The Only “Outside Agitators” Advocate Endless War.

Steve Villano
6 min readMay 4, 2024


(The Kent State University Massacre, May 4, 1970. During a peaceful anti-War demonstration on the Kent State campus, 20-year old Kent State student Jeffrey Miller, of Plainview, Long Island, NY., was shot through the mouth and throat, and killed by the Ohio National Guard. Mary Anne Vecchio, a 14-year old visitor to campus, knelt by Miller’s lifeless body, screaming for help.)

There is no single image, yet, from these current Anti-Gaza War college protests, as transformative as the photo of 14-year old Mary Anne Vecchio, a run-away from Opa-Locka, Florida, kneeling over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller of Plainview, Long Island, a 20-year old Kent State student, shot through the mouth and killed instantly by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970.

It serves as a sobering reminder, on the 54th anniversary of the Kent State killings, of the way this nation’s powerful political, military and corporate interests tried, unsuccessfully, to silence us in those days: they shot us through the mouth, or beat us to a pulp, as they did in the streets of Chicago, in 1968. Still, we persisted, and were prescient about the outcome of a War, like the one in Gaza, which was a wanton waste of human life.

It is that image of a screaming Vecchio — the age of my oldest granddaughter — kneeling over Miller’s motionless body, which never leaves millions of us who protested against the U.S. War in Vietnam for years, on our college campuses, and in the streets of Washington, DC, and Albany, New York, and towns and villages across the country. That life-stopping image, coupled with the grisly photo of an American-backed South Vietnamese military officer executing a Viet Cong soldier in the head at point blank range, and the photo of a naked, shrieking Vietnamese child running in horror from an American Napalm attack, are our recurring night terrors.

And, when we awaken, the reality of thousands upon thousands of coffins of young soldiers coming home, wrapped in American flags, sacrificing their lives, their youth, their limbs, or minds, in a war which US military, intelligence and political leaders knew, for years, could never be won, but lied that it could, and kept blindly wading ahead and spreading it into Laos and Cambodia, because they would sooner kill and maim millions of Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian women and children, than admit their catastrophic policy mistakes and humanitarian atrocities.

In fact, it was mere days after President Richard Nixon announced, first the end to undergraduate student deferments, which kept many of us out of the War, and then the expansion of the War from Vietnam into Cambodia, that demonstrations across US colleges and universities exploded almost as exponentially as the 2.75 million tons of American bombs dropped indiscriminately across Cambodia, according to recent Yale University findings.

In all, up to as many as one million Cambodian civilians were killed during the four years of Henry Kissinger’s carpet-bombing campaign, which led to the rise of the deadly Khmer Rouge and the genocide of nearly three million innocent Cambodian citizens. Only a few years after the Kissinger–conceived blitzkrieg of Cambodia, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the American War in Vietnam.

On May 1, 1970, the day after Nixon & Kissinger announced the expansion of the American War into Cambodia, many of us than-college students across the United States staged a series of sit-ins, teach-ins and marches to protest the expanding, and increasingly brutal War throughout Southeast Asia. Kent State University in Northeastern, Ohio, was no exception.

Student-led demonstrations erupted on the Kent State campus on May 1, and physical attacks ratcheted up on the ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) building on the Ohio Campus and on several others. Nationwide, ROTC was functioning as a funnel to facilitate the delivery of fresh faced, young American fighting forces in Southeast Asia. It became the very symbol of the voracious appetite of a US war machine devouring everything, and everyone, it could get its hand on.

With the actions against Kent State’s ROTC building becoming more violent, Ohio’s Republican Governor Jim Rhodes, ordered 1,000 Ohio National Guard troops to roll onto the University’s campus with tanks, and military equipment meant for a battlefield. Armed soldiers were stationed in front of every dormitory. Thousands of college students, ages 17–21 — regardless of whether or not they were protesting — were held hostage on their own campus by the heavily armed, and poorly trained, members of the Ohio National Guard.

