Jimi Giannatti: 1972 Kent State Massacre Never More Relevant

To keep things in perspective, Bryan and i visited Kent State University on the way out of Cleveland after a week of protests and demonstrations. It was a visit that left me filled with many emotions.

This is the spot where Mary Ann Vecchio knelt over the slain body of student Jeffrey Miller and screamed for help during an anti-war demonstration at Kent State University, Ohio, May 4, 1970.

Memorial at Kent State University, 2016 (Copyright Jimi Giannatti)

Memorial at Kent State University, 2016 (Copyright Jimi Giannatti)

Forty-six years ago, President Nixon appeared on live TV to announce the US expansion of the Viet Nam War into Cambodia and the need to draft 150,000 more soldiers. This news provoked massive protests on college campuses throughout the country. At Kent State University in Ohio, protesters launched a demonstration that included setting fire to the ROTC building, prompting the governor of Ohio to dispatch the National Guard to the campus.

During an altercation on May 4th, 28 guardsmen opened fire on a crowd, killing four students and wounding nine. Following the killings, the unrest across the country escalated even further. I was a couple months shy of 17 but had been very active in student activism. Though i was only 16, I had already been arrested for inciting a riot, for distributing anti-war literature on my campus, and arrested and suspended for leading a sit-down student strike to end of the dress-code for high schools in Maricopa County (we won btw).

Almost five hundred colleges were shut down or disrupted by protests. Ten days later, on May 14, at Jackson State University, an all-black college in Mississippi. During a student protest, police fired automatic weapons into a dormitory, killing two students and wounding nine others. The news of shootings shocked me and made me question my love for my country, but it did not stop us from demonstrating.

Bullet hole in metal sculpture at Kent State University (Copyright Jimi Giannatti)

Bullet hole in metal sculpture at Kent State University (Copyright Jimi Giannatti)

A Gallup Poll taken shortly after the shootings at Kent State revealed that over 80% of Americans approved the use of deadly force against student demonstrators, and that 58% of the respondents believed the responsibility for the deaths lay with the demonstrators themselves. Only 11% Americans blamed the National Guard. Today, i'm sure most Americans would disagree with those numbers.

I continued to march, lead and participate in protests and get arrested several times (rioting, trespassing and desecration of the American flag) for another five years up until the war ended.

Now we have Donald Trump threatening to destroy or country. Sometimes to change the world all you need to do is show up; and then keep showing up again and again until the powers that be cave because they have no other choice.

Site of Kent State massacre as seen in 2016 (copyright Jimi Giannatti)

Site of Kent State massacre as seen in 2016 (copyright Jimi Giannatti)