Something terrible happened on May 4, 1970.
Neil Young brings it home in this concert, taking us back to the day that it happened.
Zinn Education Project: Kent State Massacre
At Kent State University, the Ohio National Guard shot unarmed college students — some who were protesting the war and others who were passing by. The guards fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students (Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Knox Schroeder) and wounding nine others.
Howard Zinn wrote in You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train about the massacre and meeting the family of one of the four students.
The Cambodian Invasion provoked nationwide protests, and on the campus of Kent State University, in Ohio, trigger-happy National Guardsmen fired into a crowd of unarmed student demonstrators, killing four of them, crippling another for life. A photo flashed around the world showed an unarmed young woman, her face anguished, bending over the body of one of the dead students.
On television I saw the father of one of the victims, Allison Krause, barely able to control his grief, pointing to the fact that President Nixon had referred to student protesters as “bums.” He cried out, “My daughter was not a bum!”
A few years later, when some visiting parents were sitting in on the introductory session of my course “Law and Justice in America,” I handed out the syllabus, which included as one of the course topics the shootings at Kent State. At the end of the session, one of the new students came up and introduced herself and her parents. She was Laurie Krause, the sister of Allison Krause. I recognized her father from the television screen and felt a pang of unease that their unspeakable grief was represented so matter-of-factly on a course syllabus. But they seemed to appreciate that the Kent State affair was not forgotten.
The spring of 1970 saw the first general student strike in the history of the United States, students from over four hundred colleges and universities calling off classes to protest the invasion of the Cambodia, the Kent State affair, the killing of two black students at Jackson State College in Mississippi, and the continuation of the war.
Now, children are massacred at their schools. Ho-hum, another “school shooting”.
At least then we called it what it was. A massacre.
Cops were “pigs” and the CIA was out of hand, and neither were to be trusted. Then, for awhile, cops semi-redeemed themselves, at least in white middle class circles, and even the CIA seemed to have been reined in.
50 years later and George Floyd is murdered in plain sight, cops are more out of control than ever, they are faux soldiers with their war toys, authoritarians trying to control “the enemy”, authoritarians creating violence at peaceful protests. I wonder what would have happened during George Floyd summer, if Joe Biden had been president. I like to think things would be different.
I want to say that maybe it’s time for another general student strike across the country. But now people who protest go into it knowing the horrors of history, and what can happen.
Sometimes Full Circle is a good thing, but not for this.
Dorothy A. Winsor
Kent State is burned into my brain. I was at U of Michigan on the day it happened. I’d just returned for the summer half term. I sat with friends staring at the TV, trying to make sense of it.
Devo has a cover of “Ohio” and for good reason.
Posted the following in A.L.’s 5/4 open thread, but is probably more pertinent here:
Mike in NC
Old enough to remember Nixon calling the dead students “bums”. If FOX News had been around back then, imagine the fascist push back against the anti-war movement. Hannity and the rest would be out there calling for more bloodshed. That was before every other wingnut in America had an assault rifle in their bedroom closet.
I was a senior in high school at the time. This brings tears and strong memories. We thought we were a generation that would bring change. This was such a shock to us at the time and so devastatingly sad.
Thank you, WaterGirl. Great post.
Neil Young. . . The best of the best.
Challenge to WI’s 1849 abortion law being argued in court today. Josh Kaul is arguing that subsequent WI legislation on abortion superseded the 1849 ban. With the new Supreme Court, this action has a real chance of working.
On the primary topic, I was just about to finish kindergarten when Kent State happened.
I remember Kent State. I was working as a work study student at General Dynamics in Fort Worth, TX. I remember the next day listening to the talk around the coffee machine where the engineers were saying the dead students deserved what they got. I was shocked by their callousness. I went out after work and put a peace sticker on my car. In a small way that event catalyzed my opposition to the Vietnam War.
I had been thrown out of the University of Illinois and hitched around out west. I’d go down to Urbana on weekends and I met my ex in an anti-war demonstration earlier that spring. I was going to the College of DuPage when Kent State happened and I honestly thought we were going to a shooting war. I called her and told her to stay put and drove down there like a madman (which I was). We did some pretty intense “protesting” but avoided more gunfire.
