Ohio National Guardsmen shot and killed four Kent State University students.
President Richard Nixon had promised to end American involvement in Vietnam following his election in 1968. Opposition to the war increased when the My Lai Massacre became public knowledge the following year and the draft lottery was reintroduced for the first time since the Second World War. By the time news broke that Nixon had authorised military action against Cambodia to eliminate suspected Viet Cong forces on 30 April 1970, protests against the war had spread around the country.
On 1 May 1970 around 500 students at Kent State University in Ohio attended a protest on the campus where they agreed to stage another rally three days later. Later that evening violence broke out in the town. The police used tear gas to drive students back to the university, and the next day the local mayor called the Ohio Governor and asked him to send the Ohio National Guard to take control of the situation. That evening there were further clashes.
The planned demonstration on 4 May attracted 3,000 protestors and spectators, despite the university’s attempts to ban the event. With approximately 100 Ohio Guardsmen stationed nearby, the protesters were ordered to disperse. Having refused to do so the guardsmen fired tear gas into the crowd after which seventy-seven of them began to march on the crowd who had begun throwing rocks.
After finding themselves blocked by a fence around an athletic field the guardsmen eventually turned back in the direction they had come. With little warning 29 of the guardsmen then fired on the crowd or into the air, unleashing almost 70 rounds in thirteen seconds. Four students were killed and another nine were injured.