Kent State Riot

Many anti-war protests broke out during the Vietnam War Era, many turned violent. Reporter Mike Leonard said that the Kent State University riot started due to “the United States…chasing enemy combatants into neighboring Cambodia and engaging in combat there.” When Kent State students found out that President Nixon was sending troops into Cambodia, the entire student body protested.

Francis Clines reported that the Kent State students started the protest by burning “the R.O.T.C. building on campus. … and the state government sent in the National Guard.” On May 4, 1970, at Kent State University, undergraduates turned the protest into a riot. A team of Washington Post reporters, led by Richard Harwood and Johnson Haynes report, “An order of disperse was given…the order was met by shouts and obscenities…from the crowd…the troopers forced the students back and firing tear gas…Then the blood flowed. Two young girls and two young men fell and died.” The riot lasted thirteen seconds. Sixty-seven bullets were fired from the guns of the Ohio National Guard. Thirteen of them hit Kent State students. Four died. Nine were wounded.

After the Kent State riot several other colleges and universities started to protest, which resulted in hundreds of campuses being closed. Ten days later, a protest occurred at Jackson State College in Mississippi. Thomas Harrison stated, “two young black men, 20 and 18, were slain by police…eleven other were wounded.” In addition, many went to Washington, D.C. to protest against the Vietnam War and the Kent State shooting.

The band Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young created an anthem in response to the Kent State Shooting that describes the shooting and the riot in detail. The song became a popular hit in the United States.

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The Kent State shooting not only made people protest and riot even more against Vietnam, but since the National Guard was called in and shot the students, people started to “question the integrity of government leadership,” said John O’Hara. By questioning the government people started to protest more and have less faith in the political system and the democracy of the United States of America. Due to the protests, the government decided to press charges against the National Guardsmen who shot the students, however; the trial was dismissed.

Nobody knows why the National Guardsmen decided to shoot these students, whether it was an order, out of defense, or simply random. What the people do know is that on May 4, 1970 the Ohio National Guard killed four Kent State University students, and injured nine all within the span of thirteen seconds.

-Katherine Clark
(Published 2/25/15; revised 3/26/15).


Clines, Francis. “ Students From Then and Now Pass On Painful Lessons of Kent State” The New York Times. 4 April 2000.

Harrison, Thomas B. “Kent State and 13 seconds still ticking,” St. Petersburg Times. 4 May 1987.

Leonard, Mike. “4 dead in Ohio: 40 years later, Kent State shooting still stirs strong feelings: National Guard opened fire on student war protesters,” Herald Times: McClatchy Tribune Business News. 4 May 2010.

O’Hara, John F. “Kent State/ May 4 and Postwar Memory,” American Quarterly. 2006.

Richard Harwood and, Haynes Johnson and Staff Writers Washington Post. 1970. “11 Hurt in Battle at Kent.” The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973), May 05, 2.

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