I was born in ’66, and seeing this on the news is one of my earliest clear memories. That, and getting my Mickey Mouse gumball machine for christmas.
@raven: You need to write your memoir. You have had quite a life!
@schrodingers_cat: I had only been home from Vietnam since September and I was extremely angry as it was. Kent State really set me off.
@schrodingers_cat: Here’s a pretty good article about that time at Illinois.
In this vein, allow me to pass along this: ‘Malice or ineptitude’: probe into cop killing of eco-activist frustrates family
Calling it frustrating is the understatement of the year:
Yeah, they screwed up and uncritically accepted the cops’ story and put it out before the investigation was anywhere near complete and now they are trying to engineer the evidence in an attempt to obfuscate what really happened. Which is that when you surround a hundred or so peaceful protestors with armed trigger happy thugs and say “Round up those *terrorists*,” yeah, they’re just vermin.
Some irony to spice up your morning. Pittsburgh has just hired a new chief of police. Former Pittsburgh cop, white dude came up through the ranks in the city. Eventually, he applied for the chief job in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and was hired. Lasted all of 6 months there before getting fired for hiring and promoting too many minorities. The mind, it boggles. Anyway, hopefully this is a positive sign for policing in the ‘Burgh.
I’m guessing that one of the things that made Kent State such a huge moment in US history is that it was probably the first time viewers got to see police brutality against white kids, right there on their tv. Much harder to hand-wave away or defend then say the police behavior during the Watts Rebellion, which sadly I’m sure, many people simply dismissed with victim-blaming. Kent State (and other horrible police responses to Anti-War protests) probably helped a lot of white people finally start accepting the truth about our police.
Agreed. We should have a thread for possible book titles. No
Stairway to HeavenFuck LBJ.
@Al Z.: Didn’t know that until this moment but it makes perfect sense. Devo may be one of the angriest bands in the world, right under the surface, and Ohio made them.
“Four Dead in Ohio.” Never fails to bring me to tears. I was 14 and not very political, but this was probably the moment when I decided I was not going to follow my parents as Republicans. It wasn’t until 40 years later that my dad admitted the war was a mistake.
@Baud: How about “Fuck LBJ and Nixon”?
@geg6: I have to say, I have had two interactions with Pittsburgh Police since moving here, and they have both been extremely positive. The first year we were here, Spawn the Younger’s bike got stolen, and we were just going to drop the issue and replace it. But the police found a bunch of stolen bikes in the backyard of a neighbor, and an officer knocked on the door and returned it. When the crazy methhead broke in, the police were very helpful to us, and the officer who was in charge and ultimately arrested him some months later is a black woman. I hope she is treated with respect by her superiors and her fellow officers. From all of my interactions with her, she was professional and responsive.
TARRIO: GUILTY OF SEDITIOUS CONSPIRACY. Verdicts in in the Proud Boys trial. The others, except Pezzola, all guilty of seditious conspiracy as well. All were convicted of obstruction of Congress.
@Omnes Omnibus: Moving up the food chain.
I was 11 and my oldest brother was a student at Pitt at the time. The previous year, he’d been arrested in a protest where some of the students chained themselves to the doors of the law building. After Kent State, I remember begging him not to protest any more.
@Omnes Omnibus: Hmmm. I am seeing a poodle in a chair. Not that that’s not far superior to Tarrio’s mug.
Find the cost of freedom buried in the ground
Mother earth will swallow you,
lay your body down
Find the cost of freedom buried in the ground
Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down
I’ve never had a problem or seen with my own eyes a problem with the city cops. But I know enough people and have seen enough news reports to know that my experience as a white woman is definitely NOT the same experience everyone has had with them. I have to say I find it refreshing to have a top cop who is too sympathetic to minorities. Having a Black mayor may be a better thing than I thought.
Good thing I provided a brief summary then.
