On May 4, exactly 40 years ago today, soldiers of the National Guard shot and killed four students protesting the invasion of Cambodia. With that invasion, president Nixon escalated the Vietnam War. That was on April 30.
After that invasion, protests broke out immediately. Within hours, there were people protesting on the streets. The days and weeks after that saw 4 million people in action. Universities and colleges closed down because of student strike action. High school kids protested.
Students revolted on Kent State University, Ohio. Activists burned down a recruiting centre on campus. The National Guard occupied the university. Students assembled to protest. Their number was around 4,000. Some threw rocks, some threw molotov cocktails. The days of purely peaceful protests were – after a war that dragged on and on and had already cost hundresds of thousands of Vietnamese lives, and tens of thousands of American lives as well – were gone.
Then, National Guardsman opened fire on the crowd. From a distance, 67 bullets were fired. Four students died, two of them, on their way to class, were not even part of the protests. In the days after thisese shootings, more people got killed. On May 14, two protesters were shot dead by National Guards on Jackson State University, Mississippi. These state killings got much less publicity than theose on Kent State. The victims on Kent, you see, were white. The victims on Jackson State were black.
For days and weeks, revolt rumbled through the United States. Anger against the escalation f the war combined with anger because of the state killings. Within months, president Nixon announced that the invasion of Cambodia would end. The Vietnam war, however, dragged on for a number of years. We should not forget the people who were murdered by the U.S. state in its effort to keep that war going against the will of a large part of the U.S population.
- Nick Spicer, “The day the war came home”, Aljazeera, May 4 2010;
- “Remembering US campus killings”, Aljazeera, May 2010 (with video footage);
- Ron Jacobs, “When the Music Could Only Do So Much”, Counterpunch, April 23-2 (his personal memories of those days);
- Ron Jacobs, “The Jackson State Murders, May 14, 19170”, Counterpunch, May 14, 2005;
- Viv Smith, “Kent State: When US State shot down American students”, Socialist Worker (UK), April 27 2010 (with useful overview of the Vietnam war).