Mrs. Dunlop and Dr. Hinch
8 February 2010
Kent State Shootings (Research Paper)
Faced with the problem of a violent protest, the Ohio National Guard chose to open fire into the crowd as a solution, but increasing security around the ROTC building and preventing its arson would have been a plausible solution. This event takes place in May of 1970 at Kent, Ohio. Richard Nixon has just been elected president, taking office in 1969. In the midst of the Vietnam War tension is high as many Americans begin to oppose the efforts overseas. The 37th president has just taken office, bringing with him a promise to end the war. In his address on April 30, 1970 he states, “Ten days ago, in my report to the Nation on Vietnam, I announced a decision to withdraw an additional 150,000 Americans from Vietnam over the next year. I said then that I was making that decision despite our concern over increased enemy activity in Laos, in Cambodia, and in South Vietnam.” In this same address he also tells of North Vietnamese troops occupying areas in the neutral country of Cambodia. Because of this, he announces an invasion into Cambodia, later known as the Cambodia Intrusion. After this announcement, protests break out on campuses across the United States. The protests held at Kent State University began May 1st where students gathered at the Commons to give radical speeches of opposition. “A copy of the Constitution was buried, signifying that it had been “murdered” when the President sent troops to Cambodia without the approval of Congress.” (Tompkins and Anderson 9). Later that night, students of Kent State University and residents of Kent gathered in the streets of downtown Kent to continue the protests. Kent Police tried to tame the crowd by shutting down bars in the area, which ended up adding more fuel to the fire. Bottles and rocks started being thrown at authorities, police were then forced to use teargas against the crowd. This eventually pushed them out of the downtown area and onto the Kent State campus. The Mayor of Kent, LeRoy Satrom officially declared a State of Civil Emergency. He then placed a curfew on the city of Kent beginning at 8:00 p.m. and lasting until 6:00 a.m. This curfew banned people from walking the streets. A 1:00 a.m. curfew was also put into effect on the Kent State campus. During this time, the University administration had conjured up a “John Doe” injunction, stating that anyone found participating in any form of violence on the campus would be in contempt of court. In addition to the injunction, 12,000 “student information sheets” were distributed on campus, these sheets further explained the injunction and clarified that students still had the right to peaceably assemble on the campus. (Tompkins and Anderson 20).
On May 2nd students gathered around the Victory Bell, located at the South Edge of the Commons, next to the campus ROTC building. The KSU police chief, Donald Schwartzmiller had requested assistance from both the Kent city police and Ohio Highway Patrol. The Kent city police denied his request on the grounds that they had some suspicion regarding an impending arson of some buildings in Kent, and the police were busy trying to protect those buildings. The Highway Patrol on the other hand, could be present, but due to restrictions could only respond once arrests could be made. Around 8:00 p.m. students began to walk across the commons to the campus ROTC building. Students began tossing Railroad flares and other types of combustible materials. Witnesses report that it took those responsible several attempts to actually set the building on fire. The building wasn’t fully ablaze until about 8:45. Twenty Ohio Highway Patrolmen had arrived just moments before, but had been instructed to guard the University President’s quarters instead of stopping the fire. (Gordon 56) After the arson of the ROTC building, Mayor LeRoy Satrom contacted the...