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Four Dead In Ohio

Lawrence Jesterton

On April 30, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon announced to the nation that the United States was going to begin an invasion of Cambodia. In order to do this, the United States needed to draft 150,000 more soldiers. This caused massive protests on college campuses across the country. At Kent State University in Ohio, protesters launched a demonstration that included setting fire to the ROTC building, prompting the governor of Ohio to dispatch 900 National Guardsmen to the campus.

During an altercation on May 4, twenty-eight guardsmen opened fire on a crowd, killing four students and wounding nine. Following the killings, the unrest across the country escalated even further. Almost five hundred colleges were shut down or disrupted by protests.Despite the public outcry, the Justice Department initially declined to conduct a grand jury investigation. A report by the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest did acknowledge, however, that the action of the guardsmen had been “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.” Eventually, a grand jury indicted eight of the guardsmen, but the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence.”

Neil Young responded to the incident with a protest song called “Ohio”. It was performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and became one of the biggest anthems on protest in Vietnam.

“The lyrics help evoke the turbulent mood of horror, outrage and shock in the wake of the shootings, especially the line “four dead in Ohio,” repeated throughout the song. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming” refers to the Ohio National Guardsmen who killed the student protesters and Young’s attribution of their deaths to the President of the United States, Richard Nixon. Crosby once stated that Young keeping Nixon’s name in the lyrics was “the bravest thing I ever heard.” The American counterculture took the group as its own after this song, giving the four a status as leaders and spokesmen they would enjoy to varying extent for the rest of the decade.”

 

 

 

[via History]

 

 

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