May 1-2, 1970

ROTC Building

ROTC Building Ablaze

ROTC Building Totalled

ROTC Building following Saturday night confrontations.

Map of Kent State Campus

View of KSU Campus.

     Following the violence and chaos of Friday night, Saturday, May 2, dawned with the promise of more to come. The mayor of Kent, local and campus police, university officials, and the National Guards liaison officer, Lt. Barnette, spent the day collaborating on how best to proceed in the hostile environment. As the day wore on, communication problems between the parties involved were snowballing. Lt. Barnette of the Ohio National Guard informed Vice President Matson of Kent State that if the Guard were called in, they would take control of the entire area, including both the university campus and the city of Kent. Contrarily, Barnette’s boss, General Del Toro, felt the Guard’s mission was to assist local law enforcement, not replace. Finally, Lt. Barnette informed the mayor of Kent that they had until 5:00 PM to make a decision regarding the National Guard. The standoff between the campus police and the police department of Kent continued as a battle of turf and authority. Ultimately, amidst the confusion and the ongoing threats of violence emanating from the town and the Kent State campus, Kent Mayor Satrom made the fateful decision to call General Sylvester Del Toro, and the Ohio National Guard was mobilized, destination Kent.

     The decision to call in the Guard might be considered a blessing and a curse, simultaneously. By 7:00 PM on Saturday, May 2, a crowd of roughly 600 protestors had gathered around the Victory Bell on the Kent State campus. As the crowd moved toward the ROTC building, it grew to an estimated 1500-2000, chanting anti-war slogans as they marched. Once the crowd reached and surrounded the wooden ROTC building, they began to shout “burn it” and threw rocks and trash cans through a first floor window. Initial attempts to set the building aflame failed however, by 8:45 PM, the ROTC was engulfed by fire.

     The events of the evening were well documented in the Kent-Ravenna Record-Courier, describing the scene much the same as Hensley and Lewis in their research. According to the May 4 article, the demonstrators did more than torch the ROTC building. They destroyed signs and telephone booths, forced approaching traffic to reroute, and then began throwing rocks at the recently arrived National Guard units. Additionally, they burnt the information booth near the library and destroyed the parking meters in the adjacent lot, scooping up the change as it fell to the ground. Thankfully, the National Guard was able to turn back the crowd that was forcing its way into downtown Kent, thereby sparing the city any further damage. Thus, the aforementioned blessing attributed to the arrival of the Ohio National Guard.

Kent State University