Kent State shootings
|Kent State shootings|
John Filo's iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a fourteen-year-old runaway, kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller after he was shot dead by the Ohio National Guard.
|Location||Kent, Ohio, USA|
|Date||May 4, 1970
|Target||Kent State University students|
|Belligerent(s)||Ohio National Guard|
The Kent State shootings – also known as the May 4 massacre or Kent State massacre –  occurred at Kent State University in the city of Kent, Ohio, and involved the shooting of unarmed college students by members of the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.
Some of the students who were shot had been protesting against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Richard Nixon announced in 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 shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected the public opinion – at an already socially contentious time – over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.
Richard Nixon had been elected President in 1968, promising to end the Vietnam War. In November 1969, the My Lai Massacre was exposed, prompting widespread outrage around the world and leading to increased public opposition to the war. In addition, the following month saw the first draft lottery instituted since World War II. The war had appeared to be winding down throughout 1969, so the new invasion of Cambodia angered those who believed it only exacerbated the conflict. Many young people, including college students and teachers, were concerned about being drafted to fight in a war that they strongly opposed. The expansion of that war into another country appeared to them to have increased that risk, although the number of troops serving in Vietnam had peaked in 1967, well before that time. Across the country, campuses erupted in protests in what Time called "a nation-wide student strike", setting the stage for the events of early May 1970.
At Kent State University, a demonstration with about 500 students was held on May 1 on the Commons (a grassy knoll in the center of campus traditionally used as a gathering place for rallies or protests). As the crowd dispersed to attend classes by 1 p.m., another rally was planned for May 4 to continue the protest of Nixon's expansion of the Vietnam war into Cambodia. There was widespread anger, and many protesters issued a call to "bring the war home." As a symbolic protest to Nixon's decision to send troops, a group of students watched a graduate student burning a copy of the U.S. Constitution while another student burned his draft card.
Trouble exploded in town around midnight when people left a bar and began throwing beer bottles at cars and breaking downtown store fronts. In the process they broke a bank window, setting off an alarm. The news spread quickly and it resulted in several bars closing early to avoid trouble. Before long, more people had joined the vandalism and looting.
By the time police arrived, a crowd of 120 had already gathered. Some people from the crowd had already lit a small bonfire in the street. The crowd appeared to be a mix of bikers, students, and transient people. A few members of the crowd began to throw beer bottles at the police, and then started yelling obscenities at them. The entire Kent police force was called to duty as well as officers from the county and surrounding communities. Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom declared a state of emergency, called Ohio Governor James Rhodes' office to seek assistance, and ordered all of the bars closed. The decision to close the bars early increased the size of the angry crowd. Police eventually succeeded in using tear gas to disperse the crowd from downtown, forcing them to move several blocks back to the campus.
City officials and downtown businesses received threats while rumors proliferated that radical revolutionaries were in Kent to destroy the city and university. Mayor Satrom met with Kent city officials and a representative of the Ohio Army National Guard. Following the meeting Satrom made the decision to call Governor Rhodes and request that the National Guard be sent to Kent, a request that was granted. Because of the rumors and threats, Satrom believed that local officials would not be able to handle future disturbances.
The decision to call in the National Guard was made at 5:00 P.M., but the guard did not arrive into town that evening until around 10 P.M.. A large demonstration was already under way on the campus, and the campus Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) building  was burning. The arsonists were never apprehended and no one was injured in the fire. More than a thousand protesters surrounded the building and cheered its burning. Several Kent firemen and police officers were struck by rocks and other objects while attempting to extinguish the blaze. Several fire engine companies had to be called in because protesters carried the fire hose into the Commons and slashed it. The National Guard made numerous arrests and used tear gas; at least one student was slightly wounded with a bayonet.
During a press conference, Governor Rhodes called the protesters un-American and referred to the protesters as revolutionaries set on destroying higher education in Ohio. "They're worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes," Rhodes said. "They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. I think that we're up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America." Rhodes can be heard in the recording of his speech yelling and pounding his fists on the desk.
Rhodes also claimed he would obtain a court order declaring a state of emergency that would ban further demonstrations and gave the impression that a situation akin to martial law had been declared; however, he never attempted to obtain such an order.
During the day some students came into downtown Kent to help with cleanup efforts after the rioting, which met with mixed reactions from local businessmen. Mayor Satrom, under pressure from frightened citizens, ordered a curfew until further notice.
Around 8:00 p.m., another rally was held on the campus Commons. By 8:45 p.m. the Guardsmen used tear gas to disperse the crowd, and the students reassembled at the intersection of Lincoln and Main Streets, holding a sit-in in the hopes of gaining a meeting with Mayor Satrom and President White. At 11:00 p.m., the Guard announced that a curfew had gone into effect and began forcing the students back to their dorms. A few students were bayoneted by Guardsmen.
On Monday, May 4, a protest was scheduled to be held at noon, as had been planned three days earlier. University officials attempted to ban the gathering, handing out 12,000 leaflets stating that the event was canceled. Despite this, an estimated 2,000 people gathered on the university's Commons, near Taylor Hall. The protest began with the ringing of the campus's iron Victory Bell (which had historically been used to signal victories in football games) to mark the beginning of the rally, and the first protester began to speak.
Fearing that the situation might escalate into another violent protest, Companies A and C, 1/145th Infantry and Troop G of the 2/107th Armored Cavalry, Ohio Army National Guard (ARNG), the units on the campus grounds, attempted to disperse the students. The legality of the dispersal was later debated at a subsequent wrongful death and injury trial. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that authorities did indeed have the right to disperse the crowd.
The dispersal process began late in the morning with campus patrolman Harold Rice, riding in a National Guard Jeep, approaching the students to read them an order to disperse or face arrest. The protesters responded by throwing rocks, striking one campus Patrolman and forcing the Jeep to retreat.
Just before noon, the Guard returned and again ordered the crowd to disperse. When most of the crowd refused, the Guard used tear gas. Because of wind, the tear gas had little effect in dispersing the crowd, and some launched a second volley of rocks toward the Guard's line, too distant to have any effect, to chants of "Pigs off campus!" The students lobbed the tear gas canisters back at the National Guardsmen, who wore gas masks.
When it was determined the crowd was not going to disperse, a group of 77 National Guard troops from A Company and Troop G, with bayonets fixed on their weapons, began to advance upon the hundreds of protesters. As the guardsmen advanced, the protesters retreated up and over Blanket Hill, heading out of The Commons area. Once over the hill, the students, in a loose group, moved northeast along the front of Taylor Hall, with some continuing toward a parking lot in front of Prentice Hall (slightly northeast of and perpendicular to Taylor Hall). The guardsmen pursued the protesters over the hill, but rather than veering left as the protesters had, they continued straight, heading down toward an athletic practice field enclosed by a chain link fence. Here they remained for about ten minutes, unsure of how to get out of the area short of retracing their entrance path (an action some guardsmen considered might be viewed as a retreat). During this time, the bulk of the students congregated off to the left and front of the guardsmen, approximately 150 ft (50m) to 225 ft (75m) away, on the veranda of Taylor Hall. Others were scattered between Taylor Hall and the Prentice Hall parking lot, while still others – perhaps 35 or 40 – were standing in the parking lot, or dispersing through the lot as they had been previously ordered.
While on the practice field, the guardsmen generally faced the parking lot which was about 100 yards away. At one point, some of the guardsmen knelt and aimed their weapons toward the parking lot, then stood up again. For a few moments, several guardsmen formed a loose huddle and appeared to be talking to one another. The guardsmen appeared to be unsure as to what to do next. They had cleared the protesters from the Commons area, and many students had left, but many stayed and were still angrily confronting the soldiers, some throwing rocks and tear gas canisters. At the end of about ten minutes, the guardsmen began to retrace their steps back up the hill toward the Commons area. Some of the students on the Taylor Hall veranda began to move slowly toward the soldiers as the latter passed over the top of the hill and headed back down into the Commons.
