Silencing protest
May 4, 2005 6:34 PM   Subscribe

I can't find any major news outlets mentioning that today is the 35th anniversary of the Kent State killings, when national guardsmen troops fired a fusillade of live bullets at unarmed students protesting the invasion of Cambodia. Not everyone has forgotten. A new documentary, "Fire in the Heartland: A History of Dissent at Kent State University 1960-1980" was screened on campus today.
posted by tizzie (23 comments total)
No, it wasn't an entirely peaceful protest. Some rocks were thrown. Were the guardsmen in danger? From the Wikipedia article, "Of those wounded, none was closer than 71 feet (22 m) from the guardsmen. Of those killed, the nearest was 265 feet (81 m) from the guardsmen."
posted by tizzie at 6:41 PM on May 4, 2005

Devo's biography has a section on how the Kent State shootings affected and influenced band member and Kent State student Jerry Casale.
posted by AlexReynolds at 6:43 PM on May 4, 2005

You should wait a couple years. The 37th anniversary is the big one.
posted by mischief at 6:43 PM on May 4, 2005

Devo are from Akron, AlexReynolds, as am I - just a few miles from Kent State. Thanks for the book recommendation!
posted by tizzie at 6:59 PM on May 4, 2005

LOL mischief

Yeah, I searched for a mention too, thought it was strange I couldn't find any ...
posted by brykmantra at 6:59 PM on May 4, 2005

No one ever seems to remember this.
posted by Tullius at 7:20 PM on May 4, 2005

posted by AlexReynolds at 7:22 PM on May 4, 2005

I was thinking of posting about the Kent State anniversary but I decided to see if anybody else would. Thank you, tizzie; I feel a bit less alone now.
posted by davy at 7:27 PM on May 4, 2005

Philip Caputo was on NPR today talking about his book "Thirteen Seconds." A friend of the dead gentleman in that iconic photo you always see called in and said he still can't listen to the Neil Young song. It was pretty emotional.
posted by marxchivist at 7:45 PM on May 4, 2005

Tullius, it's hard to remember what I'd never heard of. Now I've heard about it. I don't know if it's appropriate to thank somebody for telling me about a mass murder, that might be taken to imply that I'm glad the killing happened (which would not be the case), but I do like to learn.

By the way, one of these days I should write down a list of anniversaries that have personal meaning for me, subdivided into categories like "sex", "war" and "politics". Offhand I have no idea which sublist would be longer, although I suppose the latter two are more likely to keep expanding.
posted by davy at 7:52 PM on May 4, 2005

they were just a bunch of filthy free-love hippies. the girls had crabs. these days we have REAL TERRARISM to fight, so get a life morans.
posted by quonsar at 7:55 PM on May 4, 2005

posted by amberglow at 7:56 PM on May 4, 2005

Thanks for the post, tizzie. The Kent State shootings reverberated across the state and from my knowledge of the aftermath, most of the schools shut down for at least a short period of time.

It had a large effect on my own college but there was absolutely no mention of it here. A shame...
posted by somethingotherthan at 8:03 PM on May 4, 2005

Some current law suits also.
posted by peacay at 8:19 PM on May 4, 2005

Here's a good revisionist interpretation of the Kent State shootings that corrects the caricature of that school as a Midwestern cultural backwater: from blue-collar backgrounds formed a large portion of the antiwar activists at the nonelite schools [Ken Heineman] studied: SUNY-Buffalo, Michigan State, Penn State.

And Kent State. Heineman challenges the conventional wisdom on the Ohio National Guard's 1970 massacre there. Conventionally, it was Kent State that brought the Sixties to the blue-collar belt. The university, remarks Todd Gitlin in The Sixties, "was a heartland school, far from elite, the very type of campus where Richard Nixon's 'silent majority' was supposed to be training." If such naked repression could be visited on such sleepy backwaters (four dead in Ohio, of all places), then few partisans of the Movement, and certainly none in its vanguard, could be safe from state terror.

The only problem with this interpretation, Heineman points out, is that Kent State was the movement's vanguard. Kent Staters protested for the right to organize on campus a full year before the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley supposedly gave birth to white student activism. The Ohio school's first antiwar group was founded a year ahead of Berkeley's. And Kent State students were even among the founders of SDS's ultravanguardist terrorist spin-off, the Weathermen.
posted by jonp72 at 8:35 PM on May 4, 2005

I was also mousing around for information on Kent State today. There are a handful of articles on google news.

and these three pages were interesting

an essay on the 20th anniversary (which coincided with the Oklahoma City bombing, though the author says "Kansas City")

A book by William Gordon, titled Four Dead in Ohio

a photo and audio essay comparing and contrasting the fall of Saigon with the murders at Kent State
posted by warbaby at 9:22 PM on May 4, 2005

Thanks, tizzie, for posting this. Especially these days, it's vital that we remind ourselves: This happened right here in the USA...
posted by soyjoy at 10:17 PM on May 4, 2005

I did hear the song on the radio today (but at some distance, so I don't know if they mentioned the timeliness).
posted by Aknaton at 11:44 PM on May 4, 2005

This being my last semester of college, I was fortunate to have an amazing political science teacher who happens to be retiring this year. He went to Kent State and every year around the date he gives his lecture on the shootings. He talked about how after the tear gassing, these guardsmen were between a fence and most of the students surrounding them. These guardsmen, being close to the age of most of the college students were scared and couldn't see well with the gas masks on. Not exactly the best circumstances.

One of the saddest deaths was a student who was using a payphone just off of the field where the shooting was, who was telling his parents that he'd be home soon since classes were canceled because of all the protesting. He got off the phone and then was shot and killed.

In the lawsuits, the state had granted itself immunity from prosecution. So the university ended up paying out, mainly to the surviving victims.
posted by Derek at 1:25 AM on May 5, 2005

Thank you for the appreciative comments. There were also some good Kent State links at Woods Lot today - a wonderful site every day.
posted by tizzie at 6:18 AM on May 5, 2005

Old enough to remember Kent State; embarrassed to admit I hadn't heard of Orangeburg (well, I was really young) and didn't recall Jackson State until this thread.

I *still* recall watching a
1981 TV movie about the shootings. All these years later, I can remember being particularly touched by the phone call Jeff Miller (portrayed by Keith Gordon) made to his parents shortly before his death.

I don't know if this link is buried in one of the others, but here's a
2000 essay by Miller's mom.

The bullet that ended Jeff's life also destroyed the
person I had been - a naive, politically unaware woman. Until the spring of
1970, I would have stated with absolute assurance that Americans have the
right to dissent publicly from the policies pursued by their government.
The Constitution says so.

And even if the dissent got noisy and disruptive, was it
conceivable that an arm of the government would shoot at random into a
crowd of unarmed students? With live ammunition? No way!

I guess today we're "lucky" that the Repugnicans just shepherd protestors into free-speech zones, or round them up and herd them into detention centers overnight, or simply invite only like-minded people to "town halls."

Bush: If I can't see the hate and protest, it's not there. Lalalala time to chop some wood.
posted by NorthernLite at 8:05 AM on May 5, 2005

late to the thread, but:

here's a link to the Kent State Libraries May 4th Collection.
posted by atlatl at 8:08 AM on May 5, 2005

posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:09 PM on May 6, 2005

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