Every year on this date, a somber anniversary rolls around which which we would all do well to never forget. It was on this day in 1970 when anti-war protesters at Kent State University were confronted by members of the Ohio National Guard. Thirteen seconds and 67 bullets later, more than a dozen of the students had been shot, leaving four dead and another permanently paralyzed. Two of the dead weren’t even taking part in the protest, but were passing through the area from one class to the next. One of them was an ROTC member. The names of those killed are:
Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20
Allison B. Krause, 19
William Knox Schroeder,19
Sandra Lee Scheuer,20
The story of the Kent State shooting is far more complex than many people on either side of the debate might care to concede. (And it’s a debate that goes on to this day.) The event is frequently portrayed as a simple gathering of peaceful protesters who were attacked by the National Guard, but there’s a lot more to the story which must be kept in mind if we’re evaluate it honestly. Trouble and violence had begun three days earlier, with a campus protest which later that night spilled out into the streets of Kent, with drunken protesters – reportedly mixed with bikers and transients – setting fires and hurling bottles and rocks at police. These disturbances grew over the next two days, leading to the decision to call in the National Guard in the first place. On the day of the shootings, another group had defied an order to disburse and were again throwing rocks and other objects at guardsmen and police.
But even for all that, the event should never have been allowed to spiral out of control the way it did. Events were mishandled at every level, and in the end there is no disputing the fact that armed soldiers wound up opening fire on students with no firearms from a range of a couple hundred feet in most cases. And despite the behavior of some of them, the students were engaged in exercising their right of free speech and protesting the government’s policies. Being shot dead on campus grounds by government troops was not the end they deserved and remains a stain on our nation to this day. It’s a sad lesson which we should always keep in mind and important reminder for elected officials at every level. Something like this should never happen again.
For those who happen to visit the area, Kent State’s May 4th visitor center opened last year and provides a study of the events of that horrible day.