kentstate1970.org
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This site is a repository of information managed by WKSU-FM about the 1970 shootings at Kent State University. On May 4th, 1970 Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on students, wounding nine and killing four. We offer original source material for scholars, students, news reporters, and the general public. The materials include photographs, radio station audio, text, and video related to those shootings and their aftermath. This website will be continuously updated as more materials become available.





The following stories are part of WKSU's series on the 40th Anniversary of the Kent State shootings: May 4th Remembered

Dean Kahler: visitors' Center helps him move past May 4, 1970
Dean Kahler: visitors' Center helps him move past May 4, 1970
Dean Kahler, among the most severely wounded of the 13 Kent State students shot by the National Guard on May 4, 1970, tours the new May 4th Visitors' Center being dedicated this weekend.
 
 
New evidence in Kent State cold case
New evidence in 40 year-old cold case at Kent State
Audio analyst says there were gunshots before guard opened fire
 
 
Kent State shooting victim asks for federal investigation to be reopened
Alan Canfora claims new audio evidence reveals an order to fire, asking US Attorney Steven Dettelbach to reopen investigation
 
 
A murmur of dissent over Kent State resolution
Two congressmen refuse to back commemoration
 
 
A legacy of peace
Reconciliation and peace through poetry
The Kent State Wick Poetry Center and School of Visual Communication Design's Glyphix Studios work with school children and senior citizens to create Peace Stanzas
 
 
Questions remain
1970: A year when America was polarized on many levels
Kent State shootings illustrate the animosity of the time
 
 
Family, survivors, activists talk during May 4, 1970 memorial
Thousands attend ceremony marking the 40th anniversary
 
 
Inspiration flows from traedgy
Professor turns fear into change
May 4th inspired Dolores Knoll to lead gay rights movement at Kent State
 
 
KSU holds nearly two dozen May 4th memorial events
Vigils, walking tours, dedications held
 
 
Town and gown tension
A town torn by the controversy
Businesses and residents leaned on each other to try to recover
 
 
Reconciling past and present
Dean Kahler has energy for basketball and political change -- but not for anger
The most severely wounded of the nine students, Kahler says he became an icon for some -- for better and worse.
 
 
National history, personal narratives
Life since May 4, 1970: students, towns-people and guardsmen
For some, the day changed everything. For others, life moved on
 
 

President’s Commission on Campus Unrest Conclusions regarding Kent State University 1970

     "Kent State was a national tragedy. It was not, however, a unique tragedy. Only the magnitude of the student disorder and the extent of student deaths and injuries set it apart from similar occurrences on numerous other American campuses during the past few years. We must learn from the particular horror of Kent State and insure that it is never repeated.

     The conduct of many students and nonstudent protesters at Kent State on the first four days of May 1970 was plainly intolerable. We have said in our report, and we repeat: Violence by students on or off the campus can never be justified by any grievance, philosophy, or political idea. There can be no sanctuary or immunity from prosecution on the campus. Criminal acts by students must be treated as such wherever they occur and whatever their purpose. Those who wrought havoc on the town of Kent, those who burned the ROTC building, those who attacked and stoned National Guardsmen, and all those who urged them on and applauded their deeds share the responsibility for the deaths and injuries of May 4.

     The widespread student opposition to the Cambodian action and their general resentment of the National Guardsmen's presence on the campus cannot justify the violent and irresponsible actions of many students during the long weekend. The Cambodian invasion defined a watershed in the attitude of Kent students toward American policy in the Indochina war.

    Kent State had experienced no major turmoil during the preceding year, and no disturbances comparable in scope to the events of May had ever occurred on the campus. Some students thought the Cambodian action was an unacceptable contradiction of the announced policy of gradual withdrawal from Vietnam, or that the action constituted invasion of a neutral country, or that it would prolong rather than shorten the war. Opposition to the war appears to have been the principal issue around which students rallied during the first two days of May.

    Thereafter, the presence of the National Guard on campus was the focus of discontent. The Guard's presence appears to have been the main attraction and the main issue for most students who came to the May 4 rally. For students deeply opposed to the war, the Guard was a living symbol of the military system they opposed. For other students, the Guard was an outsider on their campus, prohibiting all their rallies, even peaceful ones, ordering them about, and tear gassing them when they refused to obey.

    The May 4 rally began as a peaceful assembly on the Commons -- the traditional site of student assemblies. Even if the Guard had authority to prohibit a peaceful gathering -- a question that is at least debatable --the decision to disperse the noon rally was a serious error. The timing and manner of the dispersal were disastrous. Many students were legitimately in the area as they went to and from class. The rally was held during the crowded noontime luncheon period. The rally was peaceful, and there was no apparent impending violence. Only when the Guard attempted to disperse the rally did some students react violently.

    Under these circumstances, the Guard's decision to march through the crowd for hundreds of yards up and down a hill was highly questionable. The crowd simply swirled around them and reformed again after they had passed. The Guard found itself on a football practice field far removed from its supply base and running out of tear gas. Guardsmen had been subjected to harassment and assault, were hot and tired, and felt dangerously vulnerable by the time they returned to the top of Blanket Hill. When they confronted the students, it was only too easy for a single shot to trigger a general fusillade.

    Many students considered the Guard's march from the ROTC ruins across the Commons up Blanket Hill, down to the football practice field, and back to Blanket Hill as a kind of charade. Tear gas canisters were tossed back and forth to the cheers of the crowd, many of whom acted as if they were watching a game.

    Lt. Alexander D. Stevenson, a platoon leader of Troop G, described the crowd in these words:
    “At the time of the firing, the crowd was acting like this whole thing was a circus. The crowd must have thought that the National Guard was harmless. They were having fun with the Guard. The circus was in town.”

    The actions of some students were violent and criminal and those of some others were dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible. The indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.

     The National Guardsmen on the Kent State campus were armed with loaded M-l rifles, high-velocity weapons with a horizontal range of almost two miles. As they confronted the students, all that stood between a guardsman and firing was the flick of a thumb on the safety mechanism, and the pull of an index finger on the trigger. When firing began, the toll taken by these lethal weapons was disastrous.

    The Guard fired amidst great turmoil and confusion, engendered in part by their own activities. But the guardsmen should not have been able to kill so easily in the first place. The general issuance of loaded weapons to law enforcement officers engaged in controlling disorders is never justified except in the case of armed resistance that trained sniper teams are unable to handle. This was not the case at Kent State, yet each guardsman carried a loaded M-l rifle.

    This lesson is not new. The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders and the guidelines of the Department of the Army set it out explicitly.

    No one would have died at Kent State if this lesson had been learned by the Ohio National Guard. Even if the guardsmen faced danger, it was not a danger that called for lethal force. The 61 shots by 28 guardsmen certainly cannot be justified. Apparently, no order to fire was given, and there was inadequate fire control discipline on Blanket Hill. The Kent State tragedy must mark the last time that, as a matter of course, loaded rifles are issued to guardsmen confronting student demonstrators. Our entire report attempts to define the lessons of Kent State, lessons that the Guard, police, students, faculty, administrators, government at all levels, and the American people must learn-and begin, at once, to act upon. We commend it to their attention."