The Shocking “Kent State” Massacre! Anti-War Protests! CSN&Y! An Era Of Political Activism!

kent-state-national-guard-murders-1970

Talking About A “Massacre…”

There is lots of social media reaction today to Kellyanne Conway’s “Bowling Green Massacre” comment, which she clarified later. There WASN’T a massacre at Bowling Green University, and #bowlinggreenmassacre has become a joke online.

However, I am a student of political history, and recent protest marches, and the reaction of the new administration, remind me of an era of political activism more than 45 years ago. One of the most disturbing photos in modern political history resonates even more today…

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.”

kent-state-massacre-1970

The “Kent State Massacre”:

It was a shocking headline: four college students gunned down by the National Guard during an anti-war protest at Kent State University in Ohio in 1970.

As wikipedia states:

“The Kent State shootings (also known as the May 4 massacre or the “Kent State Massacre”) occurred at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, in the United States and involved the shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970.

national-guard-kent-state-protests

An anti-war protest on the campus of Kent State University turned violent when soldiers fired on the students. As wikipedia reports:

“There were 28 soldiers who admitted to firing on top of the hill, 25 of these soldiers fired 55 rounds into the air and into the ground, two of the soldiers fired .45cal pistol shots, three into the crowd, and three into the air…”

kent-state-protests-anti-war-riots

The National Guard soldiers fired 67 rounds of bullets in only 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

kent-state-anti-war-protests-1970

kent-state-national-guard-murders-1970

The most shocking image of this massacre was the photo of Mary Ann Vecchio, shown weeping over the body of Jeffrey Miller, a student shot by the National Guard. This Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph was taken by photojournalism student John Filo in the immediate aftermath of the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970.

This photograph was seen around the world, and immediately afterwards, four million student protestors took to the streets and closed college campuses across the country.

I was too young at the time, but I found photos of the protestors who shut down Seattle’s freeway to protest the murders:

seattle-kent-state-murder-protests-may-5th-1970

kent-state-murder-protests-1970

“Four Dead In Ohio…”

This galvanizing moment in our country’s history was pivotal in turning the nation against the war in Vietnam.

crosby-stills-nash-and-young

Neil Young saw the headlines about the Kent State massacre and immediately sat down to write his brilliant protest song. Within weeks, the song was released and became an anti-war anthem.

“What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?”

Here is a great video from YouTube by “Mitch Mumby”, taking the song and covering it with stills and videos from those turbulent times.

csny-ohio

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.”

The song immediately became an anti-war anthem…here is a live performance from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 1971:

csny-political-protest-1970

During the same session they recorded another song as the B-side, Stephen Stills’s powerful ode to everyone killed in the war, “Find the Cost of Freedom”.

“Find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down”

Here is Stephen Stills performing the song live:

Recent protest marches across the country have galvanized people – I took part in the march recently in Chicago:

womens-march-in-chicago-1-21-17

This women’s march became a global event, with people participating around the world…see more photos from the Chicago rally here:


https://johnrieber.com/2017/01/21/womens-march-on-chicago-250000-strong-american-democracy-at-work/

This is just the latest in a series of marches, rallies and protests since the 2016 Presidential election. In fact, here is a shot of the protest that erupted in Chicago on the night after the election:

donald-trump-protests-chicago-2016

“Taking to the streets” is a time-honored tradition: Americans have the right to gather, peacefully march, and protest against the government. Here is more from that night:


https://johnrieber.com/2016/11/09/massive-chicago-anti-trump-protest-post-election-tumult-nationwide/

Unfortunately, as the Kent State tragedy showed, there is always the danger of violence whenever there are protests. In fact, there is a film that captured police violence as it was happening:

Medium Cool movie

Medium Cool

The brilliant film “Medium Cool” was filmed during the summer of 1968, when Chicago protestors descended on the Democratic National Convention, where this happened:

1968convention

Anti-war protestors were attacked by police, and the “Medium Cool” filmmakers captured it in their movie…see more about this incredible film here:


https://johnrieber.com/2015/12/28/rip-legendary-haskell-wexler-his-prescient-medium-cool-1968-chicago-riots-americas-political-turmoil-captured-on-film/

As political dissent continues, there is always the danger of things getting out of control, and I hope that we can learn from past tragedies so that history doesn’t repeat itself…

kent-state-massacre-1970



Categories: 70's Music, Action Films, Art, Books / Media, chicago, Classic Rock, Cult Movies, documentary films, Film Fight Club, Great Films, Hollywood, Independent Cinema, Los Angeles, Memoirs, Movies, Music, Obscure Music, Politics, Talent/Celebrities, TV Show

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4 replies

  1. Shocking that such a thing happened but I do remember the era and discussing the event at a youth retreat that spring. I agree we need to know and understand our history to avoid repeating it.

  2. I was 18 at the time, and well recall the coverage and subsequent protests over here about the shootings at KSU. I had also seen ‘Medium Cool’ at the National Film Theatre the year before, if I remember correctly.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Pete, there is VERY LITTLE acknowledgment of the tragedies of the past here in the US, and that always leads to “history repeating itself” in some way or another…troubling times here…thanks as always for your comment!

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