I don’t want to pretend school shootings are OK, but there is a qualitative difference between them and the Kent State massacre. School shootings are carried out by private individuals acting on their own twisted motives. That’s obviously abhorrent, and we need to do everything in our power to stop it, but it doesn’t fundamentally strike at the heart of government power. Kent State was carried out by agents of the state in an attempt to prevent people from exercising their constitutional rights. It was a blow to our constitutional order, which made it much more serious.
If you want to draw a comparison to a contemporary event, a better one would be the police response to the George Floyd protests. There again, agents of state power acted under color of law to suppress people exercising their constitutional rights. It’s a sign of just how illegitimate police power is.
@Omnes Omnibus: Indeed.
Convicted, and it’s not even lunch time yet. Moar of this.
ETA: And mind you, it is an attractive poodle.
@geg6: Are you in Pittsburgh? We just came back from our trip to WV for MIL’s funeral, sadly, but one highlight is that it gave me the opportunity to finally show my wife a little bit of the Steel City. My Dad’s family is all from there and it was my regular destination for holidays as a kid, but my wife had never been there before. We had limited time but we were able to visit and ride the Duquesne Incline (my wife loves funiculars) and I showed her my Grandparents’ old house on Spring Hill. She absolutely loved the former-industrial vibe of the city, the bridges, architecture, old brick streets etc. I hadn’t been back since ’99 so it really felt like going back home :)
@Omnes Omnibus: Thanks Garland!!
Try to have some empathy for those National Guard kids. They shouldn’t have been given live ammo. It was not common practice. And a lot of them had only cursory training on how to handle weapons. Most of those kids were only able to stay out of that war (and/or afford college) because they joined the Guard. They were victims too.
The blame belongs to that coward Governor Rhodes and his authoritarian leaning advisors who called out the guard instead of local sheriffs to handle the problem. Rhodes was paving the way for other governors and experimenting with pitting the poor kids against the “wealthier” kids who didn’t need to join the Guard to stay in school and keep their deferments. The warhawks wanted a compliant population of kids to use as cannon fodder and the protestors (and liberal media) were fucking that up for them. There has been a decades long coverup of the arson on campus and who started the shooting and the involvement of the FBI, CIA and NSA who were attempting to infiltrate the SDS and discredit them in any way they could. Divide and conquer works and in this case the grievances created that day to benefit the war profiteers are still reaping profits for them decades later.
Technically, I’m not in Pittsburgh. But I am a Pittsburgher no matter what. I live in Beaver County, just about 15 minutes from the airport and about 30 miles northwest of the city.
I love the ‘Burgh with all my heart. Such a vibe.
@artem1s: Tommy the Traveler.
@geg6: My son started his career as a Pittsburgh patrolman. We went to his swearing in a few years ago and I was happy to see they were commenting on the diversity in the group of officers they hired that day. Seemed like a good outfit to me.
He’s moved on to Bethel Park; better pay and opportunity for promotion.
@Omnes Omnibus: There might come a day when others here will view your statements with the respect they deserve. Trying to think of a time your prognostications have proven incorrect.
@Omnes Omnibus: Holy fuck. That gave me goosebumps.
@geg6: I have been very pleased with Mayor Gainey so far.
I am sure that my experiences with PGH Police are not representative. I will note that I had some negative interactions in police in Mesa and Phoenix. Mesa realized that there was a lot of fucked-up shit happening with racial bias, and they hired George Gascón as the Chief of Police for a while. Phoenix Police is still a fucking shitshow.
I thought we would win the House and gain more in the Senate in 2022 than we did. But thank you for the kind words.
@Omnes Omnibus: Well, so did I. But we were close. And I am speaking more regarding things legal.
James E Powell
I have several times suggested that raven’s life should be a ten episode Netflix series, but he doesn’t appear interested in the project. I’m not an ‘unauthorized biography’ person, so I guess we’ll have to let the idea drop.
@Roger Moore: I think one could argue that Uvalde was also a decent (though imperfect) comparison based on the inaction of the police, literally just standing by and letting the massacre happen. In the US, this has often been the way our police are complicit in mass violence.
