Remembering May 4, 1970

The Kent State shootings occurred 50 years ago today when the Ohio National Guard fired 67 sounds into an unarmed crowd of anti-war protesters, killing four and wounding nine. Among other things, the “Massacre” is said to have helped end the Vietnam War, bring down the Nixon administration, and ask hard questions about just how police and national guard personnel are supposed to disperse protestors.

At the time, the shooting led to a strike of some four million high school and college students and the closure of many schools. Nixon, of course, had been elected (among other things) on his stated objective of ending the war. The protest was sparked when the U.S. expanded the war by bombing Cambodia.

While I was still in the navy on May 4, 1970, I would leave the service as a conscientious objector four months later. I supported the protestors but disagreed strongly with protests that caused violence. Riot control police have become more dangerous to everyone since Kent State as the police become have more militarized. This isn’t helpful now and it wasn’t helpful then.

I took part in anti-war protests prior to joining the navy (to avoid being drafted into the army) and my sympathies were almost always with the students UNLESS they committed the kind of violence they were protesting.

I wonder if we have learned anything since Kent State. As I watch news stories which show police SWAT teams that look more like Army Rangers and Navy Seals than the police, I tend to doubt it.

–Malcolm