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Four Dead in Ohio



In 1970, the United States was at war with Vietnam in east Asia. President Nixon also ordered an invasion of Cambodia, a nearby country. For years, many people in America had been protesting the war in Vietnam. They didn't feel it was right for us to be fighting with the Vietnamese. They felt that the war we were waging was unfair, especially because Congress had never officially declared war.

A lot of these protestors were students, the youth of America. For years, they had been staging peaceful demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. However, these protests did not have the effect they were hoping for, and many people became frustrated with the lack of effect. When the president ordered US army troops to go to Cambodia, students across America thought this was a turn for the worse in the struggle to end fighting in Asia.

On the college campus of Kent State University, east of Akron, Ohio, students held protests too. Some of their protests were rowdy, because they were fed up. One night in May there were riots, as students took out their frustration. Some of them threw rocks at police cars, and lit bonfires in the streets. The police threw teargas to clear the crowds and scuffled with some students.


Hi! We were just in the neighborhood...

Not all students acted this way. But many of them were very angry and wanted to send a message to the school and the country that they were upset about the war. The night after these, many students decided to burn down the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) building on the school campus. The ROTC helped train some college students for service in the army. Protestors saw the ROTC building as a symbol of the school's support of the war effort in Vietnam, and this made them angry. They didn't think the school should have anything to do with the war.

They gathered at the building, but could not get it to burn. Then, very quickly, police and firemen showed up. The students and police scuffled until the students began to leave. Suddenly, they were face to face with the National Guard. This was very surprising. The National Guard is usually called in case of large riots and civil unrest. The students did not think they deserved this kind of treatment. To make matters worse, a few minutes after they saw the Guard, they also noticed that the ROTC building was completely on fire. How could it be burning to the ground when they couldn't even set it on fire before? And how could it be burning when the firemen had already showed up. Many people who were there at the time believe that the authorities set the fire themselves in order to make the students look bad.

Alan Canfora has always been, and will always be, an activist for positive change
You might think things could not get worse. Well, they did. The very next day, May 4, 1970, students gathered to protest the invasion of Cambodia AND the fact that the National Guard was on their campus. I spoke with Alan Canfora about those days, especially May 4th. He was there along with everyone else. He made a black flag and waved it out on the field with all of the other protestors on campus.

Student protestor Allison Krause died  here, 343 feet from the National Guard
The National Guard was on hand to make sure things didn't get out of hand. But the Guard took things much further than just teargassing students to make them stay back and go away. For thirteen seconds they shot at the students, with real bullets. Alan was shot in the wrist before he hid behind a tree. It saved his life. Four students were not so lucky. They were killed. Eight other students were injured.

A young girl screams over Jeffrey Miller's fallen body
None of these protestors had any weapons. They may have yelled at the Guardsmen. They may have thrown rocks from far away. But they did not attack the Guard. Why did the Guard shoot them? Was this the right thing to do? Most people in America did not think so. Most people thought the Guard used "excessive force" against the students.

Can you imagine something like this happening today?


Please email me at: rebecca@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Jennifer - Students united can never be divided