I really like Gainey. He seems a pretty down to earth dude. I find him a breath of fresh air.
No empathy for the National Guard. ‘Twas a scant four days later when guardsmen were indiscriminately bayoneting people during protests at the University of New Mexico.
My loathing of Nixon reached new intensity when he met at the White House with participants in the the so-called Hard Hat Riots in NYC which took place days after Kent State, and accepted a commemorative hard hat.
@YY_Sima Qian: Are you talking about the Jiaozhou Bay Leased Territory? Which the Japanese had already occupied in Nov 1914 after a 2 month siege of Tsingtao (now Qingdao).
I was just a kid when this happened, 9 years old, but I remember it and being horrified that it happened. My sister did a project about it for a history fair, and it got picked to go to the national fair in Washington, D.C. I asked her years later about it but she didn’t remember any details of her research. Even at 9 I realized how tense the country was about Vietnam at that time.
@Baud: That’s a good working title.
@James E Powell: I see an arc that is several seasons long. We can crowdsource it by doing a deep dive in BJ archives. With raven’s permission, of course.
@schrodingers_cat: I’m sure no one would be even slightly interested.
@raven: Look at the interest in this comment section! I am serious, I definitely would be interested if you write a memoir. Over the years you have shared so many interesting stories.
I was in high school when Kent State and Jackson State (May 15). Happened. It seemed so long ago.
J R in WV
I was in USN Boot Camp when Kent State happened. Many of my fellow campers wanted to go kill hippies, which was hard for those of us who were hippies against the war.
More than you might think were in the USN to avoid being drafted into the Marines and sent to the swamps of Se Asia, like me.
I had thought that at one point in my life that I wanted to be a cop. Kent State (and a lot of the cop stuff around then) threw that idea right out of my head – with the force of a hurricane. I was already questioning the concept but that day cemented the idea that the world had to be better, and not just a little bit better, we had to change a lot about a lot of things, one being the idea that in a “free” country we could not peacefully protest our government’s actions. Now it should be obvious that a segment of our country thinks that it’s still OK to shoot and kill people who don’t do exactly as they demand, even if that demand is silent. And a lot of those people are still in law enforcement. And I’m not sure that a lot of money isn’t almost as bad as a lot of guns, because it seems to be encouraging some people that they have the right to create a system that something is OK for them, but not OK for everyone else.
I was a senior in high school and we were horrified. I remember the Neil Young song really well.
A funny thing about “cops are pigs”- about this time there were demonstrations at the college next to our high school, and a substantial NYPD presence, including mounted cops. One of the kids in my French class looked out the window and said, “Look! Pigs on horses!” and our teacher, little Miss Duval, who was maybe 22 and right “off the boat” from France, said “where? where?” – thinking they were actual porcines riding horses…
@schrodingers_cat: Aw shucks!
@NotMax: You know, a week before at Ohio State, they shot the guy who threw a gas canister back at them. He lived. But that means they had at least a little time to think about whether or not they should be firing on these protesters.
He said, he wasn’t particularly political, and was on his way to class and checked out the protests. He saw them launch a tear gas canister at the crowd and his competitive nature kicked in and he ran up, picked it up and threw it back. He ended up in a body cast for months, during which his father, who was none to pleased with his actions, would hardly speak to him during that time.
@J R in WV: As you may know, I spent the last half of my tour in Vietnam with a National Guard outfit from Providence, RI. I am on their email list and there are a bunch of RWNJ’s there. When I went up for a reunion a couple of years ago they had newspaper articles spread all over a table with all this stuff about how they protested being called up, had hunger strikes and appealed to the Supreme Court to not have to go. Yea, fuck those protesters!
Crappy picture but here’s one.
I agree with SC
The Thin Black Duke
@raven: With so much history being rewritten, it’s important having a living witness available to tell the truth.
@The Thin Black Duke: I always tell people that if I were black I’d still be in Leavenworth!
@raven: To be fair, if you were black, there is a good chance you would be dead.
