The 1968 Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago during August. Over 15,000 people showed up that day to protest Lyndon B. Johnson’s policies handling the Vietnam War. The majority of these protestors were college students. The city allowed this one march but enforced a strict curfew of 11:00 P.M. When the protestors refused to stay quiet a riot ensued, police used tear gas, mace, and physical force to subdue the protestors. This illustrated the anti-war movement on a national stage and allowed for people all over the world to see the brutality used by police officers. Many protestors were arrested following the riot but charges were brought up on 8 specific people. Jerry Ruban, Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, Bobby Seale, Lee Weiner, John Froines, David Dellinger. The trial of these “Chicago 8” would become famous and spark even more demonstrations and riots in the city of Chicago.
KENT STATE SHOOTING
On April 30th 1970 President Nixon, over a full year into his term as Commander-in-chief, announced the “Cambodian incursion”. This military operation sent American troops into Eastern Cambodia during the Vietnam War. After the announcement protests broke out on campuses all across the United States. On of these protests took place the following day on Friday May 1st at Kent State University. Around 500 students gathered on the commons to protest the further expansion of the Vietnam War and while the students were angered the rally lasted only a few hours as the students dispersed to attend the day’s classes. At the first rally a student was seen burning a copy of the U.S. Constitution while another burned his draft card. Following this rally another one was planned to be held at Kent State on Monday May 4th. Over the weekend tension grew as on Saturday May 2nd students gathered again, this time surrounding Kent State’s ROTC building. The University officials called the Ohio National Guard for help in dispersing the student mob. Five hours after the call the Ohio National Guard showed up on campus to find the ROTC building burning in the night sky. When fire hoses were brought in to extinguish the fire students cut holes in the hoses, leading to numerous calls from neighboring fire stations for help in putting out the blaze. The fire eventually died down leaving almost nothing of the building, the students were tear gassed by the National Guard and numerous protestors were arrested. There was even some reports of students sustaining bayonet wounds from the knifes attached to the bottom of the National Guard’s rifles.
Due to the events that occurred over the weekend Kent State officials decided that the rally set to be held on the 4th would not be allowed to happen. The University sent out over 12,000 leaflets informing protestors the rally was cancelled. These attempts proved futile as the event went on as planned with over 2,000 protestors gathering on the commons around 12:00 pm. The Ohio National Guard was already on hand and immediately began attempts to disperse the growing crowd of student protestors. They tried to use tear gas but due to the winds in proved useless and in only angered the students further. Guardsmen then decided to advance on the crowd with bayonets fixed to the end of their rifles. At 12:24 pm Sgt. Myron Pryor turned toward the crowd and began firing rounds out of his pistol. The surrounding guardsmen joined in firing their M1 Garand rifles into the crowd of students across the commons. The firing lasted 13 second with 29 guardsmen firing 67 rounds into the UNARMED protestors. Thirteen students were shot with two died instantly from shots to the mouth, Jeffery Glen Miller (20), and neck, Sandra Lee Scheuer (20), while two later died from a fatal chest wounds, Allison B. Krause (19) and William Knox Schroeder (19). Nine were badly wounded but were able to survive the horrific event. It is still speculated today as to what set off the National Guard, some even believe they were ordered to shoot by their superior officer. Either way it sparked controversy throughout the country and led to numerous campuses shutting down in respect to the students lost.
KENT STATE INTERVIEW
During the students anti-war movement my father, Dave Lohrey, was active in protests across the Ohio area. He went to Kent St on May 4th and this is the events from what he saw and remembers:
1. How old were you at the time?
2. How did you hear about the protest?
3. Why did you attend the protest?
4. Did you attend it alone or with someone else?
5. Can you give a description from your memory of what happened that day?
Question #1 – I was 19 at the time.
Question #2 & #4 – A friend of mine from high school told me about it, so we both went. The sad part was he was later killed that same year in Vietnam.
Question #3 – I had attended quite few Vietnam War protests throughout the Cleveland area after I graduated high school in 1969. I thought at the time the war was going know where and the politicians were sending kids to be killed because they couldn’t have the United States lose a war. Which we did anyways.
Question #5 – We went down to Kent State on Sunday afternoon, May 3, 1970. It was about a 45 minute ride, so when we arrived, we went the common area by Taylor & Prentice Halls. The first think I remember was the gleaming bayonets as the sun hit them. I thought it was strange that the National Guard would have them attached to their rifles. Then in the evening we joined a group that went into the city of Kent to protest. That got a little crazy when the Guard order everybody had break it up, which didn’t happen, so all of a sudden they marched toward us and fired tear gas. With that, we decided it was time to go back to the car to sleep and wait for what was going to be the main protest on Monday, May 4. We both slept later then we wanted and woke up late in the morning, so we went to get something to eat. Then we walked to Prentice Hall a little after 12noon. Then when we were coming around the corner of the building we heard some loud bangs. I was quite sure they were gun shots, having fired my own rifle many times. I said something to my friend that it sounds like a rifle firing; he laughed and said it was probably firecrackers. Then a window at the Prentice Hall blow apart right by us. Then a student in the parking lot, right across from fell to the ground bleeding. That is when we knew it was time to get the hell out of there!! We ran back to the car, hearing more shots going off behind us, so we started the car, to get off campus, along with bunch of other cars trying to do the same. When we got off campus we were stopped by the city of Kent police. They made us get out of the car, they then searched it. They found nothing, so they told us to get out of town and go home. It wasn’t until we were about home before the car radio said anything about it. That night, at my friend’s house, we watched the news reports and only then saw the full scope of what really happened at Kent State.
The students also employed a social movement strategy in collectivity. This poster which also comes from UCI in California displays a clenched first with the word “STRIKE” in large bold print. The fist, also used by the Black Panthers in the civil rights movement, is a symbol of strength and unity in a movement. It calls for the students to unite and stay strong in their protest and “strike” with no intent to falter in their mission to stop U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. This poster shows the students as a unified “we” rather than seperate people standing for the same cause. The same symbol of a clenched fist can be seen in the other picture of a newsletter sent out to students who participated in the campus strikes to end the war. There is also a picture of the students on strike following the Kent State Shootings, numerous campuses throught America shutdown for several weeks after that shooting. It really showed the united front students were forming in order to stop our involvement in the Vietnam War.