Today is the 45th anniversary of the shooting of anti-Vietnam War protesters at Kent State University. LSU had a protest of its own in response to the shootings and here is its story.
Students at LSU in the 1960s were certainly aware of such issues as civil rights, the Vietnam War, and the growing concern for the environment, but in contrast to what was happening at some other college campuses at this time, LSU’s student body was rather conservative. Protests on campus were rare and when they did occur, they were, with a few exceptions, very small and confined to Free Speech Alley. On May 4, 1970, students at Kent State University held a protest against the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and were fired upon by members of the Ohio National Guard. Four students were killed and nine others were wounded.
On May 8, 1970, LSU joined more than 1,250 colleges in protesting the shootings. This was the largest antiwar protest ever held at LSU and was preceded by three days of vigils and speeches in solidarity with the students of Kent State. An estimated 1,000 students and faculty took part in a march that went from the Parade Ground up Nicholson Drive to the Old State Capitol. Marchers walked, rode bicycles, and were accompanied by a van carrying first aid supplies and water in case of emergency. March organizers obtained a parade permit and the Baton Rouge City Police brought up the rear of the procession.
Upon arriving at the Old State Capitol, several speakers, including Student Government president Colley Joseph, English instructor Richard Borman, and chemistry professor Joel Selbin, urged the marchers to continue to make their voices heard and that peaceful protest was one of America’s oldest and finest traditions. The march ended with a prayer for peace led by Rev. Phil Kapela of the Catholic Student Center.
Some on campus were either for escalating the war or thought that the Student Government Association should stay out of the discussion. The SGA passed two resolutions, one condemning US involvement in Cambodia, the other publically declaring that the SGA shares the grief of the students at Kent State University, as well as grieving over the recent suicide of SGA president Art Ensminger. A petition was circulated, drawing an estimated 1,000 names, saying that the SGA should not pass resolutions regarding US foreign policy. But, support grew for ending the war along with more student activism for women’s rights, environmental issues, and lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. #May4Matters
Photo source: Office of Public Relations Records, RG #A0020, Louisiana State University Archives, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA
Document source: Student Government Association Records, RG #A5500, Louisiana State University Archives, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA.