Current protests similar but not identical to May 4, 1970 shootings

Musician Charlie Mosbrook performs in front of attendees of the annual May 4 commemoration of the Kent State shootings in 1970, Saturday, May 4, 2013 on Blanket Hill outside Taylor Hall.

Payton Moore

Riots broke out across Baltimore on Monday, and several buildings and cars were burned and stores looted.

The riots, which revolved around police brutality are somewhat similar to how roughly 2,000 Kent State students protested the presence of the Ohio National Guard and the Vietnam War on May 4, 1970.

Mindy Farmer, director of the May 4 Visitors Center, said the right to protest is woven into the fabric of the United States, and when the government fails to meet its citizens’ needs, protest is a powerful way to influence change.

However, when asked to compare students from 1970 to today, Farmer evaluated their differences and how a simple comparison may not be so easy.

“As a historian, I am very careful not to compare generations — they each face their own unique challenges and defining moments,” Farmer said. “I think today’s generation has the same potential for greatness; they just express themselves in different ways using new technology and tools.”

Sophomore fashion merchandising major Jacquelyn Kirk agreed with Farmer about the importance of technology for students to protest.

“Social media is probably how people this day and age start protests… By stating a strong opinion a bunch of people comment on, and then pursuing it further with a protest helps to spread the info faster, which causes more people to talk action,” Kirk said.

Senior criminology and justice studies major Elizabeth Reikow said she believes an event similar to the 1970 protests on May 4 isn’t out of the question for repeating itself. And with what students here have seen in the past, they now know the effect of protest and how to get their message across.

“In a lot of ways, it’s similar,” Reikow said. “Obviously there hasn’t been an event like the riots on campus recently, but a big issue like an invasion of another country may make it happen. Students are at a point where they’re learning, being educated and are old enough to vote and want their voices to be heard.”

Kent State students remain active in protest: From the Ferguson shootings to a demand for higher wages for university employees, the 2014-2015 school year shows that students who refuse to be kept silent will protest for what they deem necessary.

“Part of our job is to serve as a warning for future generations,” Farmer said. “Understanding what happened here on May 4 offers some assurance that it will not happen again.”

Contact Payton Moore at [email protected].