May 4, 1970: Kent State Shooting Historical Marker
This historical marker commemorates the tragic events of May 4, 1970, that left four Kent States students and an additional nine students wounded following a protest against the Vietnam War. A series of protests earlier in the year began to escalate on May 1st. While most of the protests were limited to signs, a few students burned a copy of the US Constitution in protest to the invasion of Cambodia. In the days that followed, the administration barred future protests and a few students responded by setting a fire in a campus building. The situation escalated very quickly after the Ohio National Guard was called to campus. After some students through rocks at the soldiers and returned canisters of tear gas, a few of the soldiers who believed that they were in danger fired their weapons which led to the death of four students. The parking lot of Taylor Hall became a memorial after the shootings took place and the dust settled slightly. Located in the parking lot are four spaces dedicated to the students who were killed in the shootings that occurred on that tragic day.
Backstory and Context
Kent State University was founded in 1910 as a teacher’s college and is located about thirty miles from Cleveland. In 1970, the college had an estimated 20,000 students. Many of these students were first generation college attendees and relatively few participated in many of the early student-led protests compared to other campuses. However, chapters of organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society grew in small campusses and state colleges in 1970. One year prior to the shooting, the SDS chapter called for the removal of the campus’s ROTC (Reserve Officers in Training) building.
On April 30th in 1970, President Nixon made the announcement of the invasion Cambodia and continuation of the war on Vietnam. This announcement sparked protests all around the nation. On May 1st, 1970, students at Kent State organized a rally that was attended by around 500 students. The protest included a group of graduate students who burned a copy of the US Constitution just as William Lloyd Garrison had done to protest slavery int he 19th century. From their perspective, Nixon's actions demonstrated that the Constitution was a dead letter because he was able to wage war and bomb Cambodia unilaterally and without the approval of Congress. By the end of the night of May 1st, students protests reached a point of public endangerment with several and other disturbances around campus. Some of the protests were fueled by racial tensions of police brutality against students of color.
On May 2nd, around 1000 students were involved in the burning of the ROTC building and the governor called on the Ohio National Guard to intervene. By May 3rd the situation had only grown more dire and a riot was broken up by tear gas. On May 4th, around 500 students were actively participating in a demonstration against Nixon’s decision to raid Cambodia. Thousands of other students were bystanders or cheering for those actively participating. The National Guard was ordered to disperse the students and were met by insults and rocks. With tear gas blowing back toward the soldiers, one soldier discharged his weapon and in the confusion several others fired their weapons. The gunfire killed four students and injured nine others, including students who were bystanders and not involved with the protests. The four students killed were William Schroeder,
Allision Krause, Jeffery Miller, and Lee Scheuer.
Kent State Shootings: May 4 Collection Contents. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.library.kent.edu/special-collections-and-
May 4 Visitors Center. (1970, June 1). Retrieved from https://www.kent.edu/may4visitorscenter
Wallenfeldt, J. (2020, April 27). Kent State shooting. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/event/Kent-State-shootings