At this point, at 12:24 p.m.,, a Sgt. Taylor turned and began firing at the students with his .45 pistol. A number of Guardsmen nearest the students also turned and fired their M1 Garand rifles at the students. In all, 29 of the 77 guardsmen claimed to have fired their weapons, using a final total of 67 bullets. The shooting was determined to have lasted only 13 seconds, although John Kifner reported in the New York Times that "it appeared to go on, as a solid volley, for perhaps a full minute or a little longer." The question of why the shots were fired remains widely debated.
A 2010 audio analysis of a tape recording of the incident by Stuart Allen and Tom Owen who were described by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as "nationally respected forensic audio experts" concluded that the guard were given an order to fire. The original 30-minute reel-to-reel tape was made by Terry Strubbe, a Kent State communications student who turned on his recorder and put its microphone in his dorm window overlooking the campus. It is the only known recording to capture the events leading up to the shootings. A copy was found in 2007 by Alan Canfora, one of the wounded, who located a copy of the tape in a library archive. According to the enhanced recording a male voice yells "Guard!". Several seconds pass. Then, "All right, prepare to fire!". "Get down!" someone shouts urgently, presumably in the crowd. Finally, "Guard! . . . " followed two seconds later by a long, booming volley of gunshots. The entire spoken sequence lasts 17 seconds. Strubbe himself disagrees with the experts findings saying "It was a really bad recording, It–s pure mud." Ronald Snyder who commanded a National Guard unit at Kent State not involved in shootings said ""You would never see anything in training that would say 'Guard, do this.' It would be like saying, 'Army, do this.' It doesn't make sense." 
The Adjutant General of the Ohio National Guard told reporters that a sniper had fired on the guardsmen, which itself remains a debated allegation. Many guardsmen later testified that they were in fear for their lives, which was questioned partly because of the distance between them and the students killed or wounded. Time magazine later concluded that "triggers were not pulled accidentally at Kent State". The President's Commission on Campus Unrest avoided probing the question regarding why the shootings happened. Instead, it harshly criticized both the protesters and the Guardsmen, but it concluded that "the indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable."
The shootings killed four students and wounded nine. Two of the four students killed, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller, had participated in the protest, and the other two, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder, had been walking from one class to the next at the time of their deaths. Schroeder was also a member of the campus ROTC chapter. Of those wounded, none was closer than 71 feet to the guardsmen. Of those killed, the nearest (Miller) was 265 feet away, and their average distance from the guardsmen was 345 feet.
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Two men who were present related what they saw.
Unidentified speaker 1: "Suddenly, they turned around, got underneath, as if they were ordered to, they did it all together, aimed. And personally, I was standing there saying, they're not going to shoot, they can't do that. If they are going to shoot, it's going to be blank."
Unidentified speaker 2: "The shots were definitely coming my way, because when a bullet passes your head, it makes a crack. I hit the ground behind the curve, looking over. I saw a student hit. He stumbled and fell, to where he was running towards the car. Another student tried to pull him behind the car, bullets were coming through the windows of the car.
"As this student fell behind the car, I saw another student go down, next to the curb, on the far side of the automobile, maybe 25 or 30 yards from where I was lying. It was maybe 25, 30, 35 seconds of sporadic firing.
"The firing stopped. I lay there maybe 10 or 15 seconds. I got up, I saw four or five students lying around the lot. By this time, it was like mass hysteria. Students were crying, they were screaming for ambulances. I heard some girl screaming, 'They didn't have blank, they didn't have blank,' no, they didn't."
Killed (and approximate distance from the National Guard):
Wounded (and approximate distance from the National Guard):
In the "Presidents Commission on Campus Unrest" they mistakenly list Thomas V. Grace, who is Thomas Mark Grace's father, as the Thomas Grace injured.
