May 6, 2007
From the “Things that Make Me Angry” files — the 37th anniversary of the Kent State shootings
[I fear I’m going to have people telling me to think of my blood pressure at far too young an age.]
After reading the entry about the recently released tape upon which the order to fire on students at Kent State on May 4, 1970 can be heard on the Radical Vixen’s blog, I went over to CNN.com to read the full story (and try to watch a video, but of course it requires Windows Media Player, so no dice there). Once there, I came across this choice quote:
“I think both sides were at fault,” said Brett Wilson, 18, a Kent State student. He said students were trying to provoke the Guard and Guardsmen overreacted with deadly force.
WRONG. I’ll concede that the protests that began May 1st (after Nixon announced on April 30th that American and South Vietnamese troops would be invading Cambodia) were not always peaceful. The National Guard was called in after the campus ROTC building was burned down — however, I feel it’s extremely important to note that the building was boarded up and scheduled for demolition. And then on May 4th some of the protesting students threw rocks at the guardsmen. Bad ideas? Sure. Equal to the guardsmen advancing on the unarmed protesters with bayonets affixed to their weapons, and then firing? HELL NO.
Furthermore, there are certain problematic details regarding the shooting itself. From the Wikipedia entry on the shooting (standard disclaimer: yes, Wikipedia can be unreliable, and no, I don’t accept it as a source when my students are writing papers. However, for my blog, I evaluate entries on an individual basis, and I find the Kent State shooting entry to be thorough, as well as well-researched and -cited — and it’s a subject that gets enough attention that I think any misinformation or discrepancies would be pounced on immediately by the community)(emphasis and commentary added):
As the guardsmen advanced, the protesters retreated up and over a hill (Blanket Hill) heading out of The Commons area. Once over the hill, the students, in a loose group, moved northeast along the front of a building (Taylor Hall), with some continuing toward a parking lot in front of another building (Prentice Hall, slightly northeast of and perpendicular to Taylor Hall). The guardsmen pursued the protesters over the hill, but rather than veering left as the protesters had, they continued straight, heading down toward an athletic practice field enclosed by a chain link fence. Here they remained for about ten minutes, unsure of how to get out of the area short of retracing their entrance path (a move some guardsmen considered could be viewed as a retreat). During this time, the bulk of the students were off to the left and front of the Guardsmen, approximately 50 to 75 meters away, on the veranda of Taylor Hall. Others were scattered between Taylor Hall and the Prentice Hall parking lot, while still others, perhaps 35 or 40, were standing in the parking lot, or dispersing through the lot as had been previously ordered.
While on the practice field, the guardsmen generally faced the parking lot which was about 100 meters away. At one point some of the guardsmen knelt and aimed their weapons toward the parking lot, then stood up again. For a few moments several guardsmen formed a loose huddle and appeared to be talking to one another. The guardsmen appeared to be unclear as to what to do next. They had cleared the protesters from The Commons area, and many students had left, but many stayed and were still angrily confronting the soldiers, some throwing rocks and tear gas canisters. [The students had access to tear gas canisters because the guardsmen had thrown said canisters at them earlier.] At the end of about ten minutes the Guardsmen began to retrace their steps back up the hill toward The Commons area. Some of the students on the Taylor Hall veranda began to move slowly toward the soldiers as the latter passed over the top of the hill and headed back down into The Commons.
At this point, a number of guardsmen at the top of the hill abruptly turned and fired their M1 Garand semi-automatic military rifles into the students. The guardsmen directed their fire not at the closest students, who were on the Taylor Hall veranda, but at those on the grass area and concrete walkway below the veranda, at those on the service road between the veranda and the parking lot, and at those in the parking lot. Bullets were not sprayed in all directions, but instead were confined to a fairly limited line of fire leading from the top of the hill to the parking lot.
The audio recording just released indicates that the firing was not random on the part of the guardsmen, but was, in fact, ordered. (I’ve read that some have claimed that the guard’s firing was preceded by a sniper shot, but this claim is unsubstantiated.) Furthermore, firing toward the parking lot rather than at the closest group of protesters (who seem to me to be the group presenting the most imminent threat) was clearly a conscious decision rather than, again, random. Those two decisions are what led to the deaths of two students who were not participating in the protest: Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder. The other two students killed were Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller, who were protesting. They may have even been throwing rocks. Does that really make them equally to blame for their deaths?
I know that the man the AP quoted in that article is only 18, and so one might simply pass his statement off as youthful ignorance. Unfortunately, that “youthful ignorance” is all over the place. Here’s a comment that got to me (“Your highness, think of your blood pressure!”) from the thread related to this YouTube video (it’s well worth watching, but about halfway through it shows photos of the aftermath of the shooting, some of which are quite graphic — don’t say I didn’t warn you…):
thats not political dissent, that was misguided violence by people to dumb to understand that communism was and is a real threat. who cares if students strike? who are they harming??!! hahaha!! they are just kids in a classroom, they know they have to grow up sooner or later. so self important.
I skimmed some of this commenter’s other statements to see if maybe I just misunderstood this one, but no — this man holds the protesters responsible for the shooting.
The invasion of Cambodia doesn’t seem so different from the troop surge in Iraq, or an invasion of Iran. I guess we just have to wait and see what The Decider decides next.