Monday, May 15, 2006

The Kent State Massacre: 36 Years Later

On May 3, 1970, after several days of protests by college students in response to the expansion of the Vietnam War into the Indochina War, Republican Gov. James Rhodes of Ohio called in the National Guard. The angry protests grew increasing agitated when in the city of Kent, Ohio, a tense situation outside a bar seemed to ignite a spiral of events that led to a massacre of college students by National Guard members.

It was hoped that the National Guard could keep order. Previously National Guard troops were used to keep order in the race riots that plagued the 1960's.

On May 1, 1970 some intoxicated motorcyclists had a confrontation outside a bar where some bottles were thrown at police and through a bank window setting off an alarm. Some students and others not drinking in the bar that evening also became involved in that night's ruckus. The next day on May 2, the Kent State University ROTC building was set on fire by an arsonist, and when a fire truck arrived, some angry students seized the fire hose and carried it into the stuent commons and slashed it. By 10pm that evening the National Guard set up a post on the Kent State campus and used tear gas and bayoneted a student as the anti war protests continued. Republican Governor, James Rhodes denounced the students as "unAmerican" and "revolutionaries" and the right wing governor referred to the students as worse than a "Communist element". Nearly 1,000 National Guard troops were on the Kent State campus by this time. Some students from the university came into town to assist cleanup from the May 1. 1970 incident, but the Mayor of Kent feared more violence and ordered a curfew until peace and order were restored in the city.

Om Monday May 4, 1970, after leaflets were distributed that cancelled a rally against the war that day, 2,000 students decided to hold a rally at the student commons anyway. While this antiwar rally was at first peaceful, National Guard units of companies A& C, 1/145 Infantry, Troop 6 and 2/107 Armored Calvary, Ohio ANG decided to disperse the student protest at the Kent State student commons and a angry response by some students took place including a rock thrown through a jeep window. When tear gas was thrown at the students and some students threw back the tear gas a tense situation took place in which 77 National Guard members found themselves backed up a hill despite fixed bayonets. 29 of the 77 National Guard members fired 67 shots at the crowd. Four students were killed and nine more wounded. Only two of the killed were involved in the protest. Two students were simply walking to class and were hit and killed. Bill Schroeder, a promising basketball player, and a ROTC member himself, was killed at a range 382 feet away from the National Guardsmen, and so was another student not involved in the protests, Sandra Lee Scheuer at a range of 390 feet. Many of the students were not even close to the National Guard units, yet hit by the flurry of bullets whether they were involved in the student comons protest or not.

At the mainly Black campus of Jackson State University on May 14, two more students were shot dead and more wounded in another highly questionable National Guard massacre of student protesters.

One nonstudent was convicted in the ROTC building arson. And two other nonstudents pleaded guilty to charges. Wrongful death lawsuits generally ended in dismissals against the National Guard members where only one small settlement was paid to one plaintiff. On conservative judge was even rumored to have said that the "final solution" needed to be used against college students.

36 years later, we have another right wing "conservative" Republican White House involved in another no-win war in a far away land. Tonight, the conservative Republican President will annouce the deployment of up to 10,000 National Guard troops once again, but to stem the flood of poor people who come over the border for a better life as economic refugees of a corrupt economy in Mexico where a few wealthy families own much of the nations's wealth and very little goes to millions more of citizens, and the after effects of NAFTA profiteering by big U.S. corporations who dump cheap wheat and corn on the Mexican agriculture markets drives down wages by as much as a third, and creating poverty.

In Iraq, just like in South Vietnam, an uncooperative government, filled with corruption continues to flourish while young Americans continue to lose their lives. Only because of an all volunteer army with no draft have America's college campuses not already exploded in angry protests such as at Kent State. But the all volunteer army is increasingly spread thin, where a legally blind Washington State soldier is put on roadside bomb removal duty, an autistic boy was recruited in Portland, Oregon for dangerous calvary scout duty, and increasing numbers of high school dropouts, drug users and mentally ill persons are being used to fill National Guard and Army quotas to replace the troops in Iraq who are being killed or sent home maimed from a roadside bomb taking their arms or legs or causing a serious head injury leaving them as mentally impaired and in a nursing home for the rest of their lives.

Thankfully, the new antiwar protests are peaceful. There is no justification for violence. But at the same time the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Another right wing conservative Republican government, another no-win war.