Editorial: Kent State should be commended for opening up museum
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 20:10
On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of unarmed student protesters at Kent State University. Four students – Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder – were killed. Another nine were wounded, including one student who was paralyzed for life. This event, which became known as the Kent State Massacre, shocked the entire nation.
Last Saturday, October 20, Kent State University officially opened the May 4 Visitors Center, a museum that gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the infamous event. The creation of this museum is a laudable decision on the part of the university and we thank everyone who contributed to make it a reality.
A lot of thought was put in to the center’s content, with many groups working together to ensure that it both explains the event and puts it in a larger historical and social context. On a broad level, the student protest was about getting the United States out of the Vietnam War. Specifically, however, it was sparked by President Nixon’s announcement of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. Many students opposed this expansion of the already unpopular war and decided to make their opposition heard at their university through a series of rallies.
The first protest was held May 1, and it was followed by a great deal of tension between students and authorities. After a spurt of vandalism, including the breaking of store windows and an unidentified person setting fire to the campus ROTC building, the governor decided to crack down. He called in the National Guard, and during a press conference called the protesters, “worse than the brown shirts... the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America.”
This tension reached its peak on May 4, when about 2,000 students assembled in the center of campus. Officials decided to disperse the crowd, but many students resisted by throwing rocks at the police. When tear gas proved ineffective due to the windy day, guardsmen with rifles and bayonets approached the crowd, which fled to another part of campus. There are disputed claims about what exactly happened next, but 67 rounds were fired into the unarmed crowd in a span of 13 seconds. Of the four students killed, Krause and Miller were participating in the protest, while Scheuer and Schroeder, were simply walking to class. The closest of the four was 265 feet from the guardsmen, casting doubts on the soldiers’ claim that they felt threatened.
The killings and injuries led to a national outcry when over four million students went on strike and many universities were closed for the rest of the year. Many argue that the massacre turned public sentiment against the Vietnam War and ultimately led to its conclusion.
Colleges or other organizations are sometimes hesitant to draw attention to past tragedies, especially when they are as politically charged as the Kent State Massacre. We commend the university for investing the time, money and manpower in creating the new May 4 Visitors Center and we hope it serves to educate the public on the tragedy and its global impact.