Kent State University

After President Richard M. Nixon announced that American and South Vietnamese soldiers had invaded Cambodia on April 30, 1970, to eliminate Vietcong base camps and cease the infiltration of materiel and personnel from North Vietnam, students across the country demonstrated against the escalation of the war. On May 1, 1970, students at Kent State University in Ohio marched against the war and rioted, shattering windows, lighting fires, and damaging cars. The next night a few of them burned the ROTC building on campus. When firemen arrived to put out the blaze, some students seized the firehoses and turned them on the firemen. Governor James Rhodes ordered in the National Guard, declared martial law, and announced that campus violence must come to an end. Rhodes felt the rioters were part of a revolutionary group and he ordered that students not be allowed to assemble in groups on the campus until the turmoil was over.

About noon on May 4, 1970, antiwar protesters staged another rally. Campus police asked them a number of times to disperse, and when they refused, armed guardsmen advanced on them. A group of students began throwing chunks of concrete and rock at the guardsmen, and the guardsmen reacted with tear gas grenades. Evidently one of the guardsmen thought he heard a sniper shot and he opened fire. Others joined him, some of them firing directly into the crowd of students. They fired a total of thirty-five rounds at students approximately sixty feet away. Four students died and fourteen were wounded. The episode triggered hundreds of college protest movements and a march on Washington, D.C., on May 9, 1970. The guardsmen were brought to trial but found not guilty.