Caelin Mills

HEAD: The politics of May 4, 1970: What does it mean today?

Following the shootings at Kent State on May 4, 1970, the political support felt by Americans for the ongoing Vietnam War that followed was felt immediately, said Lori Boes, assistant director at the May 4 Visitors Center.

“After the shootings, the support in the United States for the Vietnam War dropped,” Boes said.

She noted that days after the shootings, college students across the country walked out of class in solidarity with those who died at Kent State.

Boes said it galvanized the younger generation — who were increasingly divided from older generations — to protest.

Though separated by 40 years, he political divisions between protest movements of today and in the ’70s are strikingly similar, Boes said. 

“We ask students if there’s anything that would make them protest, and three years ago we couldn’t get anyone to answer ‘yes,’” Boes said. “Then, as Black Lives Matter happened — look at the protests we’ve seen since (the election of President Donald) Trump — now we ask students and they say ‘yes, I can see myself protesting.”

Boes said the shift that’s happened in the viewing of protesting millennials just in the last three years among millennials about what it can and can’t do is “really interesting.”

She said the divisions today aren’t generational differences, but ideological differences of conservatives and liberals. The call for protest is just as strong because of these divisions as it was in 1970, Boes said.