(Kent State - May 4, 1970 - peace lay gunned down in the confusion.)
Probably as much as Altamont became the defining moment of antithesis to the Woodstock euphoria of 1969, the shootings at Kent State probably defined its own disillusioned view of protest, one that began in earnest and with idealism in 1964 with the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. It came to a crashing halt here and probably did the most in speeding up the end to the Vietnam nightmare.
The reason for the Kent State protest was simple - it was a reaction to our invasion of Cambodia which began on April 29, 1970 - signaling an escalation to our involvement in South East Asia, at a time when we were told by a campaigning Richard Nixon in 1968, that an end to the war in Vietnam was in our sights. As was previously the case, we were lied to and we could see the war stretching on for years more, if not decades more.
Protests were held at college campuses all over the country. It was at Kent State in Ohio where it got violent, with a detachment of National Guard troops firing live ammunition into a crowd of protesters. Prior to this point, police and most National Guard used primarily rubber bullets or blanks, or in the case of shotguns, salt pellets rather than buckshot. In 1970 that seemed to have changed (I hate to say I know from personal experience, but I do).
When the deaths of the students at Kent State reached the national media it sent waves of shock throughout the country prompting, at least in California, Governor Reagan to go on the air and declare all college and university campuses closed for the better part of a week. With an air that was a bit reminiscent of his handling of the PATCO strike years later, Reagan cast doubt that the students killed by the guard were actually students, but "outside agitators" as he eluded in this address. If anything, it helped polarize an already divided situation that much more. The end result being an inquiry into the causes that brought about the death of people innocently protesting something they didn't believe in.
And forty years later . . . . .
(Governor Reagan reacts to Kent State the best way he knew how - blaming anything Liberal.)