All those shot were students in good standing at the university. Immediately after the shootings, many angry students were ready to launch an all-out attack on the National Guard. Many faculty members, led by geology professor and faculty marshal Glenn Frank, pleaded with the students to leave the Commons and to not give in to violent escalation, saying:
"I don't care whether you've never listened to anyone before in your lives. I am begging you right now. If you don't disperse right now, they're going to move in, and it can only be a slaughter. Would you please listen to me? Jesus Christ, I don't want to be a part of this...!" After 20 minutes of speaking, the students left the Commons, as ambulance personnel tended to the wounded, and the Guard left the area.
Although initial newspaper reports had inaccurately stated that a number of National Guard members had been killed or seriously injured, only one Guardsman, Sgt. Lawrence Shafer, was injured seriously enough to require medical treatment, approximately 10 to 15 minutes prior to the shootings. Shafer is also mentioned in a memo from November 15, 1973. The FBI memo was prepared by the Cleveland Office and is referred to by Field Office file # 44-703. It reads as follows:
Upon contacting appropriate officers of the Ohio National Guard at Ravenna and Akron, Ohio, regarding ONG radio logs and the availability of service record books, the respective ONG officer advised that any inquiries concerning the Kent State University incident should be direct to the Adjutant General, ONG, Columbus, Ohio. Three persons interviewed regarding reported conversation by Sgt Lawrence Shafer, ONG, that Shafer had bragged about "taking a bead" on Jeffrey Miller at the time of the ONG shooting and each interviewee unable to substantiate such a conversation.
Photographs of the dead and wounded at Kent State that were distributed in newspapers and periodicals worldwide amplified sentiment against the United States' invasion of Cambodia and the Vietnam War in general. In particular, the camera of Kent State photojournalism student John Filo captured a fourteen-year old runaway, Mary Ann Vecchio, screaming over the body of the dead student, Jeffrey Miller, who had been shot in the mouth. The photograph, which won a Pulitzer Prize, became the most enduring image of the events, and one of the most enduring images of the anti-Vietnam War movement.
The shootings led to protests on college campuses throughout the United States, and a student strike – causing more than 450 campuses across the country to close with both violent and non-violent demonstrations. A common sentiment was expressed by students at New York University with a banner hung out of a window which read "They Can't Kill Us All." On May 8, an antiwar protest at New York's Federal Hall held at least partly in reaction to the Kent State killings was met with a counter-rally of pro-Nixon construction workers organized by Peter J. Brennan, later appointed U.S. Labor Secretary by President Nixon, resulting in the "Hard Hat Riot".
Just five days after the shootings, 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington, D.C., against the war and the killing of unarmed student protesters. Ray Price, Nixon's chief speechwriter from 1969–1974, recalled the Washington demonstrations saying, "The city was an armed camp. The mobs were smashing windows, slashing tires, dragging parked cars into intersections, even throwing bedsprings off overpasses into the traffic down below. This was the quote, student protest. That's not student protest, that–s civil war." Not only was Nixon taken to Camp David for two days for his own protection, but Charles Colson (Counsel to President Nixon from 1969 to 1973) stated that the military was called up to protect the administration from the angry students; he recalled that "The 82nd Airborne was in the basement of the executive office building, so I went down just to talk to some of the guys and walk among them, and they're lying on the floor leaning on their packs and their helmets and their cartridge belts and their rifles cocked and you–re thinking, 'This can't be the United States of America. This is not the greatest free democracy in the world. This is a nation at war with itself.'"
Shortly after the shootings took place, the Urban Institute conducted a national study that concluded the Kent State shooting was the single factor causing the only nationwide student strike in U.S. history – over 4 million students protested and over 900 American colleges and universities closed during the student strikes. The Kent State campus remained closed for six weeks.
President Nixon and his administration's public reaction to the shootings was perceived by many in the anti-war movement as callous. Then National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger said the president was "pretending indifference." Stanley Karnow noted in his Vietnam: A History that "The [Nixon] administration initially reacted to this event with wanton insensitivity. Nixon's press secretary, Ron Ziegler, whose statements were carefully programmed, referred to the deaths as a reminder that 'when dissent turns to violence, it invites tragedy.'" Nixon himself had talked of "bums" destroying US campuses, to which the father of Allison Krause stated on national TV "My child was not a bum".