Historian Howard Zinn wrote that on May 3, Governor Rhodes gave a virulent speech at the Kent Firehouse, where he called the student protesters “un-American, Revolutionaries, out to destroy higher education in Ohio.”

We are going to eradicate the problem,” Rhodes said. “They are the worse type of people that we harbor in America.”

Rhodes irresponsible, dangerous and false accusations foreshadowed by some 54 years those made by GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson, who first accused the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas for being behind the US college protests against the War in Gaza, and than, less than one week later, accused the progressive Jewish philanthropist George Soros of orchestrating the demonstrations. Ironically, Soros has been a long-time target of anti-Semites, by the extreme Right Wing groups, and global conspiracy theorists. When pressed, Johnson could produce no evidence for his wildly contradictory claims.

On the evening of May 3 1970, a few Kent State students reacted to the Ohio Governor’s incendiary language by chanting at the Guardsmen standing in front of their dormitories. In reaction, National Guardsmen bayoneted several students, and forced others back into their dorms: they bayoneted, or stabbed, the students in front of their own dorms.

University officials tried to ban an anti-war/anti-campus occupation rally scheduled for noon the following day, May 4, at the center of the Kent State University campus, by distributing some 12,000 leaflets claiming, falsely, that the rally was cancelled. Despite the mimeographed lie by University officials, which tragically backfired, some 2,000 to 3,000 Kent State students — some 25% of the entire campus student body at that time — showed up under intensely threatening conditions to peacefully call for an end to the War, and the military occupation of their campus. Astonishingly, the inflammatory act of inciting students with a mass distributed, printed threat of academic retribution was repeated last week by Columbia University officials threatening academic retribution against Columbia’s own students in the Anti-Gaza War encampment on the New York City campus.

As the Kent State rally began on May 4, 1970, a small group of a few dozen students became more strident, and National Guardsmen, armed to the teeth, opened fire toward the center of the group of unarmed students. One unit of 12 Ohio National Guardsmen fired 67 shots at the crowd of unarmed college students in a matter of 13 seconds.

Four officially enrolled Kent State University students were killed: Allison Krause, age 19; Jeffrey Miller, age 20; Sandra Scheuer, age 20; and William Knox Schroeder, age 19. Nine additional Kent State students were wounded, with one, Dean Kahler, a 19-year old college freshman, shot in his spine and paralyzed for life.

All of the students who were shot were students in good standing at the University; none were “outside agitators.” Two of the students murdered by the Ohio National Guardsmen, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder, were simply by-standers, observing the demonstration.

Spontaneous expressions of rage and protest broke out at hundreds of American colleges and universities throughout May, 1970, involving more than a million students, not “outside agitators.” More than half of all US college campuses experienced the nationwide strike, with many schools cancelling classes, replacing them with anti-war teach-ins, and going to pass/fail grades, which is what happened at SUNY Albany. For us, it became known as “The Strike Semester.”

It was, according to Zinn, the first general student strike in United States history, embracing an expanding quilt of related issues: the American War in Vietnam; the carpet bombing of Cambodia; the presence of military and police forces on campuses; the growing corporate and military involvement of universities, growing income inequality, institutional racism, and, the Jackson State, Mississippi police murder of two Black Students for protesting the War.

At one demonstration, my life was threatened by a National Guardsmen at bayonet-point for being too politically radical (for merely demonstrating) and, at another, by the leaders of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) for being too politically moderate (for merely demonstrating). My mother’s much physically bigger brother Eddie called me a communist for opposing the War and putting up a peace sign on the front of our home. My mother, a diminutive Italian woman with one arm paralyzed by Polio, threw my uncle out of her house for making the ignorant accusation against me. It’s not just the War in Gaza that has torn families apart.

The “Kent State Massacre”, as it became known, electrified the country, sharpening opposition to the war in Southeast Asia, and galvanizing many otherwise uninvolved Americans. My own mother, an FDR/JFK/LBJ Democrat, became furiously anti-war, since all she could see was her own son in Jeffrey Miller’s life-less 20-year old body, bullet through his mouth and throat, silencing him for eternity.