@J R in WV:
And me. I enlisted in 1969, was told it would be about 3 – 4 months before I actually went in, they’d send me a letter telling me when to report. Two days later they announced the draft lottery. When it actually happened, my birthday was the number 18 pick. I was going one way or another. In the end this was better. When Kent State happened I was in Navy tech school in San Diego.
Early high school, pondering the war and having to register with Selective Service in a couple of years and then, this.
Important to remember that the majority of Americans polled after Kent State backed the National Guard. I’d forgotten but Ken Burns’ “Vietnam” straightened me out on that detail and watching that episode just flattened me. I was not ready to revisit the era and events.
The hate we get from the Trump right is not new, it has a new outlet.
I ride the Metro train system in Los Angeles a lot. I have written here before about my negative impression of LAPD from decades ago and I have to say that seeing the cops on the train gives me a somewhat different impression than I used to have. Not exactly the friendly small town sheriff but a hell of a lot better than they used to be.
Kent State was OUR government telling us to shut the fuck up and do as you are told. (I often take things right down to the very base of the concept – easier for more to understand.)
But. They still killed 4 people. I don’t blame the people with the guns, I’ve been in the military and you really have little choice. I asked the officer that handed me a loaded weapon to stand watch with, what are my exact orders. “If you see someone on board that does not belong you shoot to kill.” And yes those were the exact words. I’ll never forget that moment. Thing is I was taken aback, but not actually totally surprised at the answer.
You are 10000% correct it is the responsibility of the people/person in charge for the deaths, although they will very rarely pay the price.
@trollhattan: I know my parents and all their friends backed the guard. It really made me see them in a different light.
I was in last years of high school. We argued about it in History/Govt class. The teacher was right wing, but seemed like an okay guy. He went on to divorce his wife and marry a former student after she graduated, so..
I remember being furious that a classmate I had once crushed on was laughing, yelling “Shoot em! Shoot em!” about the Kent students. How could anyone think that?
@Omnes Omnibus: Yea, with this mouth.
A conspiracy theorist told me that the massacre actually was staged and that no one died because the photos that were published in the media did not show any blood around the victims. Of course, no explanation was given as to why the government and/or the Illuminati would have staged the massacre in the first place.
@Al Z.: yup
Honestly, I think a ton of the sixties and seventies reforms happened solely because television, briefly, made it possible to beam evidence of what cops and other such “pigs” were doing directly into the living rooms of nice middle-class folk who don’t like to think of themselves as racists or autocrats and that the effect was so shocking that, for a little while at least, there were just enough people who couldn’t deny what was going on that change was able to happen.
(Naturally, they picked themselves up and learned to comfort themselves with bullshit narratives blaming “the media” et al soon enough. Reagan more than anyone showed the way).
When you read about “race riots” and “labor unrest” and antiwar protests in the first half of the twentieth century, even without doing a lot of digging, it’s already completely obvious what was happening, namely, exactly the same thing as today. Black people, workers, antiwar protesters would most of the time show up and protest peacefully. Cops would assault them, or sit around with their thumbs up their asses while right-wing “vigilantes” or rich people’s hired thugs assaulted them, or join in with the vigilantes. The media would euphemistically report it as “a riot,” and give the impression that crazy mobs were out of control and the poor beleaguered cops were just doing their best to keep a lid on things. And then just let readers’ more or less explicit prejudices lead them to their own conclusion about just who was doing most of the “rioting.” (Either that or the cops/vigilantes/thugs would just randomly go on their own little mini-Krystallnachts against people who were just minding their own business, and then that, too, would be reported as “rioting in the plebs’ quarters.”)
In other words, what most people in the 1890s or 1920s were doing wasn’t any different from what MLK’s movement was doing in the 1960s; television just made it, however temporarily, impossible to deny that that’s what MLK’s movement was doing.
@George: In the most famous photo of the whole event, there’s a fucking river of blood streaming away from the dead boy. It’s partially obscured by the girl screaming over his body. There’s a second photo where she is absent that clearly shows the probably 15-20 foot long blood trail. But the photos were in black and white, so it wasn’t vibrant and splashy.
