In an era characterized by social upheaval, a few events stand out. One of those tragic, landmark events that showcased the downward spiral of American society took place in our own backyard: the Kent State Shootings. As many of you know Lil Mogul attended Kent State University and as you can imagine you could not graduate without TOTALLY understanding the complete history of May 4, 1970.
It was 40 years ago today on May 4, 1970 and the Kent State campus was a figurative powder keg just waiting to explode. Anger over the Vietnam War, recently expanded into Cambodia, was at an all time high, especially among the young, who often had to watch their friends be drafted into the military and then sent off to war. College campuses all across the country went into chaos as students voiced their displeasure with policy.
However, among all those protests, it was nearby Kent State that would become the focal point of the nation.
The Kent State shootings were the culmination of four days of trouble. The first sign of unrest was on Friday, May 1st around midnight when a crowd of young people (who may or may not have attended that afternoon's war protest) exited a bar and started vandalizing downtown Kent. It took the police about an hour to restore order. Saturday saw Kent's then-mayor Leroy Satrom ask then-governor James Rhodes to send in the National Guard. By the time the National Guard arrived on the scene that evening, the Kent State ROTC building was ablaze as cheering students gathered. The Guardsmen used tear gas to disperse the rioters. On Sunday night, another protest turned riot saw the Guard in action again, using gas once more to disperse the mob.
Then came Monday, May 4.
A protest was already scheduled for noon that day as a follow-up to Friday's protest. Campus officials tried to stop the protest, but about 2,000 students gathered anyway. Orders to disperse were met with rocks. With trouble already brewing, the Guardsmen advanced, firing more tear gas, which had little effect because of the wind. Some students even picked up the canisters and threw them back at the Guardsmen. Finally, the protesters were dispersed, leaving the Guardsmen on a chain link fence-surrounded practice athletic field. Then the protesters began to reassemble.
This is where the events get cloudy.
According to some witnesses, the guardsmen looked nervous, with some talking in a small huddle, apparently deciding on a course of action. Some of the protesters began to hurl rocks once more. the guardsmen eventually retraced their steps along the route through which they initially dispersed the protesters. It was at this point that some of the students, according to witnesses, began to approach the soldiers again. It was when the Guardsmen were at the top of a small hill that 29 of the 77 suddenly turned and fired a total of 67 bullets at the students.
By the time the gunfire ended, four students, Sandra Scheuer, William Knox Schroeder, Allison Krause, and Jeffrey Miller were dead and 9 others were wounded. Two of the students, Scheuer and Schroeder, were not even among the protesters. To add more cruel irony to an already tragic event, Schroeder was attending Kent on a ROTC scholarship.
Immediately, accounts of the shootings spread across the country like wildfire. However, it was the photos that galvanized public opinion. Kent photojournalism student John Filo won a Pulitzer Prize for his photo of 14-year old Mary Ann Vecchio wailing over the body of Miller, who was killed instantly by a shot through the mouth. Of all the photos of the events at Kent State, it is this particular shot that would become iconic, and a long-running deception.
Read the complete article by Cleveland Photography ExaminerDennis Bodzash: Kent State Shootings 40 years later and the hidden history of an iconic image