A Gallup Poll taken immediately after the shootings showed that 58 percent of respondents blamed the students, 11 percent blamed the National Guard and 31 percent expressed no opinion. Here an unknown employee of the United States military who supported the actions by the National Guard. "I think that the guardsmen were provoked beyond reason. I believe that we used every conceivable effort to get the people to disperse and to move, long before the formation moved up to the hill. And we regret this as much as anyone, that people were killed and wounded. We even regret the fact that it was necessary to be here."
Karnow further documented that at 4:15 a.m. on May 9, 1970, the president met about 30 student dissidents conducting a vigil at the Lincoln Memorial, whereupon Nixon "treated them to a clumsy and condescending monologue, which he made public in an awkward attempt to display his benevolence." Nixon had been trailed by White House Deputy for Domestic Affairs Egil Krogh, who saw it differently than Karnow, saying, "I thought it was a very significant and major effort to reach out." In any regard, neither side could convince the other and after meeting with the students, Nixon expressed that those in the anti-war movement were the pawns of foreign communists. After the student protests, Nixon asked H. R. Haldeman to consider the Huston Plan, which would have used illegal procedures to gather information on the leaders of the anti-war movement. Only the resistance of J. Edgar Hoover stopped the plan.
On May 14, ten days after the Kent State shootings, two students were killed (and 12 wounded) by police at Jackson State University under similar circumstances, but that event did not arouse the same nationwide attention as the Kent State shootings.
There was wide discussion as to whether these were legally justified shootings of American citizens, and whether the protests or the decisions to ban them were constitutional. These debates served to further galvanize uncommitted opinion by the terms of the discourse. The term "massacre" was applied to the shootings by some individuals and media sources, as it had been used for the Boston Massacre of 1770, in which five were killed and several more wounded.
On June 13, 1970, as a consequence of the killings of protesting students at Kent State and Jackson State, President Nixon established the President's Commission on Campus Unrest, known as the Scranton Commission, which he charged to study the dissent, disorder, and violence breaking out on college and university campuses across the nation,
The Commission issued its findings in a September 1970 report that concluded that the Ohio National Guard shootings on May 4, 1970, were unjustified. The report said:
Even if the guardsmen faced danger, it was not a danger that called for lethal force. The 61 shots by 28 guardsmen certainly cannot be justified. Apparently, no order to fire was given, and there was inadequate fire control discipline on Blanket Hill. The Kent State tragedy must mark the last time that, as a matter of course, loaded rifles are issued to guardsmen confronting student demonstrators.
In September 1970, twenty-four students and one faculty member were indicted on charges connected with the May 4 demonstration or the ROTC building fire three days before. These individuals, who had been identified from photographs, became known as the "Kent 25." Five cases, all related to the burning of the ROTC building, went to trial; one non-student defendant was convicted on one charge and two other non-students pleaded guilty. One other defendant was acquitted, and charges were dismissed against the last. In December 1971, all charges against the remaining twenty were dismissed for lack of evidence.
Eight of the guardsmen were indicted by a grand jury. The guardsmen claimed to have fired in self-defense, a claim which was generally accepted by the criminal justice system. In 1974 U.S. District Judge Frank Battisti dismissed charges against all eight on the basis that the prosecution's case was too weak to warrant a trial.
Larry Shafer, a guardsman who said he fired during the shootings and was one of those charged told the Kent-Ravenna Record-Courier newspaper in May 2007: "I never heard any command to fire. That's all I can say on that," Shafer – a Ravenna city councilman and former fire chief – told the newspaper. "That's not to say there may not have been, but with all the racket and noise, I don't know how anyone could have heard anything that day." Shafer also went on to say that "point" would not have been part of a proper command to open fire.
