The protest over the Vietnam War that was held at Kent State University, Ohio, in May 1970, made international headlines. Many protests against the war had been noisy but peaceful but as 1970 moved on, the protests took on a more violent aspect. Many universities held protests and the police in particular became targets for the protestors.
One such protest against the Vietnam War was scheduled to be held on Saturday May 2nd 1970. During this day one of the university’s buildings was burned to the ground. The next day was a lot quieter. However, the protest on Monday 4th somehow got out of hand.
National Guardsmen carrying rifles with fixed bayonets formed a line between the students and the burned out shell of a building. At this time there were students who were protesting but there were also students going to and from lectures or to the student lunch hall. Therefore, it has to be stated that not all those at Kent State were involved in the demonstration.
The students who were protesting were ordered to break up their protest and disperse. The National Guardsmen, who were outnumbered, fired tear gas at them. Witnesses claimed that they saw protestors throwing rocks at the Guardsmen who ran out of tear gas. They then fired live rounds on the students, killing four of them and wounding ten others.
The international consequences of this event were huge. In the previous few days the Governor of Ohio had publicly called the protestors communists and likened them to Hitler’s Brownshirts and said that they were:
“The worst type of people that we harbour in America.”
However, the images shown throughout the world barely showed this. The photograph of the body of Jeffrey Miller with a young lady by him screaming about the soldiers shooting the students made the front pages throughout the world. It was instances such as this that led Westmoreland to state that the media had effectively been of great help to the NLF during the war in Vietnam.
There were protests throughout America and many universities – said to be 450 – went on strike in support of the students who died at Kent State.