Riot Policing at the Kent State Riot of May 4, 1970

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Riot Policing at the Kent State Riot of May 4, 1970 Twenty-five years ago this month, students came out on the Kent State campus and scores of others to protest the bombing of Cambodia-- a decision of President Nixon's that appeared to expand the Vietnam War. Some rocks were thrown, some windows were broken, and an attempt was made to burn the ROTC building. Governor James Rhodes sent in the National Guard. The units that responded were ill trained and came right from riot duty elsewhere; they hadn't had much sleep. The first day, there was some brutality; the Guard bayoneted two men, one a disabled veteran, who had cursed or yelled at them from cars. The following day, May 4th, the Guard, commanded with an amazing lack of military judgment, marched down a hill, to a field in the middle of angry demonstrators, then back up again. Seconds before they would have passed around the corner of a large building, and out of sight of the crowd, many of the Guardsmen wheeled and fired directly into the students, hitting thirteen, killing four of them, pulling the trigger over and over, for thirteen seconds. (Count out loud--one Mississippi, two Mississippi, to see how long this is.) Guardsmen--none of whom were later punished, civilly, administratively, or criminally--admitted firing at specific unarmed targets; one man shot a demonstrator who was giving him the finger. The closest student shot was fully sixty feet away; all but one were more than 100 feet away; all but two were more than 200 feet away. One of the dead was 255 feet away; the rest were 300 to 400 feet away. The most distant student shot was more than 700 feet from the Guardsmen. Some rocks had been thrown, and some tear gas canisters fired by the Guard had been hurled... ... middle of paper ... ...r courage and charged. Someone shouted "Link arms!" and five or six teenagers, me among them, joined to interpose our bodies between the attackers and demonstrators. The Brooklyn police, unlike those on Wall Street, or the National Guard in Kent days earlier, did not seek or condone the killing of children. They ran in and forced the attackers back. I was fifteen then and am forty now, but I have never had a finer moment in my life. It was the only moment in my life that I came close to living up to Gandhi's statement that "we must be the change we wish to see in the world." Here are the names of those who died at Kent State, so that they may not be forgotten: ALISON KRAUSE JEFFREY MILLER SANDRA SCHEUER WILLIAM SCHROEDER Bibliography: My source for many of the details in this essay is William A. Gordon, Four Dead in Ohio (North Ridge Books, 1995.)

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