campus, Nixon’s announcement of his invasion of Cambodia, antiwar activities at the University of Oklahoma reached their zenith during May 1970.  There had been two efforts at damaging the US Military presence’s in the area; the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) building on the Norman campus suffered minor damage and the Selective Service office in Norman was firebombed, but also with little damage and no loss of draft records.


University of Texas – Austin

On the night of Monday, May 4 – the day that the Kent State killings occurred – antiwar student activists met and hammered out a list of demands for the march being planned for the next day. There were people from the SMC (Student Mobilization Committee), from a group called the Radical Alliance and from the “Austin Rag”, an underground newspaper. The demands reflected the national ones and one local one, which was “to oppose the growing aura of repression in Austin in particular against the Community United Front.”

New Mexico

University of New Mexico – Albuquerque

Actress and antiwar activist Jane Fonda spoke at a rally at the University of New Mexico on Monday and then led 150 students in a march to the home of UNM President Ferrel Heady on campus. Among their demands presented to Heady was removal of ROTC from the campus and more scholarships for Native American students. Although Heady agreed the Student Union Building could remain open as a meeting place, he refused to meet with the students and Fonda, triggering plans for a campus-wide strike the next day in protest of Cambodia and Kent State.

Over on campus, in front of Johnson Gym, a fight broke out over lowering the American flag to half-mast to commemorate the Kent State students. Administrators lowered all flags until tempers cooled down.


Washington State University – Pullman

At a rally Monday night in Rogers Field, nearly 500 students voted to not attend a neutral administration conference planned on American foreign policy, and instead marched into French Administration Building and occupied it. Joined by a few hundred more students, the occupiers sent demands to President Glenn Terrel and threatened not to leave until they were met.

The demands presented to Terrell from the occupying students called on the president to:

1)   Send a telegram to Pres­ident Nixon protesting the illegal and immoral aggression of the United states Army into the neu­tral country of Cambodia and protesting the use of National Guard troops on university cam­puses.

2) That the university support the National Student Assoc­iation’s sanctioned nation-wide one-day strike in protest of the invasion of Cambodia.

Nine hours later, Terrell faced the students for the first time and announced that he had cancelled classes for one day so that students, faculty and staff mem­bers can attend a teach-in on the U.S. entry into Cambodia. This was met with loud applause and shouts of “Power to the People!”

Terrell then read a telegram which he said would be sent to Presi­dent Nixon expressing the deep His final version stated:

“The recent events on the cam­pus of Kent State University and the extension of the war into Cambodia have created outrage and dismay on the part of a sub­stantial segment of the campus at Washington State University. You have observed similar re­actions across the nation. Many on our campus deplore the de­cision to send troops into Cam­bodia and the tragic death of the four students at Kent State.”

He also agreed to write a per­sonal letter to Nixon expressing his opposition to the war in Viet­nam.

University of Washington – Seattle

On Monday morning, 5,000-6,000 University of Washington students massed for a rally outside the Student Union at 10:30 in response to the national student strike call. When news from Kent State had permeated the crowd, its mood became instantly more intense. The crowd overwhelmingly approved a list of demands to be presented to the campus administration. One of them was a pledge by UW President Charles Odegaard to never call the National Guard onto campus. Others included an end to University complicity with the war effort, including military recruiting, ROTC, and war-oriented research. The students also demanded a statement by Odegaard condemning the slaying of the Kent four, and called for a mass student strike to begin the following day.

Rally protesters then formed a long column as they marched through campus, arriving at the Administration Building around noon. Odegaard appeared before them and expressed outrage over the shootings at Kent State. But he refused the strikers’ demands.

Angered by the University president’s response, the crowd voted to march en masse off campus and through the University District. As the massive throng, numbering 3 to 5,000, reached Northeast 45th Street, strike leaders began chanting, “Freeway! Freeway!” The march spontaneously surged towards Interstate 5 – thus instigating the very first anti-war occupation of a freeway (the actions at the University of Maryland did not include a freeway).

At 2 pm, the demonstrators reached the freeway and spilled out onto both sides of I-5, marching southward towards downtown. The protest blocked southbound traffic for over an hour and for several miles. There were no serious confrontations between students and motorists, with reportedly many motorists honking in support or flashing the peace sign.

At the Roanoke Street exit, the marchers were confronted by 30 riot-gear clad State Patrol troopers. The marchers voted to stage a half-hour sit-in on the freeway, and then departed the 5 going south on Eastlake Avenue East. They reached the Federal Courthouse in downtown near 4 pm, where they were joined by striking students from other colleges and high schools for an hour long rally.

Years later, one UW graduate recalled the impact of the Kent State shootings: “The entire nation gasped. Push had come to shove and shove had come to shooting. In a decade drenched in blood, nothing had quite the impact as the deaths of these four white students, alive one second amid the sunshine of a spring day on a Midwestern campus, sprawled dead or dying the next, their bodies ripped by the bullets of American soldiers no older than their victims.”


Stanford University

Stanford students had instituted a class boycott the week earlier and by Monday, it was estimated that at least 50 percent of Stanford’s students were boycotting classes. An administration official called it “well over 30%.” When the nationwide strike was first called, students blockaded several key buildings on the Palo Alto campus. By late Monday, 22 of the 35 departments in the School of Humanities and Sciences were backing the strike – this accounted for four-fifths of Stanford’s 10,000 students. Business school students, as well as law and medical students had joined the strike.

Scores of demonstrators held sit-ins at entrances to several buildings, including Encina Hall – the major administrative building – and the building that housed the ROTC offices, which prevented employees from coming to work. Army and Navy ROTC officers and staff did not return to their offices after lunch. A morning Navy ROTC drill ended in debates with protesters and the afternoon drill was cancelled.

Stanford President Kenneth S. Pitzer issued a statement saying, “strong feelings are loose on this campus and in the nation” over the U.S. move into Cambodia. He urged students to be peaceful and to re­spect the rights or those who wanted to attend classes. Many striking Stanford students joined 1,000 people who pa­raded through downtown Palo Alto behind Nobel laureate Linus Paul­ing and his wife.

UC San Diego

At 7:30 am, nearly 200 students engaged in the take-over of the fifth floor of Urey Hall, in a continuing series of protests on the San Diego campus against war research. The protesters’ goal was to stop war-related research at AMES offices and labs for one day. Chancellor McGill threatened to “secure” the building with San Diego police at noon, especially if more people joined the action. Another 50 people joined the occupiers and at 5 pm, the entire lot of the protesters left the building, chanting “US out of Asia now! End war research!” and joined up with another hundred on the ground floor. The entire crowd then moved to Revelle Cafeteria to avoid capture or photographs. (See “I was in a sit-in at UCSD when the news from Kent State came ..” )



{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Frances O'Neill Zimmerman May 4, 2020 at 5:53 pm

We were on the verge of moving from Cleveland to California for life, so we took off in the car to say goodbye to old friends in New York City during the first weekend of May. We drove into Manhattan at dusk to find streets awash with barricades and cops — cops on foot brandishing billy-clubs and cops high up on horseback — trying to push back throngs of angry young people — some long-haired and bearded, some beaded and barefoot — who were shouting and lobbing anything they could find at the police. Later that night, walking out on the town, clipboard petitions to the government were circulated for signatures at every corner, protesting Nixon’s unimaginable widening of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. The murders at Kent State were yet to come.


Peter Bohmer May 4, 2020 at 7:06 pm

Excellent and comprehensive article. Thanks Frank, Peter


Joni Halpern May 5, 2020 at 11:00 am

Wow! This surely brought back memories. I can recall the day of the Kent State shootings. I felt like it was a turning point in this country. When a country starts shooting its own kids, you know you have departed from decency. When the government of South Africa killed 700 kids and wounded 4,000 who were protesting the murder of Steve Biko, you know the government had reached the point of moral bankruptcy. It was the same with Kent State. But your comprehensive article was so thorough in pointing out the disarray among student opinions of what should be accomplished, as well as the solidarity that at least this terrible event should not pass without a prolonged and open dissent — so much different than clicking on a button and sending a pulse through the internet without any sacrifice at all. Thank you for this illuminating piece of work.


sealintheSelkirks May 5, 2020 at 3:09 pm

I noticed that there was no mention (did I miss it?) of the recovered cassette tape that a student took during the murders by setting out his tape deck on the window ledge of his dorm room facing. It was recently put through computer analysis to clean up and separate the voices from the background (the miracle of modern technology) and you can clearly hear the officer in Charge explicitly saying ‘READY, AIM, FIRE.’

Murder most foul and, as always the minions of the State are not held accountable for their actions. Those ‘guardsmen’ who could have refused to kill based on it being an ‘unlawful’ order since they weren’t being threatened and nobody else had guns, pulled the triggers and became murderers who were never punished. And I hope their nightmares still haunt them. Double for the officer in charge to ordered them to murder.

Kent State was the trigger that caused my stepmother to divorce my father, and by Fall I was homeless and on the street. Pebbles in a pond with the ripples going out…

This popped up yesterday, too:

Four Dead in Ohio
by Frank Joyce

A cut:
“Property owning white men (who control the country today no less than was the case in 1776) understand that virtually any systemic analysis or critique could easily lead to demands for systemic change. They don’t want that. For various reasons, neither do large numbers of ordinary citizens.

Media, politics, and educational institutions work to confine efforts for change within narrow boundaries. What’s allowed is mostly ritualized conflict between those who support the status quo and those who advocate for incremental and piecemeal reforms.”

We sure have NOT come a long way, baby. Same as it ever was. As that black woman walking an unleashed dog (HORRORS! CRIME!) found out, eh?



Frank Gormlie May 5, 2020 at 4:10 pm

I researched that over the years, but it’s beyond the scope of this narrative.


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