Monday, December 15, 2014

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio

America was divided. Richard Nixon was president and American soldiers were dying in Vietnam everyday. Many Americans considered this war to be unnecessary and unjust.

On college campuses across the country students were protesting this war. President Nixon held a deep and paranoid animus toward these protestors, which he called “bums’ and “communists.”

Setting more fuel to the fire that raged, Nixon announced in a speech on April 30, 1970 that his administration was authorizing a military invasion of Cambodia.

In this same speech he stated:

“We live in a time of anarchy, abroad and at home.”

He went on to state that he would not tolerate an attack on the “great institutions, which have been created by a free civilization in the last 500 years.” Especially he noted, “universities.”

Shootings at Kent State University

The governor of Ohio in 1970 was James Rhodes. He agreed with Nixon’s opinion of student protestors. He hoped to be Nixon’s vice-presidential running mate in 1972.

After Nixon’s speech on April 30th Kent State erupted with protects against the war and Nixon.

Governor Rhodes denounced these protestors as “un-American.” He promised that the National Guard would “restore order.” They did exactly this with grisly results.

On May 4, 1970 a small group of guardsmen without warning or provocation fired 67 shots in the direction of dispersing demonstrators.

Four students, 2 men and 2 women were killed. The victims were: Allison Krause, Jeffery Miller, Sandra Scheuer and Bill Schroeder. Nine other students were wounded.

This photo taken by John Filo of
 runaway Mary Ann Vecehio
kneeling by Jeffrey Miller's body.
This photo won the Pulitzer Prize that year.
Of the 4 killed two weren’t even there to protest the war. Scheuer was crossing the parking lot en route to her next class.

Schroeder, a campus basketball star, was actually a member of the campus ROTC recruitment center, which student protestors had burnt to the ground just 3 days before.

He had simply stopped near the protest to see what all the fuss was about.

The university banned any protests on campus after May 3rd but the students despite this rallied on May 4th. The guardsmen fired tear gas into the crowd but the 600+ students continued to rally.

The guardsmen afterwards stated they “genuinely feared for their lives.” They were armed, none of the students were.

Some people whom were in support of these killings stated it was the student’s fault. They stated the ROTC center being burned and rocks being thrown 3 days previous to May 4th was provocation enough.

Many however did not feel this way. People cautioned “mere words” and “non-violent protest” could get you killed.

Four Students killed

Reaction to the Kent State killings was swift.

Students at over 900 universities and colleges launched a fresh wave of protests--which resulted in the first successful student strike in U.S. history.

People all over the U.S. became bitterly divided over Kent State just as they were over the war.

Despite this controversy, the Kent State massacre did shock the national conscience. In the end it was probably the leading factor that forced the Nixon administration to wind down the Vietnam War more quickly than they originally intended.

Vice-President Spiro Agnew, a former prosecutor, stunned his fellow conservatives when he admitted, “while not premeditated, the guardsmen actions had constituted “murder.”

Even though there were two witnesses, both former marines and Vietnam vets, who reported seeing a guardsman officer drop his hand to signal his troops to fire upon the fleeing students, no officers were held legally culpable for this action.

These men had all removed their nametags that day.

Most of the lawsuits that were brought on behalf of the dead students were dismissed.

Allison Krause’s parents, who sued the state of Ohio, eventually received a token “apology” and $15,000 in cash as compensation.

The Shooting Victim’s Ghosts

Unfortunately, Kent State will always be associated with the tragic events of May 4. 1970.

For 35 years of the 44 years since these shootings occurred the campus administration did not officially recognize the anniversary of this tragedy--that is until the 40th anniversary.

Parents and others held unofficial anniversary ceremonies instead.

But there are other reminders in various places around Kent State’s campus that keep these victims tragic end in the forefront.

Since their deaths, many witnesses believe the spirits of these four students still haunt the university grounds.

Four cement slabs in the shape of rectangular boxes mark the exact spot where each of the 4 killed exactly fell. Apparitions have been seen hovering over these cement markers.

Cement Markers

More often though their apparitions are seen in the commons area where Stopher Hall once stood. It was in this building that the bodies of the 4 killed where placed for several hours after they were shot.

There have also been numerous accounts that these 4 haunt their former dorm or apartment rooms. It is said that Allison Krause’s dorm room in Engleman Hall is especially active.

Here is Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's famous song about this tragedy-- Ohio along with pictures of student protests of the time.

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