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  • May 4th, 1970. Shortly after it was announced that the U.S. had secretly moved troops into Cambodia, student protests erupted on college campuses throughout the country. Anti-war fever throughout the nation reached a fevered pitch. Nixon was supposed to be seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict, but it was obviously expanding rather than winding down. The true character of the man was becoming apparent to many of us.

    On one campus in Ohio, Kent State University, the increasing disruption of the student protests caused authorities to call in the National Guard to “restore the peace”. Things went terribly wrong, when 25 of the guardsmen opened fire directly on the students, pouring 55 rounds of live ammunition into the crowd of unarmed students, killing 4 and wounding 9 others.

    This became a galvanizing event for “the revolution” movement, memorialized in song by both Neil Young and even Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Young sang, “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own, this summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio, Gotta get down to it, solidiers are gunning us down, should have been done long ago, what if you knew her and found her dead on the ground, how can your run when you know? ”

    Wilson wrote, “America was stunned on May 4th, 1970, when rally turned to riot up at Kent State University, They say the students scared the Guard, though the troops were battle-dressed, Four marters earned a new degree, the Bachelor of Bullets”

    May 4, 1971. Still no end in sight for the war. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were playing at Kent State University. Livingston Taylor and Cactus were the opening acts. A 3 hour show was scheduled. It would be held exactly one year after the shootings.

    My cousin Rick lived in Kent, and we had decided to drive up there from Pittsburgh to see the concert. The entire week leading up to it, there were increasing disturbances and arrests in the college town, as the unrest increased. There were said to be a lot of outside agitators stirring the local students up. No Guards were called in this time, but the authorities were very concerned. It all seemed to be building up to a massive action on the anniversary of the shootings. The alleged plan was for a full scale riot to be unleashed on the town of Kent on the night of the 4th. Since most of the students were going to the concert, the plan was for the thousands of students to storm into town after the show and unleash a full scale riot.

    Officials approached the bands before the show and asked them to each play as long as they possibly could. For those of us who were just in town for the show, it was a wonderful thing. We were treated to a 6 hour show instead of 3. The music was absolutely marvelous, the crowd was ecstatic, and the riot was averted. By the time the music had ended at 2:30 a.m., everyone was just too worn out and feeling too good to go riot in town. We all just went home to crash.

    The war dragged on for nearly another two years.
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