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Archive for the ‘45th Anniversary’ Category

First published May 12, 2015 by Pat LaMarche in her column at the Huffington Post

DominoTheoryIt’s graduation season and nearly two million undergrads will receive their diplomas this year. While campuses all across the nation groom themselves for commencement, one university reels from the weight of another commemoration.

Last week at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, hundreds of visitors flocked to a solitary parking lot to pay their respect. Respect has been in short supply for the victims and families of the Kent State massacre.

On May 4, 1970 the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed student protesters. 13 students were shot, four of whom died. The university has blocked off the spaces in the lot where the innocents fell – but has left the rest of the parking lot open to vehicles. You can’t park on the exact space where Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder were killed, but you can park right next to them. And there aren’t any barriers where the nine wounded students – Alan Canfora, John Cleary, Thomas Grace, Dean Kahler, Joseph Lewis, Donald MacKenzie, James Russell, Robert Stamps, and Douglas Wrentmore – where shot and bled.

The university decision to use as many available parking spaces as possible epitomizes how undervalued the lives of these victims were and still are. To be fair, you can still watch movies at the Aurora, Colorado Movieplex where 12 people were killed and 70 more were wounded. However, there’s a glaring difference between Kent State and the Aurora shootings: in Aurora, the authorities held the shooter responsible. James Holmes has been charged with 165 counts – including murder and attempted murder – and NBC news carries video of the trial.

There’s been no criminal trial for the shooters at Kent State. That’s because state and federal governments are immune from prosecution.

Without transparency, without assignation of guilt, two inevitable consequences occur: survivors assume guilt that isn’t theirs and offenders are free to repeat their crimes.

Visitors to the 45th anniversary of the Kent State shooting vocalized a great deal of internalized and misplaced guilt. Just prior to the 2015 memorial candlelight ceremony, Dean Kahler, who’s spent the last 45 years in a wheel chair, remarked, “It’s not about me, it’s about the four who died.”

Scott Duncanson, a protestor who escaped May 4, 1970 unharmed, still grieves the opportunities lost to his classmates, “We got to have children.”

The Kent State demonstrations followed President Richard Nixon’s acknowledgement that he – absent Congressional approval – was bombing Cambodia. The big picture is sketchy but the survivors share details that they remember vividly. There was a fire at the ROTC building. The city was locked down with tanks and vehicles mounted with machine guns. During protests the night before the massacre, guardsmen bayoneted students. And after nightfall, helicopters hovered over the campus with searchlights dropping tear gas. By the time the students were shot and killed at Kent State, Kent, Ohio was a city occupied by a heavily armed military force.

President Nixon promised America that without swift action to insure democracy, one government after another would fall victim to ruthless leadership. He used this “logic” to justify aggression across the Asian continent from Korea to Cambodia. The term he and his predecessor Dwight Eisenhower used for this successive collapse of republicanism was “The Domino Theory.”

Kent State has proven Nixon’s philosophy, but not in the way he intended.

Kent State is one incident in a long line of militaristic attacks on the civilian population. As far back as George Washington’s suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion, the military and other police forces have been used as armed aggressors against the citizenry. When the Chicago Police attacked the protesters at Haymarket prompting a false trial and the execution of innocent men, it prepared the way for the Kent State shootings and the trial of the Kent 25. And the subsequent Justice Department refusal to examine what happened in that small Ohio town in 1970 has toppled the dominos leading to Freddie Gray’s severed spine in Baltimore.

It’s never too late to examine the reality of circumstances, motivations, and outcomes in history. Although, when decades pass and eyewitnesses die, it gets harder to illuminate the darker corners of the past. Last week, the Kent State campus filled with survivors seeking closure and comfort from visiting their past. The best way to prevent police brutality and government-sponsored violence is to expose it. In the case of the Kent State Massacres, there’s still time.

Joe Lewis, the only Kent State survivor who was shot twice, summed up his desire for justice because he believes that survival comes with responsibility, “That ‘s part of the reason I come back here every year is to speak up for them. [Krause, Miller, Scheuer, and Schroeder] Because they would have spoken up for me had the shoe been on the other foot.”

Laurel Krause, Allison Krause’s younger sister and co-founder of the Kent State Truth Tribunal, seeks to open the closed book on Kent State and detail what really happened in 1970. Krause wants to know why the soldiers shot her sister, the other Kent State victims, and the lesser-known students killed and wounded later at Jackson state. In her remarks addressing the crowd assembled at Kent State May 4th Krause cautioned, “Even today, 45 years later, a culture of impunity persists. We read the news and see law enforcement killing young African Americans across the country. Those of us who witnessed Kent State have to ask whether things might have been different if this era of brutal suppression of political protest had resulted in accountability.”