Mike in NC
Never forget that when Trump was told of the presence of protesters in Lafayette Square, his first impulse was to say they should be shot. Because that’s exactly what his idol Putin would do. Then he said, “Can’t we just shoot them in the legs?”, because he’s a psychopath. That day must have opened a lot of eyes that were previously blind.
None of that matters to a conspiracy nut. Any apparent blood shown in photos can be dismissed as a prop. Etc. Reality doesn’t matter to the conspiracy nuts.
I graduated in ’69 and was working in DC. I very much “understood” this as a statement that it was open season on those of us who had the temerity to demonstrate. It took me a while longer to understand it as one group of kids against another.
The next weekend, there was a large demonstration in DC with thousands of young people coming from out of town. I put up a bunch from my school at my apartment. On the morning before the demonstration, Nixon got into a car, with the secret service, and came down to the Lincoln Memorial, and he ended up talking to some of the demonstrators (apparently about football). A large number of schools cancelled their graduations and finals and sent their students home.
@Roger Moore: My point was that in both cases it was a massacre, and that at least back then we called a massacre a massacre.
@japa21: I think that quite a number of us already do.
Dead Yankee scumbag Thurman Munson was elated when these students were murdered at his alma mater.
Giuliani just exposed on Bannon’s nazifest podcast that Randy Levine, Yankee front office clown, helped him steal the election from Dinkins.
Those that root for the Bronx ride with fascists.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: I was a sophomore in high school, and that’s as angry as I had been in my entire life, or would be for many years afterwards (there’s been so much to be angry about in recent years). And “Ohio” is the angriest song ol’ Neil has ever written. I’ve read he wrote it in around a day, got the tracks laid down, and CSNY told their label to release it as a single. It was going to bigfoot their current single, but they didn’t care – it needed to be heard.
What really gets me angry is when people, and particularly groups of which I am a member, are targeted by the fascists. In the late 60s it was students. Now it’s LGBTQ people (and women and minorities).
@artem1s: not one bit of empathy for the Guardsmen. Rhodes being an evil asshole does not let the ONG off the hook.
This massacre was Spring my freshman year at Muskingum ( +/-90 minutes south of Kent) and it was convulsing to students everywhere.
Deadly force: that force which a person knows, or should know, would cause death or serious bodily harm. Its use is justified in extreme circumstances, as a last resort, when all lesser means have failed or cannot reasonably be employed.
That’s after 30 years. I do forget the addendum we had to learn about guarding nuclear weapons. Once in New London our boomer was “attacked” with protesters in zodiacs armed with fake blood. We used fire hoses and AFFF to wash them off the hull. Lesser means. (Updated the def as it came back to me).
@WhatsMyNym: Correct, Imperial Japan seized the Germany colony at the outset of WW I, in coordination w/ the Allied war effort. Japan wanted to keep the territory as war spoils. China believed that it should have been returned, as Imperial Germany seized the territory from the crumbling Qing Empire w/ threat of force via one of the “unequal treaties”, & as reward for China’s contribution to the Allied war effort. (The Beiyang Government had wanted to send combat troops to Europe, as well, but Britain and Frances demurred, not wanting China to become too powerful/influential).
I would say the Chinese nationalist backlash against the outcome of WW I strongly influenced Chiang Kai-Shek’s insistence of abrogating all of the “unequal treaties” as price of remaining in the Allied fight against Imperial Japan in WW II. He could not secure the return of Hong Kong, Outer Mongolia & Outer Manchuria, since he was at a severe disadvantage dealing w/ the UK & the USSR, but all of the foreign concessions in all of the Chinese treaty ports were closed, & Manchuria was returned to China. The U.S. held on to the naval base at Qingdao, & the USSR the matching naval base at Dalian (aka Port Arthur), until the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
It may also influenced the U.S. decision to return Taiwan & the Penghu Islands to the Republic of China as part of the post-WW II settlement, as opposed to allowing it to go independent or keeping it as a U.S. trusteeship territory. Hence, the ongoing tensions across the Taiwan Strait since Chiang fled there in 1949.