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Kent State – May 4, 1970. The protests against our further incursion in Southeast Asia and the unexpected shooting and killing of four Kent State students by National Guard troops, charged with dispersing the crowd.
If there was one domestic event that turned the tide of public opinion against the War in Vietnam, it was most likely this one. More than the Chicago Convention protests in 1968. More than the string of College campus protests that sprung up since the mid-60s when our involvement in Southeast Asia was becoming defining issue in our political timeline.
Kent State was different. And years later, it begs the question of protest and organizing to foment change in our society. You could say the Anti-War movement was sidetracked – paralyzed by fear that an armed confrontation would happen again; that this was the wave of the future in the world of protest – that we were heading into dangerous and uncharted waters.
To assess the situation, and to give a Capitol Hill spin on things, Senators were interviewed to give their views on the incident and how they felt it impacted on the future and in fact, how it affected our continuing involvement in a war that was becoming increasingly unpopular, and increasingly divisive among Americans.
Two senators are interviewed: Senator Mark Hatfield (R-Oregon), himself a former supporter of Nixon, whom he had put into nomination in the 1960 Presidential campaign, but over time became a staunch critic of our continuously deepening involvement in Vietnam, and now Cambodia. Also interviewed is Sen. Robert Griffin (R-Mich.) who was a supporter of the Nixon decision to invade Cambodia and, while not out-right condoning the Guardsmen’s actions – said it was, based on his observations, a justified action.
A reminder of protest through the years, and how it has changed and still have the potential to influence the course of history – and also a reminder of why there isn’t more vigorous protesting in this country – based on the fact that, things can get out of hand very fast and reactions can often at times be lethal.