Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 March 2010 14:44 Written by May 4 Task Force students Tuesday, 23 February 2010 14:44
On April 30th, President Nixon announced on national television that a massive American-South Vietnamese troop offensive into Cambodia was in progress. "We take these actions," Nixon said, "not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia, but for the purpose of ending the war in Vietnam, and winning the just peace we all desire."
These were familiar words to a war-weary public. Some felt that this decision was essential for attaining a "just peace" and sustaining America's credibility in the world. Yet others, particularly students, believed that this action represented an escalation of the war and a return to ex-President Johnson's earlier hopes for a military victory. As the fires from the artillery began to burn in Cambodia, a raging fire of protest spread across the United States.
At Kent State University, the reaction to Nixon's announcement was similar to that of other campuses across the nation.
At noon about 500 students gathered around the Victory Bell on the Commons, the traditional site for rallies. A group of history students, who had organized the protest, buried a copy of the Constitution, which they claimed had been murdered when US troops were sent into Cambodia without a declaration of war by Congress.
Three hours later, Black United Students held a rally, which had been scheduled before Nixon had made his announcement. Some 400 people gathered to hear black students talk about recent disorders with the Ohio National Guard on their campus. Word spread quickly that another rally, one to oppose the invasion of Cambodia, was scheduled for Monday, May 4, at noon.
Friday night, one of the first warm evenings of the spring, several hundred students gathered in downtown Kent in an area with a number of bars, known as "the Strip," on North Water Street. A spontaneous anti-war rally began in the street. Twice, while the rally was in progress, passing police cruisers were hit with beer bottles. Afterwards, police stayed away from the area.
Meanwhile, more people were leaving the bars. Many in the crowd chanted anti-war slogans, and a bonfire was set in the street. The crowd blocked traffic for about an hour and then moved toward the center of town. Some members of the crowd began to break windows. Primarily "political targets" were attacked, including banks, loan companies, and utility companies.
After being informed of the events, Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom declared a "state of emergency," and arbitrarily ordered all of the bars closed. Kent police, along with the mayor, then confronted the crowd. The riot act was read and police proceeded to clear the area. People inside the bars were ordered to leave, forcing hundreds more into the streets.
The crowd was herded toward the campus with tear gas and knight sticks, which was in the opposite direction in which some of them lived. Fourteen persons, mostly stragglers, were arrested. About $5000 in damage was done as 43 windows were broken--28 in one bank.