The Kent State Vietnam War Protests Research Paper

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The killings at Kent State in 1970 were outcome of a clash between the Ohio National Guard and Vietnam War protestors who had assembled at the University. Nixon had been elected to the White House in 1968 following the assassination of his opponent Robert Kennedy during the campaign. With the assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, and MLK, Jr., still fresh in the public consciousness, students were very vocal and critical of the government. Plus, students were upset about the ongoing draft and as well as the recent Mai Lai Massacre, which had outraged Americans at home. Many were especially suspicious of Nixon, who had pledged to end the Vietnam War but seemed to be going against that pledge when the U.S. began bombing Cambodia in 1970. In response to Nixon’s announcement of a Cambodian Incursion, students across the U.S. engaged in walk-outs, sit-ins and protests on campuses. Kent State students had long been active in protesting the War. They were frustrated and rowdy.

The day following Nixon’s televised announcement of the bombing of Cambodia, a rally was held at Kent State where hundreds of students demonstrated and protested Nixon’s actions. The crowds grew and turmoil hit the streets when a troublesome group began vandalizing the town. The Mayor of Kent called a state of emergency as the crowd clashed with police late into the night in the town. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, which was pushed back to the Kent State campus, where “most of the dissident groups” had formed, according to Governor Rhoades, who also reported that many business owners in town received threats of violence from protesters if they did not join in the protest (Means 46). There was a great deal of tension between student dissident groups and the townspeople.

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Rumors ran wild that Kent State students were plotting against the tow (Means 48). A curfew was put in place by the Kent Police Department and Rhoades declared, “We are going to eradicate the problem. We are not going to treat the symptoms” (Means 47). It was an ominous pronouncement that foreshadowed the deaths to come. By the time a fire broke out in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps building on the Kent State campus, the Ohio Army National Guard had already been called. Two days later on Monday, May 4th, 1970, “two thousand people had gathered in the vicinity of the Commons” and “many knew that the rally had been banned” by the University administrators who were anxious to disperse the growing crowds intersecting and merging on the campus from points all across the country (Kent State).

The college had become a focal point for a variety of activists, protestors, spectators and mischief makers. The….....

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Works Cited

Kent State. “Chronology of Events, May 1-4, 1970,” Kent State University, 2018.

Means, Howard. 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence. Da Capo Press, 2016.

Report of the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest. President’s Commission on Campus Unrest, 1970.

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