May 4, 1970 four students were shot and killed at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Nine others were wounded. The Wikipedia entry can be read at this link. Another account, including chronology can be seen here.

Myths still circulate about the shootings.

There are still allegations that an order was given to fire upon the unarmed students.  There is no proof of such an order.

Other allegations allege that the actual victims were outside agitators seeking further confrontations. All of the victims were students in good academic standing at the college. William Knox Schroeder had applied for the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps Scholarship and had earned the Association of the United States Army award for excellence in History.

Generally, people believe the guardsmen were tried and acquitted. There were charges filed but the judge dismissed the case without a trial. Many people believe the Guard was in immediate danger. The victims were an average of 345 feet from the Guard when shot. The closest victim was 71 feet away. The last victim was 750 feet away.

Some facts over looked by people:

The ROTC building had been burned 2 days earlier by protesters and 24 students and one faculty member were arrested in September 1970. Five were brought to trial. Two non-students plead guilty. One non-student was convicted. One person acquitted. Charges were dropped against the remaining 21. The ROTC building was scheduled for demolition.

There had been riots in the city of Kent as well as demonstrations at the campus.

The guardsmen had been deployed as a result of the riot on May 1, arriving on May 2. On the day of the shooting, they had been enforcing a curfew for the previous 48 hours. They were wearing gas masks. They were confused at one point appeared lost, having marched into an area enclosed by a fence.

We live in times of acrimonious debate, political division, and ideological conflicts. Some extremists are calling for violent action and the over throw of the federal government.

We should remember how our country has had internal rebellions in the past like Shay’s Rebellion of 1786-1787. Or that brother fought brother from 1775 to 1783 as well as from 1861 to 1865.

We hope violent political confrontations will remain in the past and that democracy will prevail over mob rule.

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