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Memorial to Jeffrey Miller, taken from approximately the same perspective as John Filo’s 1970 photograph, as it appeared in 2007. Some of the students who were shot had been protesting the Cambodian Campaign, which President Richard Nixon announced during a television address on April 30. Other students who were shot had been walking nearby or observing the protest from a distance. Richard Nixon was elected president of the United States in 1968, promising to end the Vietnam War. The war had appeared to be winding down in 1969, so the new invasion of Cambodia angered those who believed it only exacerbated the conflict. Time called “a nation-wide student strike”, setting the stage for the events of early May 1970.
During the 1966 Homecoming Parade, protesters walked dressed in military paraphernalia with gas masks. Black Student Organization staged a sit-in to protest police recruiters on campus. 250 black students walked off campus in a successful amnesty bid for the protesters. On April 1, 1969, SDS members attempted to enter the administration building with a list of demands where they clashed with police. In response, the university revoked the Kent State SDS chapter charter. On April 16 a disciplinary hearing involving two of the protesters resulted in a confrontation between supporters and opponents of SDS. The Ohio State Highway Patrol was called and 58 were arrested.
The first part of the Yippie program is to kill your parents. These remarks frightened local residents who took them literally. President Nixon announced that the “Cambodian Incursion” had been launched by United States combat forces. As the crowd dispersed to attend classes by 1 p. Trouble exploded in town around midnight, when people left a bar and began throwing beer bottles at police cars and breaking downtown storefronts. In the process they broke a bank window, setting off an alarm. The news spread quickly and it resulted in several bars closing early to avoid trouble.
Before long, more people had joined the vandalism. By the time police arrived, a crowd of 120 had already gathered. Some people from the crowd lit a small bonfire in the street. The crowd appeared to be a mix of bikers, students, and transient people. A few members of the crowd began to throw beer bottles at the police, and then started yelling obscenities at them.
The entire Kent police force was called to duty as well as officers from the county and surrounding communities. City officials and downtown businesses received threats, and rumors proliferated that radical revolutionaries were in Kent to destroy the city and university. Several merchants reported that they were told that if they did not display anti-war slogans their business would be burned down. The decision to call in the National Guard was made at 5:00 p. Information developed by an FBI investigation of the ROTC building fire indicates that, of those who participated actively, a significant portion weren’t Kent State students. There is also evidence to suggest that the burning was planned beforehand: railroad flares, a machete, and ice picks are not customarily carried to peaceful rallies.
There were reports that some Kent firemen and police officers were struck by rocks and other objects while attempting to extinguish the blaze. Several fire engine companies had to be called because protesters carried the fire hose into the Commons and slashed it. During a press conference at the Kent firehouse, an emotional Governor Rhodes pounded on the desk which can be heard in the recording of his speech. He called the student protesters un-American, referring to them as revolutionaries set on destroying higher education in Ohio. We’ve seen here at the city of Kent especially, probably the most vicious form of campus-oriented violence yet perpetrated by dissident groups. They make definite plans of burning, destroying, and throwing rocks at police and at the National Guard and the Highway Patrol.
This is when we’re going to use every part of the law enforcement agency of Ohio to drive them out of Kent. We are going to eradicate the problem. We’re not going to treat the symptoms. During the day, some students came to downtown Kent to help with cleanup efforts after the rioting, which was met with mixed reactions from local businessmen. Mayor Satrom, under pressure from frightened citizens, ordered a curfew until further notice. Guardsmen used tear gas to disperse the crowd, and the students reassembled at the intersection of Lincoln and Main, holding a sit-in with the hopes of gaining a meeting with Mayor Satrom and University President Robert White. Guard announced that a curfew had gone into effect and began forcing the students back to their dorms.
A few students were bayoneted by Guardsmen. This section needs additional citations for verification. On Monday, May 4, a protest was scheduled to be held at noon, as had been planned three days earlier. University officials attempted to ban the gathering, handing out 12,000 leaflets stating that the event was canceled.