Monday, 14 August 2017

Twenty Points of Kent State (1969)

Most people have zero memory or knowledge of Kent State and the shootings that occurred.  So, let me point out twenty points of this period, and the event.

1.  For weeks in the spring....around the downtown area of Kent, Ohio....groups of students had been in some protest mode.  It was no longer just a protest event on the campus....it was coming into the city itself.

2.  The campus had virtually no real police organization.  The city of Kent?  The city was in the 27,000 to 30,000 population range, and had a minimum police organization to meet what the locals regarded as 'economically wise'.  The city police department was not built to handle protests or actions involving more than a couple dozen people.

4. In the fall of 1968....nine months prior....the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and a relatively unknown black student organization (the 1960s version of BLM)....had a confrontation of a light stance against recruitment folks appearing on the campus for the police.  Some people suggest that at least 200 black students from the campus were involved with this one confrontation.

5.  Things started to fully unravel around 1 April of 1969....when the SDS crowd came back into the picture again....entering the Kent State Administrative Office with demands.  Cops were called in this case.  The campus reacted by that evening by revoking the charter of the SDS organization.

6.  Two weeks go by after this 1 April event, and there is a discipinary hearing underway on campus.  There is some kind of confrontation at the hearing....between the SDS crowd (with the revoked charter), an the anti-SDS crowd.  No one ever says who made up the anti-SDS crowd, and it's one of the small mysteries left over from this event.  The campus chief decides that things are out of control and kids won't listen to the campus leadership....so cops get called (state cops, not local cops).  This would be a signal to the kids that things were moving up real quick.  Fifty-eight students were arrested that afternoon.  When the smoke cleared months later, there are four SDS members who are taken into a regional court, and given a sentence of six months in a state prison.  The rest end up with just simple jail fines.  No one talks much of the parents of the fifty-eight students in this SDS challenge to the campus, but one might assume that they woke up to realize that their kids were doing some pretty stupid stuff, and heavy lawyer effort was required.

7.  Around noon on 1 May 1969....a rally was held on campus with 500 students attending.  It broke up an hour later....with kids going back to classes.  The trigger to the rally?  The Vietnam War.

8.  Twelve hours pass....downtown in Kent....some excitement occurs around midnight...in the drinking zone of the town.  What is noted at this point is that a couple of people (maybe students, maybe locals, no one ever knows who these people were).....walked out of a bar, and threw bottles at a police car or two.  Fairly stupid act, one can admit.  Then they threw bottles at a store....then a couple of stores.  Finally, they threw a bottle to break a bank window....setting off an alarm.  This was the final straw for the local cops.   The number of bottle-throwers?  It's argued...some think it was in the neighborhood of twenty.....some say forty.  As reinforcement cops arrive....cops now say there are 120 people in the middle of the action facing the cops.  Probably way more than the cops could really handle.  History notes at this point that the group of 120 people are made up of students, bikers (no one could explain how they got into the action), and local drunks.  Virtually every single cop within twenty miles....was called to the middle of Kent that night.  As far as the mayor was concerned....he needed real muscle to come in and establish authority....the National Guard.

9.  On 2 May 1969, as the sun rose....the mayor had gone to request Guard members, establish a city emergency, and ordered all bars to be shut down for an unspecified period of time. No one says it today, but the 120 folks from that night before....probably were mostly all drunk.

10.  Somewhere on the morning of 2 May, one of the major rumors was that the students now had arms (weapons).  It was never proven true, but the rumor set off things in a very negative way.  Shutting down the bars....also went in a negative way.

11.  The National Guard began arriving on 2 May.  By that evening, they'd started to arrest anyone who was violating a curfew that had been put into place.

12.  3 May arrived....Sunday morning.  The governor had no patience left with the students.  Some students had come downtown in the morning to help clean up the mess that had been left from Friday night.  Most of the business community didn't trust these students, and it's a big question if this was legit or just a fake effort.

13.  As sun-down occurred....a confrontation occurred with the Guard guys and students.  Tear gas was dispersed.  Arrests were made.

14.  4 May: There is supposed to be a student protest at noon.  The college says 'no', no protest will occur.  Two companies of Guard folks arrived and were dispersing the protest.  It's held on campus grounds....so the campus did have the right to forbid the protest.  If they'd done this off-campus....it would have been better for the community.

15.  Things get fuzzy with the confrontation.  There are at least fifty different variations told.  Some say shots were heard by the Guard folks and they reacted.  Some suggest the Guard folks were scared of unfolding events.

16. Twenty-nine Guard guys fired weapons.....at least 67 rounds fired....four dead students and nine wounded.

17.  In the hour after the shooting....a lot of students were preparing for a massive rush against the National Guard.  This was prevented only by a couple of the professors getting into the middle of this and telling the students to disperse and go home.  If they hadn't stopped the students?  One might assume that at least a hundred more dead students would have been laid out.

18.  While the news media carried the images widely, an odd thing happened with virtually every single campus across the US.  Protest actions were absolutely forbidden.  If you engaged in the activity, you were terminated as a student.

19.  As much as the news media did to shift blame....roughly sixty-percent of the American public put the blame solely upon the students....not the Guard members.

20.  The Scranton Commission was formed, and it's one single purpose was to study protests on campuses across the US and report what was going on. For some, they were shocked at the way that these were organized and the groups who were behind the efforts.

So you look at what is going on today, and you see an entire repeat about to occur.

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