Group 6:
Alex C
Joe M
Brendan C
James M

American Anti-War Activists of the 1970's

Tinker v. Des Moines Court Case
Throughout history, there have been many examples of anti-war protests. For example, Henry David Thoreau did not pay his taxes in protest of the Mexican-American War. He wrote about this "civil disobedience" in Resistance to Civil Government (1849), otherwise known as Civil Disobedience. Thoreau was eventually jailed for his refusal to pay taxes. During the mid-1960s and early 1970s, a great deal of anti-Vietnam War protests occured. In 1965, John Tinker, Mary Beth Tinker, and Christopher Eckhardt, students in the Des Moines, Iowa, school district, were also punished for their civil disobedience. After having a meeting, the students planned to wear black armbands to school as a protest of the Vietnam War. However, school officials learned about this plan and made a rule stating that any student who wore armbands to school would be suspended. While the students were fully aware of this rule, they wore the armbands to school, believing they had a right to express their disapproval of government policies. John, Mary Beth, and Christopher were all suspended from school; however, they filed a lawsuit against the Des Moines School District, which resulted in the well-known civil liberties case, Tinker v. Des Moines (1969). This case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court where Justices ruled that the school's rule was unconstitutional.

Kent State University Massacre
What happened?
Perhaps the most famous anti-war activists of the 1970's were those who participated in the protest at Kent State University in Ohio in May of 1970. In late April, then President Richard Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia. Congress had not officially declared war. The next day (May 1), approximately 500 students organized to protest this invasion. Several other protests had formed, including one on an area of downtown Kent. The protest quickly turned into a riot: police cruisers were hit with beer bottles, traffic was blocked, and buildings were damaged. Because of this, the mayor of Kent declared a state of emergency. Police were called with tear gas and knight sticks to force the rioters back into their homes. The following day the mayor alerted the Ohio National Guardsmen of the situation. Also on this day, about 300 students formed a group that chanted anti-war slogans, read speeches, and marched. The situation was relatively peaceful until some of the group set a building on the Kent State University campus on fire. Police and firemen were then called and protestors were again forced back to their homes with tear gas. By May 3, the KSU campus was fully occupied with Guardsmen. A commander gave the Guardsmen the right to fire their weapons if necessary. That night another crowd was formed, and tear gas was again used to force protestors back into their homes. The next day, students organized in a crowd that eventually had about 1,500 people. After ignoring the warning to disperse, the crowd was fired at with tear gas by advancing Guardsmen. People proceeded to throw tear gas canisters and stones at the troops. The Guardsmen began to retreat, making the protestors believe the incident had ended; however, the Guardsmen quickly turned and fired a total of 67 shots into the crowd. Four students (Jeffrey Miller, William Schroeder, Allison Krause, and Sandra Scheuer) were killed, and nine others were wounded.

Laws broken by the protestors
By vandalizing buildings (breaking windows and setting buildings on fire) and attempting to damage police cars with beer bottles, the protestors had violated the law. However, the protestors' organization and chanting of anti-war slogans is an infraction of the law. The right to petition and assemble and the freedom of speech are all protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Though the protestors may not have believed that they should have been suppressed by the Guardsmen, Thoreau would not have agreed with this act of disobedience. Because the protestors vandalized buildings and police cars, their protesting was not, in fact, "civil disobedience." Laws and statues like this one are needed to make sure all the inhabitants of a town or city are safe.

Opinions of the Kent State shooting
While many argue that the protestors at Kent State University were just exercising their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and petition and that the Ohio National Guardsmen had no right to fire at them, there are some who believe the Guardsmen did have a legitimate reason to fire into the crowd of protestors. In the article "The May 4 Shootings at Kent State University: The Search for Historical Accuracy" found at, Jerry M. Lewis and Thomas R. Hensley write that the "events quickly escalated into a violent confromtation between protestors and police." The Guardsmen have also noted while being tried in federal courts that "they felt the demonstrators were advancing on them in such a way as to pose a serious and immediate threat to the safety of the Guardsmen, and they therefore had to fire in self-defense."

On the other hand, Neil Young wrote his opinion of the Kent State shootings in his song "Ohio." To listen to "Ohio," follow this link:

In the photo below, protestors at Kent State University in Ohio organize on May 4, 1970, before Ohio National Guardsmen shoot into the crowd, killing four students and injuring nine others.

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning picture below taken by John Paul Filo, Mary Ann Vecchio screams for help as she stands over the body of Jeffrey Miller.

Joe M's work:
Bio Of Bobby Seale
two accounts of the kent state shootings

9. The anti war activists were trying to make their point clear that we shouldn’t have war any more. They did things like have marches, and protests but they were never violent because they believed in peace. The war that these activists were protesting was the Vietnam War. They felt we have no business interfering in anyone else’s wars, but we did anyway. They didn’t really stop us from entering the war but they did influence the public how negative war is. Mainly they tried to protest the draft. They burned draft cards, and did what they could to try and show the people drafting was a terrible idea. And in this I think they were successful.

10. Thoreau’s essay talked about civil disobedience and what happened to people who represented it. People were punished, usually by jail. But that wasn’t always the case… sometimes it was worse. At kent state back in the earlie 70’s people were protesting all the time. People tried to stop them but they wouldn’t listen. So the ploice force got involved and actually used FORCE. They shot as protesters which was a form of punishment people didn’t think was very just.
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An annotated list of people (linked) that have been affected by the act throughout history.

Some people that have been affected by civil disobedience are the people who where shoot at Kent State. They were protesting the invasion of Cambodia.
  • Jeffrey Miller; age 20; shot through the mouth - killed instantly
  • ;Allison B. Krause age 19; fatal left chest wound - died later that day
  • William Knox Schroeder; age 19 fatal chest wound - died almost an hour later in hospital while waiting for surgery
  • Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20; fatal neck wound - died a few minutes later from loss of blood
Wounded (and approximate distance from the National Guard):

  • Joseph Lewis Jr.; hit twice in the right abdomen and left lower leg
  • John R. Cleary; upper left chest wound
  • Thomas Mark Grace; struck in left ankle
  • Alan Michael Canfora; hit in his right wrist
  • Dean R. Kahler; back wound fracturing the vertebrae - permanently paralyzed from the chest down
  • Douglas Alan Wrentmore; hit in his right knee
  • James Dennis Russell; hit in his right thigh from a bullet and in the right forehead by birdshot - both wounds minor
  • Robert Follis Stamps; hit in his right buttock
  • Donald Scott MacKenzie; neck wound

Works Cited

"Kent State Protestors." VETSPEAK. Web. 6 Jan 2011.

"Kent State Tragedy." Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier Online, 2011. Web. 6 Jan. 2011.

"Capture the Moment: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs - 1971 Image Page." OHIO HISTORY Online Portal. Web. 06 Jan. 2011.

"May 4, 1970 in Photos." Welcome to Kent State University Departmental Site. Web. 06 Jan. 2011.

"THE MAY 4 SHOOTINGS AT KENT STATE UNIVERSITY: THE SEARCH FOR HISTORICAL ACCURACY." Welcome to Kent State University Departmental Site. Web. 06 Jan. 2011.

"Resistance to Civil Government (1849), Henry David Thoreau." Home | W. W. Norton & Company. Web. 06 Jan. 2011. <>.