48 years ago today – The Kent State shootings occurred at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.
On Monday, May 4, 1970, anti-war protestors scheduled a rally for noon at the campus. University officials attempted to ban the gathering but proved unsuccessful in their efforts. As the protest began, National Guard members fired tear gas at the demonstrators. Due to wind, the tear gas proved ineffective. Some of the protestors threw the canisters, along with rocks, back at the soldiers.
Eventually seventy-seven guardsmen advanced on the protestors with armed rifles and bayonets. Protestors continued to throw things at the soldiers. Twenty-nine of the soldiers, purportedly fearing for their lives, eventually opened fire.
The gunfire lasted just thirteen seconds, although some witnesses contended that it lasted more than one minute. The troops fired a total of sixty-seven shots. When the firing ended, nine students lay wounded, and four other students had been killed. Two of the students who died actually had not participated in the protests.
Some of the students who were shot had been protesting the Cambodian campaign which President Richard Nixon announced during a television address on April 30.
Other students who were shot had been walking nearby or observing the protest from a distance.
There was a significant national response to the stunning shootings. Approximately 400 universities, colleges and high schools closed throughout the United States as four million students went on strike to protest this event. In addition, the shooting of unarmed college students further negatively affected public opinion over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.
Five days after the shootings, 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington, D.C., against the Vietnam war and the killing of unarmed student protesters.
In the photo below, Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway from New York, kneels over the body of 20 year-old Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.
The photo was taken by John Filo and won a Pulitzer Prize.