Kent State Massacre: If you dare to struggle, you dare to win

American civilians fleeing from National Guardsmen at Kent State University. (Steven Clevenger/Corbis/Getty Images)

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of student demonstrators who were on strike against President Richard Nixon’s announcement to expand the Vietnam War into Cambodia. The Kent State University students in Ohio had assembled a protest on university grounds of some 2,000 people, and the National Guard attempted to disperse the large crowd of demonstrators with a bullhorn, but could not be heard over the chants and protest songs of the students. At that time tear gas was fired into the crowd with grenade launchers to push the students back, whereupon the Guards advanced in formation to the athletic grounds. The protestors surrounded the Guardsmen and chanted slogans such as “Pigs off our campus!”

After the Guards had fired a pistol shot into the air and fired another volley of tear gas, the students parted and allowed the Guards to exit the athletic grounds, but trailed behind the military formation to ensure they did not lose any ground to the repressive forces. Without giving any verbal warning to the students taking back their positions, the National Guard fired into the crowd, in a volley which some eyewitnesses reported that “appeared to go on, as a solid volley, for perhaps a full minute or a little longer.” Many students did not disperse even after hearing the gunshots because they had been given no warning, and could not believe that they would be fired upon with lethal ammunition instead of blanks. Then the bodies started falling. Four students were fatally shot, Allison Krause, 19, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20, Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, and William Knox Schroeder, 19. Nine other students were injured. After the volley ceased, the would-be weekend warriors ordered the students to disperse or they would be fired upon once again.

(Photo: Kent State Library)

Over 700 students initiated a sit-down on campus to hold their ground. Adjutant Professor Glenn Frank ran onto the campus pleading for the students to disperse, yelling, “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!” The protest dispersed at that time and ambulances arrived to tend to the victims. 

The massacre triggered national outcry. 450 college campuses nationwide declared a strike and over 4 million students and workers protested the Kent State killings. Students at New York University flew a banner that read, “They can’t kill us all!” Only days into the strike, on May 8, 11 people were bayoneted by the New Mexico National Guard in a confrontation between students and Guardsmen at the University of New Mexico. In New York City, a massive protest with over 20,000 demonstrators clashed with construction workers belonging to a conservative trade union in what became known as the Hard Hat Riot. Hundreds of people were injured, including seven police, and six people were arrested but only one of them was one of the class traitor rioters. 

The nationwide strike and the continued violence against anti-war demonstrators all emanating from the Kent State Massacre had a profound impact on public opinion against the Vietnam War, and only three years later the US military was forced to withdraw its combat troops from Vietnam, supporting the South Vietnam government logistically for another two years, until that reactionary government fell and Vietnam was united under People’s Power. In the United States, several photographs detailing the shooting have become infamous for the horror created at the scene by the American repressive state apparatus. The culture of resistance of the 1970s, and in every popular manifestation since, has paid homage to a brutal reactionary crime perpetrated on American soil. On May 4, 1970, the wretched realities of reactionary terror and the menace of fascism came home for the American masses, and to this day it lingers like a prowling predator. 

The American Party of Labor solemnly pays its respects to every student and worker, of every political conviction, that opposed the Vietnam War and paid for their courage with their life, their liberty, and their happiness. Their banner is carried forward as Marxist-Leninists and popular forces today fight the same battles against apartheid, war, capitalist tyranny, and the social liberation of all oppressed classes and peoples.

Pigs Off Our Campuses!

Solidarity, Forever!

Not One Step Back!

No War Among Peoples, No Peace Among Classes!

Categories: History, United States History

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