Candles lit by protesters serve as memorials for the victims of the war in Vietnam and its surrounding conflicts.

Photograph by James P. Blair, National Geographic
  • On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed four students at Kent State University. At noon, more than 2,000 students had assembled on campus to protest the Vietnam War and the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. The National Guard tried to break up the crowd and was soon firing tear gas. Guardsmen, with bayonets attached to their rifles, pushed toward students. Some of the protesters responded by throwing rocks and verbally abusing the guards.
    Guardsmen fired more than 60 rounds toward a group of protesters. They killed four people and wounded nine. Eventually the crowd dispersed, and the National Guard was convinced to leave by university faculty. The campus was closed for six weeks, students were bused to local cities, and a state of emergency was declared for surrounding towns.
    American universities, the sites of many large anti-war protests, were deeply impacted and concerned about the safety and freedom of their students. The Kent State shootings triggered a nationwide student strike that forced hundreds of colleges and universities to close. More than 100,000 people protested in Washington, D.C., where an influential adviser to President Richard Nixon, Charles Coulson, remembers thinking, “This is a nation at war with itself.”
    Four years later, a federal court dropped charges against the Ohio National Guardsmen. 
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    adviser Noun

    person who offers informed advice about an issue.

    campus Noun

    grounds and buildings of a school, hospital, or business park.

    eventually Adverb

    at some point in the future.

    federal Adjective

    having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).

    influential Adjective

    important; having the ability to lead the opinions or attitudes of others.

    invasion Noun

    an attack or move to take possession.

    protest noun, verb

    demonstration against a policy or action.

    strike Noun

    situation of people refusing to work in order to call attention to their working conditions.

    tear gas Noun

    aerosol gas that causes extreme irritation of the eyes, leading to tears and sometimes vomiting. Also called CS gas.