The massacre that took place in Kent, OH, on May 4, 1970, shook the United States and shaped the organization of protests for decades to come. What began as a peaceful demonstration devolved into a violent confrontation between Kent State University students and the Ohio National Guard.
The already unpopular Vietnam War was expanding, and for many people this was the last straw. After four days of intense protest, vandalism, and rioting, everything finally came to a head on the Kent State campus.
At the end of the incident, four students were left dead and nine others were wounded. In spite of a perceived threat to their lives, none of the guards were seriously injured.
The impact of the shooting was felt across the United States as protests became even larger in size and reached right up to President Nixon's doorstep in Washington D.C.
No guards were ever charged with any crimes, and some believe that the victims were denied justice. However, one thing is clear - there is a lot to learn from the events that took place on that fateful day. Here are just a few facts about the Kent State shooting that might surprise you.
Police And The National Guard Did More Than Just Shoot Protesters - They Used Tear Gas And Bayonets
One of the questions asked over and over again by those who investigated this incident was: why did the guards fire into a crowd of unarmed students? Some of the students interviewed after the shooting claimed that very few of the protesters believed that the weapons were even loaded.
But the National Guard didn't only have loaded rifles - they also had cannisters of tear gas and bayonets fixed to said rifles. All of these tools were used against the gathering of unarmed students, with the justification being that the students were throwing rocks.
The Average Distance Between The Protesters And The Guards Was Around 345 Feet
Although the National Guard officers claimed that the students were advancing on them in a manner that made them feel that their lives were being threatened, none of the students killed were closer than 270 feet away. The closest student of the nine injured was still about 60 feet away.
The distances of the students who were shot from the guards who shot them vary widely, with one young man even getting shot in the neck from about 700 feet away.
The National Guard gave many reasons for why they started firing on the unarmed students, such as a perceived shot from a sniper and the threat to their lives from the rocks being thrown at them.
There Is A Memorial Placed Where Jeffrey Miller's Body Was Photographed
There are several monuments around the Kent State campus honoring the students who died during the May 4th protest - including one for Jeffrey Miller that marks the exact spot where he lost his life. Miller was the only victim to die instantly, after he was shot though the mouth.
There is a very famous photograph by John Filo that shows Miller lying on the ground while a young woman, 14-year-old runaway Mary Ann Vecchio, screams above him. This photo made it easier to pinpoint the exact spot to place his memorial.
The Governor Of Ohio Called The Protesters "The Worst Type Of People That We Harbor In America"
The events that occurred in Kent, OH, leading up to the shooting caused great concern for Mayor LeRoy Satrom and Ohio Governor James Rhodes. The vandalism and public disorder eventually led Satrom to declare a state of emergency and call in the governor for assistance.
Instead of diffusing the situation in Kent as he had intended, the governor instead further inflamed it - in a press conference on May 3rd, Governor Rhodes proclaimed that the people who were so vehemently fighting for their cause were the "worst type of people that we harbor in America."
The residents of Kent and the politicians of Ohio were said to have shared in the sentiment that the protesters were a nuisance, were "asking for it," and needed to be stopped.