40 years since Kent State killings

I’m a few days late, but I thought it worth remembering that on 4th May 1970 the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students at Kent State University peacefully protesting the escalation of the Vietnam war by Richard Nixon. Four were killed.

The students had been protesting against the invasion of Cambodia, against the backdrop of revelations about the My Lai Massacre, in which hundreds of unarmed South Vietnamese civilians were murdered after being tortured and sexually abused.

As if the Kent State murders weren’t enough, the city and state Police opened fire on students again, ten days later at Jackson State University. This time two were killed, and more were injured.

The students here had been protesting many different issues, including the Kent State shootings, Vietnam, and continued rascism.

Here’s a song about the Kent State shootings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdVMGKOFIwY&feature=fvw


This is what we always have on our backs when we go out to protest.



~ by Wit on May 7, 2010.

6 Responses to “40 years since Kent State killings”

  1. It’s also worth remembering that at least one of the Kent State victims wasn’t a part of the protest. She’d been walking to class and stopped to see what was going on.

    It also wasn’t a completely peaceful protest. The students weren’t violent, but they were aggressive. This is not meant to justify the shooting in any way, but just to point out a difference between the campus protests of the late ’60s/early ’70s and many of the civil rights protests of the ’50s, which were peaceful to the point of passivity by deliberate design.

    (I did an essay for my undergraduate degree on the media portrayal of the Kent State shooting.)

    • Kendra, right? :D How’re you doing?

      True – one of the Jackson State victims was just passing by, too – not even a student. Carrying groceries, and behind the police lines. And others injured were in a dorm the polizei shot up. Crazy times.


      • Doing good, doing good. Working at UoN for the summer at least. How’re you doing?

        Relevant to the post: it was really interesting (to me) to read the different representations of the Kent State incident in the newspapers and newsmagazines from fairly soon after the attack, and try to pick apart the bias and slants that the journalists had.

        Also, I just finished reading Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, which has an interesting chapter on mental blindness that might be relevant: basically, when people are in (or put themselves in) high-stress situations, they lose the ability to make coherent judgments and even to see clearly. So if the riot officers had psyched themselves up to that point, they probably genuinely thought that they were in danger / being attacked.

        • I’m doing okay, pretty well. Research is ticking along and is still interesting. How’s UoN work? What are you up to there? Any teaching? Also – still thinking about the PhD? Applied?

          Vis Gladwell: I’m not sure I like this explanation (whether yours or his). It seems a way to use “science” to gloss over the institutionalisation of violence, the coercive basis of the State, rascism – both personal and institutional (in case of Jackson State), and a host of other problems. Perhaps Bush and Blair genuinely thought there were WMDs in Iraq, perhaps Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ and Nixon all really did think escalation of the Vietnam war and genocide of the vietnamese was a way to preserve freedom, perhaps Stalin thought he had good reasons for his purges and mass murders. What does it matter, in other words, what these people “thought”, or rather, what we think they thought? The causes are certainly much broader than the minds of individuals, the effects no less real, the subsequent cover-ups, secrecy, and lies no less revealing. The debate over the Kent State killings need not focus merely on ascertaining whether shots were or weren’t fired at the police (or further reifications of this argument, such as the Gladwell Q: did police think they were being fired at).


          • Nah, burned out on teaching after last fall and the major (for me) spate of depression. Now I’m working for RIS on REF preparation, and loving it. Can’t even afford to think about a PhD at the moment, but still keeping up a mini-hard drive of texts and articles for when that day comes….

            Glad to hear your stuff is going well!

  2. For the best eye witness accounts of the Kent State shootings by various Kent students and national guardsmen who shot students, check out the Emmy Award winning documentary, “Kent State, The Day the War Cam Home.” It was just released on DVD for the 40th anniversary. In its review of the program, The Hollywood Reporter stated, “This extraordinary hour long doc is so good, so well constructed, that it can’t help but leave viewers feeling as if they themselves were on the bloody scene of the Kent State carnage…”

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