Four dead in Ohio 40 years later

By David Bulla

Another World Press Day has come and gone, and one thinks about the sacrifices journalists make all over the world to try to transmit their stories to their audiences. And some pay the ultimate price.

However, even though I am a former newspaper reporter and editor, my mind was fixed all day on 40 years ago today. That’s when Ohio National Guardsmen killed four students at Kent State University. The students were protesting the war in Southeast Asia, particularly the bombing of Cambodia that had been announced five days earlier.

The right to assemble peaceably is a bedrock freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment. The university tried to block the protest and then the Guard took control, attempting to disperse the crowd. It was met with rocks thrown by some of the protestors.

Perhaps those thrown rocks could be taken as an act of violence. However, rocks are no match for bullets, and the Guardsmen firing on unarmed students was reprehensible and should have been illegal. The eight guardsmen who were indicted after the massacre saw a U.S. district judge dismiss the charges against them.

The massacre galvanized the protest movement. Millions of students around the country not only protested the war but also the killing of the Kent State students. Indeed, the heavy-handed action of the governor, the university administration and the Guardsmen set off a level of protest that led to hundreds of colleges temporarily closing their campuses.

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