Students remember 1970 Kent State shooting

KENT, Ohio -- Kent State University students held a vigil Saturday where four of their counterparts from another era were shot dead exactly 21 years earlier by Ohio National Guardsmen during an anti- Vietnam War protest.

The events of May 4, 1970, permanently scarred the campus. But the college south ofCleveland hasn't tried to cover up its past; rather, it has taken an active role in remembering the day and the era.


On the 20th anniversary last year of the shooting that left four dead and nine wounded, a memorial was dedicated.

And on Saturday, a 12-hour vigil was held at the spots where the four mortally wounded students fell to the ground in the parking lot of Kent's journalism building.

In 1970, Kent State was culturally distant from such campus hotbeds of protest as Columbia, Berkeley, Harvard and Ohio State, and the little-known Ohio school had been relatively untouched by the nation's growing unrest with the war.


Situated in a small town in a basically rural county in northeast Ohio, Kent State was quintessentially Midwestern.

That changed on April 30, 1970, when President Nixon announced the United States had invaded Cambodia.

The following day, Friday, campuses nationwide erupted in protest. In Kent, about 400 students attended a rally at midday at which a copy of the U.S. Constitution was buried.

That night, students rioted in the town, breaking windows in stores and pelting police officers and sheriff's deputies with rocks and bottles.

The following day, Kent Mayor LeRoy Satrom declared a curfew, ordered all bars closed and asked Gov. James Rhodes to send the Ohio National Guard to help police and sheriff's deputies keep order.

Shortly before the Guard arrived in Kent at 9 p.m., students started gathering on the Commons, a large open area at the center of the campus. They began to throw rocks at the ROTC building, on the western end of the Commons.

Rhodes went to Kent State Sunday morning and, after surveying the damage, compared the demonstrators to Nazis and ordered the Guard to break up any gathering, peaceful or not.

'We are going to employ every force of law that we have under our authority,' Rhodes said at a news conference. 'We are going to employ every weapon possible.'


The following morning, May 4, shortly before noon, students began tolling the Victory Bell on the Commons, as a call to a demonstration. About 250 to 300 actual 'demonstrators' gathered around the bell, but hundreds of others were on the periphery, watching. With the class break and the lunch hour, the crowd eventually grew, to an estimated 2,000.

A Guard jeep drove on to the Commons, with one of the guardsmen addressing the students through a bullhorn, ordering them to disperse. Several rocks were thrown, a few bouncing off the hood of the jeep, which then drove off the Commons.

The guardsmen then fired tear gas canisters, and some of the demonstrators began running south off the Commons, up Blanket Hill.

The guardsmen reached the crest of Blanket Hill, and saw hundreds of students, who had fled over the hill, gathered on the football practice field and a neighboring parking lot.

As the guardsmen reached the edge of the practice field, east of the crest of the hill, they continued firing tear gas, but students tossed the canisters back, as well as throwing rocks.

The guardsmen then began retreating up the hill and, when they reached the crest, several turned and faced the students on the practice field.


At 12:24 p.m., several guardsmen opened fire on the crowd, firing more than 60 shots.

Numerous investigations never conclusively established why they fired. Some witnesses said a lieutenant either gave a verbal order or made a gesture that was misinterpreted.

Others said one guardsman fired, followed by the volley a split- second later by the rest -- perhaps in reaction to rumors sweeping the campus that some students had weapons. No weapons were ever found.

All four of those killed -- Allison Krause, 19; Jeffrey Miller, 20; Sandra Scheuer, 20; and William Schroeder, 19 -- and most of the rest of those wounded were in or near a parking lot, between 100 and 130 yards from the guardsmen.

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