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Kent State Shootings: Causes, Facts, Aftermath and Photos of May 4 Massacre

The Kent Shootings, also known as the May 4 massacre, was the result of a clash between Kent State University students and National Guards. Four unarmed students were killed and nine were wounded when the National Guard opened fire on the crowd. This incident shocked the nation, and the protests after the incident contributed a lot to the downfall of President Richard Nixon.

Vietnam war and Cambodian Invasion

The United States entered the Vietnam war under the presidency of John F. Kenney. When Lyndon B. Johnson took the office, he continued the war. The US involvement in the conflict was controversial from its beginnings because the war was fatal and both of the governments faced massive opposition from the public. Richard Nixon had been elected on the promise that he would end the Vietnam war. And, until April 1970, it appeared he was on the way to fulfilling his promise, as the military activities were winding down. On April 30, 1970, Nixon authorized the U.S. troops to invade Cambodia without notifying the Secretary of State William Rogers and without the approval of the White house. This standalone decision outraged the public and massive protests were started.

Cambodia was a natural country and its political system was already disrupted due to inner conflicts. The North Vietnamese were hiding in the safe places in Cambodia to launch attacks on the U.S troops and South Vietnamese. The U.S. dropped more explosives on Cambodia than the entire World War II bombings by the allies. The invasion also led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge which devastated the nation and over one and half million Cambodian people were killed during the Pol Pot regime.

Protest against the Vietnam War and Cambodian Invasion

Nixon addressed the nation on television two days later, however, the public was already aware of the invasion. Over four million students of different universities, colleges, and high schools participated in the country-wide protests, rallies, and organized walk-outs against the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war and Cambodian invasion.  It was the largest student strike in the history of the country.

At Kent State University students gathered on May 1, the day after the invasion. The campus was the site of large demonstrations and other events in the past. Several speakers spoke against the war and the Nixon administration. At night the violence and clash started between the protestors and police in downtown Kent. The Police alleged that their vehicles were hit with bottles and stones. Kent Mayor, Leroy Satrom declared a state emergency. Police tear-gassed to disperse the mob, and they eventually able to move the protestors back to the campus.

On May 2, Kent Mayor, Santrom requested Governor Rhodes to send the Ohio National Guard upon the rumors of attack and to deal with the angry protestors. Protesters set the school’s ROTC building on fire before the arrival of National Guards. Some protestors reportedly clashed with the firefighters attempting to put out the blaze. A doze of arrest was made that night and the campus was turned into a war zone. Surprisingly, the next day Sunday, May 3rd, students were lounging on the Commons and even engaging with the Guardsmen on duty.

The May 4th Protest which led to the incident

The massive protest was scheduled for noon on Monday, May 4. Before the protest university officials attempted to diffuse the situation by prohibiting the event. However, when all the dialogues were failed, crowds began to gather at 11 am and an estimated 3,000 protesters were there and 1,000 National Guards were also at the campus to handle the situation. Roughly 100 Ohio National Guardsmen carrying M-1 military rifles. Ohio National Guard General Robert Canterbury ordered the protesters to disperse, the Kent police also announced the message using a bullhorn. However, the protestors refused to obey the order and they began shouting and throwing rocks at the Guardsmen. General Canterbury ordered his men to fire tear gas towards the protestors. The Guardsmen forced the protestors to a nearby hill called Blanket Hill. The football field at the Blanket Hill was closed with fencing and the mob caught some Guardsmen and beat them.

The Guardsmen retreated back and when they reached the top of the hill, they fired their M-1 rifles directly into the crowd. Over just a 13-second period, nearly 70 shots were fired. Four Kent State University students — Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder, and Sandra Scheuer were killed in the shootings and nine others were injured.

The aftermath of the Kent State Shooting

The university was closed after the shootings and re-opened after six weeks. Several investigation comedies were formed to investigate the incident. During the trails, members of the Ohio National Guard testified that they opened fire because they feared for their lives. Kent State students and their families filed a civil suit, a settlement was reached in 1979 in which the Ohio National Guard agreed to pay those injured in the events of May 4, 1970, a total of $675,000.

#1 Youths run from tear gas thrown by police to break up a window smashing rampage by students of Kent State University demonstrating the war.

Youths run from tear gas thrown by police to break up a window smashing rampage by students of Kent State University demonstrating the war.

