Fifty years after Kent State, there’s Lansing.


Students had rocks; “American Patriots” had assault rifles

Today, May 4, 2020, marks the 50th Anniversary of the Kent State Massacre.

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed college students at Kent State University during a mass protest against the bombing in neutral Cambodia by the United States. Twenty-eight Guard soldiers fired approximately 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

Some of the students who were shot were protesting against the Cambodian Campaign, which President Richard Nixon announced during a television address on April 30. Other students who were shot had been walking nearby or observing the protest from a distance.

Fifty years later, hundreds of heavily armed protesters stormed the Michigan State Capitol in opposition to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order extending closures of theaters, bars, casinos, and more amid COVID-19 outbreak, intimidating law makers and others,

A protester carries his rifle at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, April 30, 2020. Hoisting American flags and handmade signs, protesters returned to the state Capitol to denounce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-home order and business restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic while lawmakers met to consider extending her emergency declaration hours before it expires. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Heavily out-armed, Capitol police and other law enforcement officials were overwhelmed, standing by while being yelled at and harassed as the protesters who called their demonstration the “American Patriot Rally,” and were tacitly supported by President Donald Trump, entered the Capitol, guns in tow.

The protesters had to leave behind their banners and signs before entering the Capitol chambers because signs and banners not allowed in the Capitol building. Guns, including assault weapons however, are permissible.

Fifty years is a long time; lots has changed. Both Kent State and Lansing were legal protests. The difference: The students at Kent State were armed with rocks. The “American Patriots” in Lansing were armed with AR-15’s. Can you imagine if one of the officers guarding the Capitol, intimidated and bullied, blinked and did something aggressive?

I cannot even imagine.

Published by Ted Block

Ted Block is a veteran “Mad Man,” having spent 45+ years in the advertising industry. During his career, he was media director of several advertising agencies, including Benton & Bowles in New York and Foote, Cone and Belding in San Francisco; account management director on clients as varied as Clorox, Levi’s and the California Raisin Advisory Board (yes, Ted was responsible for the California Dancing Raisins campaign); and regional director for Asia based in Tokyo for Foote, Cone where he was also the founding president of FCB’s Japanese operations. Ted holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications from Queens College and, before starting in advertising, served on active duty as an officer on USS McCloy (DE-1038) in the U.S. Navy. Besides writing Around the Block, Ted is also a guest columnist for the Palm Beach Post.

6 thoughts on “Fifty years after Kent State, there’s Lansing.

  1. I was in my second year of teaching in East New York, Bklyn. It is something I can never forget because it is my birthday.


  2. Great piece, Ted, and a real connection as you point out to Viet Nam, and the political division of our elected officials. Can we actually overcome that division, with red necks with assault rifles at all demonstrations? Do you and I want to demonstrate again?



    1. Marching when heavily armed crazies are there in opposition is a not a great strategy. Voting is. As I wrote to a distraught reader who commented on yesterday’s Around the Block I posted on the Daily Kos:

      On election day, we cannot let what happened in 2016 happen again. We cannot let people of color sit on their hands as they did in 2016. We cannot let Bernie’s crowd boycott the election because Biden (like HRC) is not “progressive enough.” And since we’re talking Michigan, we need to put enough pressure on people like Justin Amash to let him know that this is not the time for a 3rd party candidacy — all votes must count and not one can be taken from Biden because of some Quixotic cause.

      Given the topic in this blog and thread, forgive the metaphor, but we only have one bullet left in our belt. Let’s make sure it’s used wisely on November 3!


  3. Remember the outrage and sadness attached to that news and tragic image…haunting…and you are so right Ted, being aghast at the horrible scene that might occur with people armed with automatic weapons!!


    1. Bad times in both cases. Both legal protests. But the kids at Kent State, unarmed, were protesting an illegal war; and were killed for it. The heavily armed “people” in Lansing were protesting legal and appropriate laws invoked to protect them and their fellow citizens. 50 years does make a difference. Bad times, both. Worse now?


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