Civil actions were also attempted against the Guardsmen, the State of Ohio, and The President of Kent State. The federal court civil action for wrongful death and injury, brought by the victims and their families against Governor Rhodes, the President of Kent State, and the National Guardsmen, resulted in unanimous verdicts for all defendants on all claims after an eleven week trial. The judgment on those verdicts was reversed by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on the ground that the federal trial judge had mishandled an out-of-court threat against a juror. On remand, the civil case was settled in return for payment of a total of $675,000 to all plaintiffs by the State of Ohio (explained by the State as estimated cost of defense) and the defendants agreement to publicly state they regretted what had happened:
"In retrospect, the tragedy of May 4, 1970 should not have occurred. The students may have believed that they were right in continuing their mass protest in response to the Cambodian invasion, even though this protest followed the posting and reading by the university of an order to ban rallies and an order to disperse. These orders have since been determined by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to have been lawful.
Some of the Guardsmen on Blanket Hill, fearful and anxious from prior events, may have believed in their own minds that their lives were in danger. Hindsight suggests that another method would have resolved the confrontation. Better ways must be found to deal with such a confrontation.
We devoutly wish that a means had been found to avoid the May 4th events culminating in the Guard shootings and the irreversible deaths and injuries. We deeply regret those events and are profoundly saddened by the deaths of four students and the wounding of nine others which resulted. We hope that the agreement to end the litigation will help to assuage the tragic memories regarding that sad day."
It is uncertain if the 2010 audio analysis of the tape that Canfora found that concluded that the guards were ordered to fire will lead to further legal action. According to Sanford Rosen, one of plaintiffs' attorneys in the civil case, the new revelations are maybe more about historical record than a legal matter. Because of the Double Jeopardy clause the guards can not be prosecuted again by the Federal Government although they could be by state and local authorities. Rosen noted guardsman could use the order as a defense. On May 10 Alan Canfora who with others are considering launching new civil actions, said he will ask United States Attorney General Eric Holder and Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to review the tape.
In the succeeding years, many in the anti-war movement have referred to the shootings as "murders", although no criminal convictions were obtained against any National Guardsman. Journalist I. F. Stone wrote
To those who think murder is too strong a word, one may recall that even Agnew three days after the Kent State shootings used the word in an interview on the David Frost show in Los Angeles. Agnew admitted in response to a question that what happened at Kent State was murder, 'but not first degree' since there was – as Agnew explained from his own training as a lawyer – "no premeditation but simply an over-response in the heat of anger that results in a killing; it's a murder. It's not premeditated and it certainly can't be condoned.
The Kent State incident forced the National Guard to re-examine its methods of crowd control. The only equipment the Guardsmen had to disperse demonstrators that day were M1 Garand rifles loaded with .30-06 FMJ ammunition, 12 Ga. pump shotguns, and bayonets, and CS gas grenades. In the years that followed, the U.S. Army began developing less lethal means of dispersing demonstrators (such as rubber bullets), and changed its crowd control and riot tactics to attempt to avoid casualties amongst the demonstrators. Many of the crowd-control changes brought on by the Kent State events are used today by police and military forces in the United States when facing similar situations, such as the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and civil disorder during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
One outgrowth of the events was the Center for Peaceful Change established at Kent State University in 1971 "as a living memorial to the events of May 4, 1970." Now known as The Center for Applied Conflict Management (CACM), it developed one of the earliest conflict resolution undergraduate degree programs in the United States. The Institute for the Study and Prevention of Violence, an interdisciplinary program dedicated to violence prevention, was established in 1998.
According to recently released FBI reports, one part-time student, Terry Norman, was already noted by student protesters as an informant for both campus police and the Akron FBI branch. Norman was present during the May 4 protests, taking photographs to identify student leaders, while carrying a sidearm and wearing a gas mask.