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#2 Ohio National Guardsmen in a jeep as they enforce a curfew on the Kent State University campus, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

Ohio National Guardsmen in a jeep as they enforce a curfew on the Kent State University campus, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

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#3 Nighttime view of a line of Ohio National Guardsmen, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

Nighttime view of a line of Ohio National Guardsmen, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

They had been called in by the governor to enforce a curfew in the wake of student antiwar protests, initially over the US invasion of Cambodia

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#4 Kent State University students, some with raised fists gather on a campus road in the wake of student antiwar protests, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

Kent State University students, some with raised fists gather on a campus road in the wake of student antiwar protests, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

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#5 An unidentified Kent State University student in a jean jacket on which is written ‘Heil Pig,’ a reference to the on-campus presence of the Ohio National Guard

An unidentified Kent State University student in a jean jacket on which is written 'Heil Pig,' a reference to the on-campus presence of the Ohio National Guard

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#6 Kent State University students, some with raised fists gather on a campus road in the wake of student antiwar protests, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

Kent State University students, some with raised fists gather on a campus road in the wake of student antiwar protests, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

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#7 Ohio National Guardsmen as they talk with female Kent State University students on the university’s campus in the wake of student antiwar protests, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

Ohio National Guardsmen as they talk with female Kent State University students on the university's campus in the wake of student antiwar protests, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

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#8 National Guardsman at Kent State, 1970.

National Guardsman at Kent State, 1970.

An unidentified Ohio National Guardsmen as he patrols on the Kent State University campus in front of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) building after it had been burned during student protests, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

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#9 A trio of Ohio National Guardsmen as they stand by a jeep on the Kent State University campus, May 3, 1970.

A trio of Ohio National Guardsmen as they stand by a jeep on the Kent State University campus, May 3, 1970.

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#10 Kent State University student Brother Fargo stands on a sidewalk during student demonstrations on the university campus, May 3, 1970.

Kent State University student Brother Fargo  stands on a sidewalk during student demonstrations on the university campus, May 3, 1970.

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#11 Student’s cars are searched during Kent State University lock down.

Student's cars are searched during Kent State University lock down.

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#12 Kent State University student Alan Canfora waves a black flag as Ohio Army National Guardsmen kneel and aim their rifles on the university’s practice field, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

Kent State University student Alan Canfora waves a black flag as Ohio Army National Guardsmen kneel and aim their rifles on the university's practice field, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

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#13 A student throws a tear gas canister back at National Guardsmen during a demonstration, 4th May 1970.

A student throws a tear gas canister back at National Guardsmen during a demonstration, 4th May 1970.

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#14 Teenager Mary Ann Vecchio screams as she kneels over the body of Kent State University student Jeffrey Miller who had been shot. May 4, 1970.

Teenager Mary Ann Vecchio screams as she kneels over the body of Kent State University student Jeffrey Miller who had been shot. May 4, 1970.

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One Comment

  1. I remember this photo from this time at Universities inTexas. Made me feel like our government was crazier than I thought. Parents were calling telling us to stay a way from protests.

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#15 National Guard troops throw tear gas into the rioters at Kent State protesting the American invasion of Cambodia.

National Guard troops throw tear gas into the rioters at Kent State protesting the American invasion of Cambodia.

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#16 People carrying a dead body of protestor who was shot down by the National Guards, May 4th 1970.

People carrying a dead body of protestor who was shot down by the National Guards, May 4th 1970.

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#17 Sudent on a stretcher is wheeled to an ambulance, May 4th 1970.

Sudent on a stretcher is wheeled to an ambulance, May 4th 1970.

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#18 Irate Protester jumps up and down on the spilled blood of one of the students shot down by Ohio National Guardsmen here during the protest, 4 May 1970.

Irate Protester jumps up and down on the spilled blood of one of the students shot down by Ohio National Guardsmen here during the protest, 4 May 1970.

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#19 Masked National Guardsmen fired a barrage of tear gas into a crowd of demonstrators on the campus of Kent State University May 4th, 1970.

Masked National Guardsmen fired a barrage of tear gas into a crowd of demonstrators on the campus of Kent State University May 4th, 1970.

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#20 Guardsmen fired a barrage of tear gas into a crowd of demonstrators on the campus of Kent State University.

Guardsmen fired a barrage of tear gas into a crowd of demonstrators on the campus of Kent State University.

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#21 An aerial view of police firing tear gas on student protesters on the Kent State University, May 4th 1970.

An aerial view of police firing tear gas on student protesters on the Kent State University, May 4th 1970.

