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Kent State Shootings (1970)

On 4 May 1970, four students, two of them girls, were killed by shots fired by the National Guard who were called in to control an anti-war rally at Kent State University in Ohio (USA).

The Guard shot into the crowd of demonstrators injuring 11 of them, on the third day of violent rioting at the hitherto non-political university.

President Nixon immediately called the killings “unfortunate” and a published Justice Department memorandum in July revealed that the National Guard had no cause to fire on protesters.

37 university presidents blamed Nixon’s policies for having an alienating effect on the nation’s youth.

A week later, subsequent protests and student boycotts closed down over 400 campuses throughout America.

Kent State student Howard Ruffner’s photographs of the tragedy were published on the cover of Life magazine and in hundreds of other magazines and newspapers around the world. He won the George Polk Memorial Award, one of the highest awards in photojournalism.

Violence erupted again on 15 May when two black youths were gunned down by police at Jackson State College in Mississippi.

The subsequent Presidential Commission on Campus Unrest found that the Nixon administration lacked understanding of the current wave of student dissent.

Neil Young wrote a fiery indictment of the Kent State shootings, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young went right into the studio and rush-released it as Ohio, knocking their own Teach Your Children off the charts.