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On May 4, 1970, National Guard troops were deployed to Kent State University to diffuse tensions during anti-war demonstrations. They opened fire on the activists, killing four.
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"Remembering Kent State, 40 Years Later." Brian Williams, correspondent. NBC News Web Exclusive. NBCUniversal Media. 4 May 2010. NBC Learn. Web. 8 September 2018.
Williams, B. (Reporter). (2010, May 4). Remembering Kent State, 40 Years Later. [Television series episode]. NBC News Web Exclusive. Retrieved from https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/browse/?cuecard=49220
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"Remembering Kent State, 40 Years Later" NBC News Web Exclusive, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 05/04/2010. Accessed Sat Sep 8 2018 from NBC Learn: https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/browse/?cuecard=49220
Remembering Kent State, 40 Years Later
BRIAN WILLIAMS reporting:
Like so much else back then, Kent State was about the war in Vietnam. The trouble started four days earlier with President Nixon’s announcement that he was widening the war into Cambodia.
President RICHARD NIXON: We will not allow American men, by the thousands, to be killed by an enemy from privileged sanctuaries.
KENSLEY JONES (NBC News): American units searching for North Vietnamese troops and installations, but what they will find or how long they will be there no one can say for sure.
WILLIAMS: Nixon had been elected on a promise to end the war and the invasion of Cambodia triggered a firestorm on campuses across the country. The administration had no love for student protestors. Vice President Agnew offered his own description of them.
Vice President SPIRO AGNEW: Over privileged, under disciplined, irresponsible children of the well-to-do blasé permissivists.
WILLIAMS: And here’s the President himself in an off camera remark at the Pentagon picked up by an NBC News microphone.
NIXON: You know you see these bums, you know, blowing up the campuses. Listen, the boys that are on the college campuses today are the luckiest people in the world.
WILLIAMS: At Kent State the luck was about to change. The campus was in turmoil after days of protest, the National Guard was sent in and the students were ordered to disperse. They refused, some threw rocks, the guards used tear gas. Then without warning they opened fire.
At least a dozen students were hit. Four were killed. Sandra Scheuer, William Schroeder, Jeffrey Miller seen lying dead in this iconic photograph that made front-pages across the country, and Allison Krause who’s grief-stricken father spoke to reporters.
ARTHUR KRAUSE: She resented being called a bum. She thought that war in Cambodia was wrong. Is this dissent a crime? Is this a reason for killing her?
WILLIAMS: From the White House a statement that sounded to some like it blamed the students quote, “this should remind us all once again that when dissent turns to violence, it invites tragedy.”
Across the country protests grew and so did an angry backlash. In lower Manhattan anti-war demonstrators who had lowered a flag to honor the dead at Kent State, were attacked by pro-Nixon hard hats.
In Washington, buses ring the White House to keep demonstrators out. They gather by thousands for a massive anti-war rally.
That night, President Nixon held a nationally televised press conference and almost every question was about the war, Kent State, and the deep divisions in the country. The President was asked if he would reach out to the students.
NIXON: I would like to try as best I can to do that, it is not easy. Sometimes, they, as you know, talk so loudly that is difficult to be heard.
WILLIAMS: Just hours later, after a sleepless night, he did try making a surprise pre-dawn visit to talk to demonstrators camped at the Lincoln Memorial. But no minds were changed on either side.
Kent State was a shock to the nation. For Richard Nixon it was a turning point. His own Chief of Staff later called it quote, “the beginning of his downhill slide toward Watergate.” But the same week those four students died, 168 Americans were killed in action in Vietnam and Cambodia and the war went on for another five years.