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#22 Students Helping an Injured Colleague who was shot by National Guards, May 4th 1970.

Students Helping an Injured Colleague who was shot by National Guards, May 4th 1970.

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#23 Masked national guardsmen fire barrage of tear gas into crowd of demonstrators on campus of Kent State University, May 4th 1970.

Masked national guardsmen fire barrage of tear gas into crowd of demonstrators on campus of Kent State University, May 4th 1970.

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#24 Wounded and dazed, a Kent State University student is comforted by fellow-students after bieng shot by national guardsmen May 4, 1970.

Wounded and dazed, a Kent State University student is comforted by fellow-students after bieng shot by national guardsmen May 4, 1970.

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#25 National guardsmen fire tear gas at students on campus of Kent State University in this May 4, 1970.

National guardsmen fire tear gas at students on campus of Kent State University in this May 4, 1970.

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#26 Students at the base of Blanket Hill, during an anti-war demonstration, May 4th 1970.

Students at the base of Blanket Hill, during an anti-war demonstration, May 4th 1970.

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#27 On Blanket Hill, Kent State University faculty use a microphone to try and convince antiwar demonstrators and students to disperse after the Ohio National Guard opened fire on them, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

On Blanket Hill, Kent State University faculty use a microphone to try and convince antiwar demonstrators and students to disperse after the Ohio National Guard opened fire on them, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

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#28 Students kneel on the grass beside wounded classmate John Cleary after the latter had been shot, May 4th 1970.

Students kneel on the grass beside wounded classmate John Cleary after the latter had been shot, May 4th 1970.

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#29 A man tries to students on the Commons, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

A man tries to students on the Commons, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

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#30 Kent State University students, some on the grass (in fore) and of an elevated plaza (in the background) look on the across the Commons during a student antiwar protest, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

Kent State University students, some on the grass (in fore) and of an elevated plaza (in the background) look on the across the Commons during a student antiwar protest, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

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#31 Demonstratos gathered around Blanket Hill, May 4th 1970.

Demonstratos gathered around Blanket Hill, May 4th 1970.

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#32 Students hang a banner out of a dorm window during a student antiwar protest, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

Students hang a banner out of a dorm window during a student antiwar protest, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

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#33 A woman after Shootings at Kent States Univeristy, May 4th 1970.

A woman after Shootings at Kent States Univeristy, May 4th 1970.

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#34 Ohio State Highway Patrol officers, with clubs in their hands, as they arrive at Kent State University.

Ohio State Highway Patrol officers, with clubs in their hands, as they arrive at Kent State University.

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#35 Students sitting on the grass after the shootings, May 4th 1970.

Students sitting on the grass after the shootings, May 4th 1970.

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#36 Crowd of Kent State University students during an antiwar demonstration, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

Crowd of Kent State University students during an antiwar demonstration, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

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#37 A crowd of Kent State University students as they cross a parking lot during an antiwar demonstration, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

A crowd of Kent State University students as they cross a parking lot during an antiwar demonstration, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

Several cover their mouths and noses after teargas had been launched at them.

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#38 Demonstrators on and around the Victory Bell at Kent State University during an antiwar protest, May 4th 1970.

Demonstrators on and around the Victory Bell at Kent State University during an antiwar protest, May 4th 1970.

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#39 Ohio National Guardsmen, with rifles and gas masks, on the Kent State University campus, May 4th 1970.

Ohio National Guardsmen, with rifles and gas masks, on the Kent State University campus, May 4th 1970.

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#40 Students kneel on the grass beside wounded classmate John Cleary after the latter had been shot when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on antiwar protesters, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

Students kneel on the grass beside wounded classmate John Cleary after the latter had been shot when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on antiwar protesters, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

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#41 Students disperse after an antiwar demonstration when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on protesters, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

Students disperse after an antiwar demonstration when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on protesters, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

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#42 Students on the roof of Johnson Hall on the Kent State University campus for a student antiwar protest, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

Students on the roof of Johnson Hall on the Kent State University campus for a student antiwar protest, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

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#43 Highway Patrol officers as they arrive at Kent State University in the wake of the Ohio National Guard’s shooting of protesters on the university’s campus, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

Highway Patrol officers as they arrive at Kent State University in the wake of the Ohio National Guard's shooting of protesters on the university's campus, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

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#44 Ohio National Guardsmen on the Kent State University, May 4th 1970.

Ohio National Guardsmen on the Kent State University, May 4th 1970.

