David Kassnoff: ‘Any life lost exercising First Amendment rights is one too many’

The Kent State protesters demanded government accountability; the government responded not with answers but with violence.

The student shootings at Kent State in 1970 signified the moment when the Vietnam War came to U.S. soil. Viewers of network newscasts had grown somewhat inured to nightly news footage of bloodied and bandaged soldiers. But, when Ohio National Guard soldiers fires on anti-war protesters at Kent State University, “stuff” got real. No longer was the war fought on some distant Asian brush. It spilled into our backyard, between the trees, the library, and the Dairy Queen.

What were those students doing? Exercising their First Amendment rights: freedom of speech and the right to assemble peaceably.

I don’t remember the names of the four dead students, or the nine injured. But for me – and perhaps others – that May 4 battle in Ohio reminds me of how any life lost while exercising our First Amendment rights is one death too many. That’s why we should remember.

David Kassnoff is a lecturer in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure Univetrsity.

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