ENGLISH

 

 

 

50 years ago ...

4th of May 1970

Kent State Shootings

USA

50 years ago today, the US National Guard opened fire on thousands of thousands of anti-war protestors at the Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, murdering 4 students and wounding another 9 and dragging the country into further unrest in the struggle against the American imperialist wars in Indochina.

The events that led to the fascist massacre began when Richard Nixon, who based his 1968 presidential campaign on ending the Vietnam War, revealed his true colors and launched the US invasion of Cambodia (after secretly bombing it and replacing their Prince with the pro-US fascist government of Lon Nol), a move that angered millions of people nationwide and demons and prompted thousands of protestors to take to the streets and campuses.

On May 1st, the day after Nixon announced the "Cambodian Incursion", over 500 students at the Kent State University protested on the Commons. Many of the protestors shouted "Bring the war home!" and a group of history students buried a copy of the US Constitution to symbolize that Nixon had killed it. However, they dispersed at 1pm to attend their classes and planned for an even larger demonstration on May 4th. In addition, a few anti-war protestors vandalized different buildings and businesses for several days and their actions were used by the bourgeoisie to defame the protestors and victimize themselves.

The next day, after hearing, among other rumors, that the army recruitment center and ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) building would be attacked, Mayor Satrom ordered the US National Guard to intervene. By the time they got there, there was a large demonstration at the university campus and the ROTC building was on fire (though the FBI later concluded that it wasn't caused by the student protestors) and they launched tear gas at the protestors, arrested several of them, and at least one was wounded by a bayonet.

The next day, Ohio Governor Rhodes made a speech, during which he pounded on his desk and called the anti-war protestors "un-American", saying:

"They're worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders (another name for the Ku Klux Klan) and the vigilantes. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America." - Governor Rhodes

He also claimed that he would gain an order to declare a state of emergency in order to prevent further demonstrations and quite possibly impose martial law, but he never went through with it. Another rally took place at 8pm that night, but the National Guard drove them out with tear gas and they withdrew to the intersection at Lincoln and Main where they staged a sit-in hoping to negotiate with Mayor Satrom and University President White, but the National Guard announced that a curfew had taken place and drove out the protestors, bayoneting a few of them in the process.

Finally, on May 4th, the largest protest took place at noon. Despite the university's attempts to ban the demonstrations and trick people into thinking it was cancelled, over 2,000 protestors were present and began the demonstration by ringing the Victory Bell on the Commons.

In response, a campus patrolman drove to the crowd in a National Guard jeep and told the protestors to disperse before being forced to retreat after the protestors began throwing rocks at them. The National Guard then returned in larger numbers and repeated their orders to the protestors. When the majority of them refused, the National Guard launched tear gas at them (with little effect due to the strong winds that day) and the protestors answered them by throwing rocks and the tear gas canisters back at them and shouted "Pigs off campus!"

Soon, 77 National Guardsmen fixed their bayonets and advanced on the protestors, forcing most of them to retreat from the Commons and up to Blanket Hill and eventually to Taylor Hall and nearby Prentice Hall while some were continuing to throw rocks and tear gas canisters back. Instead of following them, the guardsmen headed for the practice field and faced the parking lot, eventually heading back to the Commons and some of the protestors at Taylor Hall headed towards the guardsmen. While climbing back on Blanket Hill, the guardsmen turned and faced the students at the Prentice Hall parking lot.

At 12:24pm, Sargent Myron Pryor pulled out his pistol and began indiscriminately firing at protestors and students and at least 29 of the 77 guardsmen soon fired onto the crowd as well and fired a total of 67 rounds. Here were some eyewitness accounts of the shootings:

Eyewitness 1:

"Suddenly, they turned around, got on their knees, as if they were ordered to, they did it all together, aimed. And personally, I was standing there saying, they're not going to shoot, they can't do that. If they are going to shoot, it's going to be blank."


Eyewitness 2:

"The shots were definitely coming my way, because when a bullet passes your head, it makes a crack. I hit the ground behind the curve, looking over. I saw a student hit. He stumbled and fell, to where he was running towards the car. Another student tried to pull him behind the car, bullets were coming through the windows of the car.

"As this student fell behind the car, I saw another student go down, next to the curb, on the far side of the automobile, maybe 25 or 30 yards from where I was lying. It was maybe 25, 30, 35 seconds of sporadic firing.

"The firing stopped. I lay there maybe 10 or 15 seconds. I got up, I saw four or five students lying around the lot. By this time, it was like mass hysteria. Students were crying, they were screaming for ambulances. I heard some girl screaming, 'They didn't have blank, they didn't have blank,' no, they didn't."


When it was over,

4 students were dead and

9 were wounded:

 

Jeffrey Glenn Miller

- 20 year old student protestor.

 

Allison Beth Krause

- 19 year old student protestor.

 

William Knox Schroeder

- 19 year old student who was simply walking to his next class when the shootings began.

 

Sandra Lee Scheuer

- 20 year old student who was also trying to get to her next class.


Wounded:

Joseph Lewis Jr.

John R. Cleary

Thomas Mark Grace

Alan Michael Canfora

Dean R. Kahler - He was permanently paralyzed from the chest down.

Douglas Alan Wrentmore

James Dennis Russell

Robert Follis Stamps

Donald Scott MacKenzie


The shootings made the students very angry and many were preparing to launch a full attack on the guardsmen, before being persudaded against it by the university faculty. The protestors then dispersed and so did the National Guard. Kent State soon closed down and remained so for 6 weeks.

The bourgeoisie quickly moved in to cover-up and falsify the shootings. Nixon called the anti-war protestors "bums", to which Krause's father responded "My child was not a bum." One officer claimed that they were attacked by a sniper and the newspapers falsely reported that some of the guardsmen were also killed. Despite this, several of the photos taken at the massacre, such as the famous photo of Mary Ann Vecchio mourning for Jeffrey Miller, deeply angered the country and strengthened the protest movement. Both violent and non-violent protests and student strikes involving thousands of students chanting "They can't kill us all!" among other phrases and forced 450 campuses to close down.

On May 8th, 11 protestors in the University of New Mexico were bayoneted by the National Guard and on that same day, anti-war protestors in New York were attacked by members of yellow construction unions affiliated with the bourgeois and pro-war AFL-CIO, who were pro-war and organized the attacks on the protestors. The next day, over 100,000 attended an anti-war rally in Washington DC and even forced Nixon to flee to Camp David.


Back at Kent State, 24 students and one faculty member, identified from photos of the massacre, were accused of setting fire to the ROTC building a  couple of days before the shootings and indicted for various bogus charges before being released for lack of evidence.

8 guardsmen were also indicted by a grand jury, but they claimed that they acted in "self-defense" and they were released. Additional efforts to punish the 8 guardsmen were quickly dropped and the all the victims and their families got was $675,000 from the state of Ohio after they sued Governor Rhodes, President White, and the National Guard.

To this day, the events of the Kent State Shootings are falsified by bourgeois historians and its victims will only receive justice with the final overthrow of the world bourgeoisie and the end of all imperialist wars.