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#45 Broken windows of a parked car (in the Prentice Hall parking lot) caused by bullets after the Ohio National Guard opened fire on Students, May 4th 1970.

Broken windows of a parked car (in the Prentice Hall parking lot) caused by bullets after the Ohio National Guard opened fire on Students, May 4th 1970.

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#46 Robert Fitter, assistant professor of law at CU Law School, exhorts students to strike Thursday in memorial protest over killing of four students, May 5th 1970

Robert Fitter, assistant professor of law at CU Law School, exhorts students to strike Thursday in memorial protest over killing of four students, May 5th 1970

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#47 University students protest the Vietnam War and the Kent State University shooting, Chicago, Illinois, May 5, 1970.

University students protest the Vietnam War and the Kent State University shooting, Chicago, Illinois, May 5, 1970.

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#48 University students protest the Vietnam War and the Kent State University shooting, Chicago, May 5, 1970.

University students protest the Vietnam War and the Kent State University shooting, Chicago, May 5, 1970.

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#49 Chicago-area university students mourn the four students killed by police at Kent State University, May 5, 1970.

Chicago-area university students mourn the four students killed by police at Kent State University, May 5, 1970.

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#50 University students protest after the shootings, May 5 1970.

University students protest after the shootings, May 5 1970.

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#51 University of Chicago students march to the Washington Park national guard armory, 53rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.

University of Chicago students march to the Washington Park national guard armory, 53rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.

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#52 Anti-Vietnam War Protest in Boston, May 5 1970.

Anti-Vietnam War Protest in Boston, May 5 1970.

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#53 Students protesting for students who were killed during clashes with the National Guard outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston on May 5, 1970.

Students protesting for students who were killed during clashes with the National Guard outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston on May 5, 1970.

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#54 A vigil in front of the Equitable Building, 401 North Michigan Avenue, in memory of the four students killed at Kent State University, Chicago, Illinois, May 6, 1970.

A vigil in front of the Equitable Building, 401 North Michigan Avenue, in memory of the four students killed at Kent State University, Chicago, Illinois, May 6, 1970.

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#55 Uic-Circle Students on strike following Kent State Shootings, May 6 1970.

Uic-Circle Students on strike following Kent State Shootings, May 6 1970.

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#56 University of Illinois Circle campus students clash with police as they attempt a sit-in at the ROTC building, 728 West Roosevelt Road, May 6 1970.

University of Illinois Circle campus students clash with police as they attempt a sit-in at the ROTC building, 728 West Roosevelt Road, May 6 1970.

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#57 Police with batons stand over and arrest a protester while standing on newspapers during a Vietnam War protest in New York City, May 7 1970.

Police with batons stand over and arrest a protester while standing on newspapers during a Vietnam War protest in New York City,  May 7 1970.

The protest, largely led by students, was in reaction to both the Vietnam War and the Kent State shootings.

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#58 Jeffrey Glenn Miller Student Demonstration protesting after Kent State Univeristy shootings.

Jeffrey Glenn Miller Student Demonstration protesting after Kent State Univeristy shootings.

Some 3,000 mourners, stood in somber respectful silence as the final rites were performed for Jeffrey Glenn Miller

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#59 Ohio National Guardsmen prepare to leave the Kent State University campus.

Ohio National Guardsmen prepare to leave the Kent State University campus.

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#60 Loyola University students on strike following the Kent State University shootings, Chicago, Illinois, May 7, 1970

Loyola University students on strike following the Kent State University shootings, Chicago, Illinois, May 7, 1970

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#61 Police carry an arrested protester into a waiting bus, May 7 1970.

Police carry an arrested protester into a waiting bus, May 7 1970.

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#62 A rally held at Loyola University to protest the Vietnam War and the Kent State University shootings, Chicago, Illinois, May 7, 1970.

A rally held at Loyola University to protest the Vietnam War and the Kent State University shootings, Chicago, Illinois, May 7, 1970.

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#63 High school students join Northwestern University students in a rally during the student strike, following the Kent State University shootings, Evanston, May 8, 1970.

High school students join Northwestern University students in a rally during the student strike, following the Kent State University shootings, Evanston, May 8, 1970.

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#64 Ohio National Guardsman as they attempt to enforce a curfew while Kent University students stand in a street, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

Ohio National Guardsman as they attempt to enforce a curfew while Kent University students stand in a street, Kent, Ohio, May 3, 1970.

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Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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