Tin soldiers and Nixon coming
 We’re finally on our own
 This summer I hear the drumming
 Four dead in Ohio.

“Nixon and the Tin Soldiers are coming …”: on May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired from a great distance in the direction of the knoll on the campus of Ohio’s Kent University, where a demonstration was taking place against the U.S. military’s widening intervention in Vietnam to Cambodia. Shots fired at eye level killed four students and wounded nine others. The song “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, first performed just 10 days after the killings, denounced the crimes, the perpetrators of which were later acquitted. The killings that took place on that campus made an immense impression in the country and later, 4 million students and faculty demonstrated at universities. John Filo’s dramatic photo capturing the screaming of 14-year-old Mary Vecchio next to the dead body of student Jaffrey Miller won the Pulitzer Prize and helped to crumble the residual consensus of the U.S. population toward a war that claimed a few million lives among the Vietnamese and 58,000 among U.S. soldiers.


This year, hundreds of students, faculty and community members gathered on May 4 at the Kent University campus to remember the killing of the four (two girls and two boys) and to demand that the university administration make public its investments in Israel and discontinue cooperation with that state in connection with the ongoing massacre in Gaza, which to date horrifically accounts for at least 35,000 killed (including 14,000 children).

The Kent University demonstration was organized by several associations, including Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and was also held to denounce the police brutality that is taking place on U.S. campuses to suppress the mounting initiatives opposing the Israeli government’s genocidal policy and the tolerance/military support of the U.S. government. “Israel bombs, the US pays. How many children did you kill today?” chanted those attending the rally, echoing the 1960s denunciation of President Johnson’s militarism.

The predecessors of today’s students managed to keep the memory of the 4 killed by National Guard reservists alive by commemorating the May 4 date each year, despite multiple attempts by university bodies to erase the murders. At the site of the killing of the 4 students, the first official memorial testimonies were finally installed there in 1999.

The entirely new aspect of today’s student demonstrations compared to the Vietnam War period is the support of a preponderant part of the U.S. labour movement. Not least because at least 100,000 college student workers are now members of various unions and mainly of United Auto Workers (UAW), which began as a union of metalworkers.

UAW Local 4811, the largest union of university workers in the U.S., which has already been leading the 2022 strike for contract renewal, represents 48,000 graduate students at the University of California, including researchers and teaching assistants. It is preparing the necessary strike authorization vote, to be put into practice to ask again that the university disengage from war and to denounce the violence, the countering of free speech, that takes place at their university and on U.S. campuses: destruction of student encampments, arrests, police violence, impunity of violence practiced by counter-manifestants. The UAW branch is also preparing a complaint about anti-union activities and discrimination against union members during the confrontations with university bodies and for inviting police to enter campuses to arrest pro-Gaza protesters. The UAW National Union, which had already called for a cease-fire in Gaza, also denounces mass arrests and intimidation against demonstrations on campuses, repressive actions supported by President Biden’s federal government.

Main sources:

In People’s World: D.Hill, On ‘Four Dead in Ohio’ anniversary, students demand divestment in Israel, 6.5

M.Gruenberg, Union plans strike authorization vote over arrests of pro-Palestinian demonstrators, 7.5


Translation from Italian by Evelyn Tischer