On May 4th, 40 years ago (1970), students at the Kent State University in Ohio had been protesting since the April 30th announcement by Nixon that the US was invading Cambodia. This move was seen by many as an escalation of the Vietnam War. Due to the previous days of protests, unrest, and riot the Mayor of Kent had declared an emergency and obtained Ohio National Guard soldiers.
On the morning of May 4th, there were approximately 77 National Guard members on the campus of Kent State University. Students were having a protest, and the guards decided that it needed to be stopped. The National Guard troops advanced on the students with bayonets, guns, and teargas, forcing them to relocate. As this was happening students would be pushed away and some would try to return to their position.
After the National Guard had basically removed the majority of the protest from their central location, for reasons still relatively unclear, a group of the soldiers fired on the students.
It was later determined that 29 soldiers fired a total of 67 rounds in less than a minute. These rounds killed two protesters- Allison Krause, 19 and Jeffrey Miller, 20. They also killed two bystanders- Sandra Scheuer, 20 and William Knox Schroeder, 19.
The result of these murders was the largest student strike in US history, with over 4 million students at 900 universities going on strike. Kent State itself was shut down for 6 weeks.
The soldiers were never found guilty for the deaths.
This is another blatant example of the murderous potential of the state. Whether it was a lack of training in the troops, or a deliberate decision to silence protesters, the incident at Kent State shows that the state is accountable for the deaths of dissenters. Dissenting or protesting is a crime with the potential for the death penalty in the USA.
This sort of oppressive violence is a regular happening in many communities of color and poor and working class folks. Many more marginalized groups have and do face deadly violence from the state when they dare to speak up. Kent State likely received more attention because of the skin and class privilege held by the students killed. Their privilege does not make them more or less deserving of remembering or justice. But this event should not be viewed as more outrageous than the many others that happen all the time. State oppression does affect people of all backgrounds, when they make the decision to question the authority of the state and the capitalist market.