May 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of the tragic violence at Kent State and Jackson State. In response to campus protests against President Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia as part of the widening Vietnam War, four Kent State University students were killed and nine others were injured by gunfire from the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970. Ten days later, two students were killed and twelve more were injured by city and state police at Jackson State University in Mississippi.
I was teaching at UC Berkeley at the time of the Kent State and Jackson State shootings. The escalation of the war into Cambodia had just transformed the campus into a beehive of alternative programs within most departments, and the decisions by then Governor Ronald Reagan to enlist massive police and national guard forces in Berkeley and San Francisco was adding to the fear of time. We also had a police sniper shooting killing one person and blinding another.