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Boston Massacre Vs. Kent State Shootings

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It is often said to remember important mistakes, crimes, declines, anything negative so that, "History does not repeat itself." Some of the notable mistakes include strategic errors in wars; such as the French, in World War I, stacking the Maginot Line while the Germans marched around it, and in World War II doing the exact same thing. Other mistakes include incidents on domestic soil in which protests turn violent such as the Boston Massacre in 1770 and the Kent State Shootings in 1970. Other than each happening on Mondays and occurring almost two hundred years apart, the two draw deeper comparisons to one another which caused widespread protest leaving marks in American history. Upon reviewing these two cases it triggers the question, did history repeat itself?

There is a similarity between the events building up to these two tragic incidents. A series of government actions brought up large crowds of hostile crowds which resulted in the bringing in of government officials to contain the situation causing a tense relationship among the two groups which was eventually snapped as lives were taken.

The Boston Massacre was started by a series of events that included citizens of the colonies tangling up with British soldiers leading up to the March 5th event with soldiers trying to maintain order against the angry, violent protesters. While it is still controversial as to which party is to take the blame for this incident, the violent but non-fatal crowd or the threatened soldiers. Either way, there is no question this event had a major impact on the new nation and as John Adams put it:

On that night the formation of American Independence was laid... Not the battle of Lexington or Bunker Hill, not the surrender of Burgoyne or Cornwallis were more important events in American history than the battle of King street on the 5th of March, 1770. (1)

A few acts by the British government would eventually ignite hostilities

between the colonists and British soldiers. In July, 1766, in hopes of bringing in more revenue, the British decided to increase the number of customs officials as well as deciding to pay governors, judges, and revenue officers directly from the king in order that they become independent from the colonies in any way. In addition, more military forces were brought in, especially in Boston. Furthermore in October, 1767, a new set of taxes on colonial imports were enforced angering the colonists even more. (2) In early March, 1770, disputes between colonists and soldiers began. On March 2nd, 1770, a roper maker by the name of William Green asked a passing by British soldier if he would like some work. When the soldier replied yes, Green then told the soldier that he could clean the bathroom. This caused a fight between the two men which Green ended up winning. The soldier then left and brought back more soldiers and they fought against Green and other rope makers, losing again. When the soldiers brought more back the second time, the owner of the rope yard stopped the fighting. (3)

The Kent State shootings, like the Boston Massacre, involved authorities brought in to maintain order against protesters and ending in violence; similarly the days before the shootings there were confrontations between the testy guardsmen and violent protesters provoking the fateful day on May 4th, 1970. Contentious questions arose from these shootings as well. Why did the guardsmen shoot upon the crowd when there were obviously no lives in danger? Who was responsible for these shootings? "Kent State is listed by The National Examiner as #51 in its list of top on hundred scandals of the twentieth century." (4) According to the Grand Jury report, it was concluded that:

The fact that we have found those Guardsmen who fired their weapons acted in self-defense is not an endorsement by us of the manner in which those in command of the National Guard re-acted. To the contrary we have concluded that the group of Guardsmen who were ordered to disperse the crowd on the Commons were placed in an untenable and dangerous position. (5)

The catalyst to the shootings began on April 30th, 1970 when President Richard

Nixon announced to the public that the United States would be invading Cambodia in order to attack the Viet Cong headquarters. President Nixon stated, "We take these actions, not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia, but for the purpose of ending the war in Vietnam, and winning the just peace we all desire." (6) Widespread protests spread like wildfire all across the nation, especially on colleges campuses. At Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, student protesters gathered on May 1st, 1970 at noon in the middle of the campus at a large, grassy area known as the Commons where rallies and demonstrations had previously been held. Organized by some history students, five hundred people gathered as a copy of the Constitution was buried. Word spread that another rally was to be held on May 4th as students flooded the streets of downtown Kent chanting and causing destruction. (7) Police cars passing by were hit with beer bottles; windows of banks, loan companies, and utility companies among others. When the police and the Mayor Leroy Satrom eventually ended the riot, a total of five thousand dollars worth of windows were broken while many were arrested. The next day a dusk to dawn curfew was set up in Kent and not to the Kent State officials's knowledge, the Ohio National Guard was called to attention by the mayor at five p.m. Some time after eight p.m. some two thousand people surrounded the ROTC building of Kent State and set it on fire. Firemen initially tried to put out the fire but stopped as they were being attacked and their hoses being cut. Each time police and firemen got control of the situation, the building was set on fire again. The National Guard eventually pushed the marchers back with tear gas and bayonets as the marchers threw stones; many arrests were again made on this day. (8) On May 3rd, the Kent State campus was filled with Ohio National Guardsmen. James Rhodes, the Ohio governor arrived in Kent and called the protestors, "the worst type of people we harbor in America," and stating that every force of law would be used to deal with them. (9) Rhodes also indicated that he would seek a court order declaring a state of emergency. A crowd gathered later that night and the Ohio Riot Act was read to them. The students were protesting the Guardsmen being on campus by blocking the streets. When they were promised that they would be able to talk to Major Satrom and Kent State president Robert White about this situation the students moved off the streets. Once they moved, the Guardsmen immediately began use tear gas to break up the crowd, breaking the



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