May 1970: Kent State University Shootings

On 4 May 1970, in direct opposition the US incursion into Cambodia together with the campaign’s wide-scale bombing, student protests erupted at Kent State University in Ohio.

After three days of preparation, including numerous attempts by university officials to ban the protests, 2,000 students congregated on the University Commons’ ground on 4 May, met by Ohio National Guard soldiers in the late morning. Initially, the protests were peaceful, but they soon developed into violence with tear gas canisters being launched from the guardsmen and rocks thrown by the students in response.

Just after noon, eye-witnesses reported the guardsmen stopped, turned to face a number of students at their rear and opened fire with live ammunition after Sergeant Myron Pryor began firing with his .45 pistol. Accounts as to why the guardsmen opened fire in the first place and how long for vary. It is estimated that the firing lasted for over ten seconds. The students fired upon were no further to the guardsmen than 22 metres, without firearms, firmly challenging the notion that the guardsmen opened fire out of self-defence. A student who stood 230 metres from the guardsmen was the furthest anybody was affected by the firing, who suffered a neck wound.

Four students were killed on the day: Jeffrey Glenn Miller, Allison B. Krause, William Knox Schroeder and Sandra Lee Scheuer. It was reported that while Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller were taking part in the protest, William Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer were merely walking in between lectures when killed. Nine other students were wounded and survived from their injuries. Of these, one student was permanently paralysed from the chest down from a cracked vertebrae.

Needless to say, there was a huge backlash from the Kent State University shootings in the US as well as abroad. As part of the response internationally, 200,000 people rallied against the war in Australia.

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