In 1970, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover responded to questions from then-Congressman John Ashbrook by denying that Norman had ever worked for the FBI – a statement Norman himself disputed. On August 13, 1973, Indiana Senator Birch Bayh sent a memo to then-governor of Ohio John J. Gilligan suggesting that Norman may have fired the first shot, based on testimony he [Bayh] received from Guardsmen who claimed that a gunshot fired from the vicinity of the protesters instigated the Guard to open fire on the students.
|Kent State Shootings Site|
|U.S. National Register of Historic Places|
|Location:||.5 mi. SE of the intersection of E. Main St. and S. Lincoln St., Kent, Ohio|
|Area:||17.24 acres (6.98 ha)|
|Added to NRHP:||February 23, 2010|
Each May 4 from 1971 to 1975 the Kent State University administration sponsored an official commemoration of the events. Upon the university's announcement in 1976 that it would no longer sponsor such commemorations, the May 4 Task Force, a group made up of students and community members, was formed for this purpose. The group has organized a commemoration on the university's campus each year since 1976; events generally include a silent march around the campus, a candlelight vigil, a ringing of the victory bell in memory of those killed and injured, speakers (always including eyewitnesses and family members), and music.
In 1990, twenty years after the shootings, a memorial commemorating the events of May 4 was dedicated on the campus on a 2.5 acre (10,000 m–) site overlooking the University's Commons where the student protest took place. Even the construction of the monument became controversial and in the end, only 7% of the design was constructed. The memorial itself does not contain the names of those killed or wounded in the shooting; under pressure, the university agreed to install a plaque near it with the names.
In 1999, at the urging of relatives of the four students killed in 1970, the university constructed an individual memorial for each of the students in the parking lot between Taylor and Prentice halls. Each of the four memorials is located on the exact spot where the student fell, mortally wounded. They are surrounded by a raised rectangle of asphalt featuring six lightposts approximately four feet high, with the student's name engraved on a triangular marble plaque in one corner.
George Segal's 1978 cast-from-life bronze sculpture, In Memory of May 4, 1970, Kent State: Abraham and Isaac was commissioned for the Kent State campus by a private fund for public art, but was refused by the university administration who deemed its subject matter (the biblical Abraham poised to sacrifice his son Isaac) too controversial. The sculpture was accepted in 1979 by Princeton University, and currently resides there between the university chapel and library.
An earlier work of land art, Partially Buried Woodshed, was produced on the Kent State campus by Robert Smithson in January 1970. Shortly after the events, an inscription was added that recontextualized the work in such a way that it came to be associated by some with the event.
On May 3, 2007, just prior to the yearly commemoration, an Ohio Historical Society marker was dedicated by KSU president Lester Lefton. It is located between Taylor Hall and Prentice Hall between the parking lot and the 1990 memorial. Also in 2007, a memorial service was held at Kent State in honor of James Russell, one of the wounded, who died in 2007 of a heart attack.
In 2008, Kent State University announced plans to construct a May 4 Visitors' Center in a room in Taylor Hall.
A 17.24-acre (6.98 ha) area was listed as Kent State Shootings Site on the National Register of Historic Places on February 23, 2010. The listing was announced as the featured listing in the National Park Service's weekly list of March 5, 2010. Contributing resources in the site are: Taylor Hall, the Victory Bell, Lilac Lane and Boulder Marker, The Pagoda, Solar Totem, and the Prentice Hall Parking Lot. The National Park Service stated the site "is considered nationally significant given its broad effects in causing the largest student strike in the United States history, affecting public opinion about the Vietnam War, creating a legal precedent established by the trials subsequent to the shootings, and for the symbolic status the event has attained as a result of a government confronting protesting citizens with unreasonable deadly force."
The best known popular culture response to the deaths at Kent State was the protest song "Ohio", written by Neil Young for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The song was written, recorded, and preliminary pressings (acetates) were rushed to major radio stations, although the group already had a hit song, "Teach Your Children", on the charts at the time. Within two-and-a-half weeks of the Kent State shootings, "Ohio" was receiving national airplay. Crosby, Stills, and Nash visited the Kent State campus for the first time on May 4, 1997, where they performed the song for the May 4 Task Force's 27th annual commemoration. The B-Side of the single release was Stephen Stills' anti-Vietnam war anthem "Find the Cost of Freedom".
There are a number of lesser known musical tributes, including the following:
Events 1950-1999 – Events Listed in Connexipedia – Military: Violence Against Civilians – Murder – Political Repressions – State-sponsored Violence – State Violence – United States History – Violence Against Civilians
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