Hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered at Kent State University in Ohio on Saturday to protest the war in Gaza, exactly 54 years after a similar campus demonstration ended in four student deaths.

The activists were silent but impossible to miss. They assembled in a semicircle around a stage on Kent State’s commons where speakers were commemorating the events of May 4, 1970: James Rhodes, then the governor of Ohio, had called in the National Guard to quell a demonstration against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The troops opened fire. Four people — Allison Krause, William Schroeder, Sandra Scheuer and Jeffrey Miller — were killed. Several others were wounded.

The campus still bears the scars of the 1970 shooting. Illuminated columns mark the precise spots where the four students were killed, and the tragedy was immortalized in the song “Ohio” performed by the folk-rock quartet Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

In a speech on Saturday to honor the victims, Sophia Swengel, a sophomore and the president of the May 4 Task Force, a group formed in 1975 to keep the students’ legacy alive, also acknowledged the protesters. Many of them were hoisting signs calling on the university to divest from weapons manufacturers and military contractors.

“Once again students are taking a stand against bloodshed abroad,” she said, referring to Israel’s assault on Gaza, which followed the Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7. “Much like they did against the Vietnam War back in the ’60s,” Ms. Swengel added.


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