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A speech by Laurel Krause from the 45th anniversary of the Kent State Massacre on May 4, 2015

image (c) Bob Kahl 5/4/2015

Thank you for attending the 45th commemoration of the Kent State Massacre and honoring, remembering this important day.

My sister Allison Beth Krause was one of four Kent State students killed by the Ohio National Guard in a campus parking lot here at Kent State University 45 years ago. As many of you know, this terrible day was memorialized in the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song ‘Four Dead in O-hi-o’ – one of the many reminders of how far and wide this tragic story has resonated in the United States. I am very proud to say that Allison was peacefully protesting the Vietnam war on that day and for this she was killed by the US government national guard. Allison took a stand against American war – and she died for the cause of peace. I am so honored to remember my big sister for this.

Three other students and protestors died that day – Sandra Lee Scheuer, William Knox Schroeder and Jeffrey Glenn Miller – and nine were critically injured. The Kent State massacre prompted the largest national campus protest strike in history, involving four million students nationwide. A sense of collective trauma followed as it registered with the Vietnam generation that this could have been any one of them. These were ordinary American students, no different from many of you, who were balancing a deep concern for their country’s role in aggression in Southeast Asia with simpler, teenage worries like dating, getting good grades and what the coolest new clothes looked like. To this day I cannot believe my sister was taken at that moment.

In experiencing Kent State first hand since I was 15, I was shocked when the American leadership blamed my sister and other Kent State students for the violence, the bloodshed and the massacre. We heard them say that the students brought it on themselves and that the guard should have shot more. My family heard the last quip as we identified Allison’s dead body at Robinson Memorial Hospital. Kent State survivors and stakeholders … and just about every young American had to hear this traumatic propaganda in our grief over what our government did to us. It was a two-fold injury that permanently sealed the trauma of this day.

And to this day the families of the victims have not had an independent hearing on the murders that took place on May 4th. We worried that the FBI, local law enforcement and even that Kent State University itself were working with, colluding with each other against the students, and were part of the government force that killed the innocent students and anti-war protestors. It was a real concern for us because the United States government refused to examine government complicity at Kent State.

Our government tried Kent State in civil courts, refusing to characterize and treat Kent State as an event involving the killing of American students and protestors. For Allison’s loss of life, my family received $15,000 and a statement of regret.

Even today, 45 years later, a culture of impunity persists. We read the news and see law enforcement killing young African Americans across the country. Those of us who witnessed Kent State have to ask whether things might have been different if this era of brutal suppression of political protest had resulted in accountability. I see echoes of Kent State when I read that Mike Brown’s family has to file a civil lawsuit because there will be no criminal accountability for his killing. This is the legacy of past impunity and it saddens me greatly to see it continue.

There is an important legal distinction to be made as we pursue accountability for the killings. Because the statute of limitations for civil rights expires quickly, survivors and stakeholders have a time limit in seeking justice when our loved ones are murdered by US law enforcement and the US government. But the statute of limitations NEVER expires for murder.

Once Kent State litigation ended in the civil settlement in 1979, our government destroyed key evidence and promoted only its own view, revising Kent State history ever since. I founded the Kent State Truth Tribunal in 2010 for this reason – telling the truth about what happened at Kent State is at the political heart of this barbaric incident. They took our family members but we will not let them take our truth.

An incredible thing happened at the 40th Kent State anniversary in 2010. The first digital, forensic examination of a tape recorded on a Kent State University dormitory window ledge at the time of the massacre surfaced in an archive at Yale University.

Stuart Allen, an evidence expert with a lifelong forensic career, was commissioned to digitally examine the recording. Allen forensically verified that the audio on the tape revealed a COMMAND TO FIRE. Despite government assertions that the killings were a spontaneous act of self-defense by frightened soldiers, the tape irrefutably established that in fact there was an order to shoot. I wept when I heard the words uttered by the guard commander on tape.

The US government response to Allen’s Kent State forensic analyses was to ignore it. Two years later the Department of Justice officially refused to reopen the investigation and bring new federal charges: “There are insurmountable legal and evidentiary barriers to bringing a second federal case in this matter.”

Last year the Kent State Truth Tribunal brought Kent State before the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva. There something remarkable happened. The US delegation at their formal treaty hearing and review admitted, “In 1970, four students were killed, were murdered and nine injured.” In a simple phrase – and for the first time in 45 years – our government finally admitted what we all knew to be true – this was government-executed murder.

Our response was also simple. Now that our government has established that Kent State was murder, we demand they treat Kent State as murder and immediately examine the evidence in the forensic digital findings that captured the order to shoot. We know the statute of limitations never expires for murder.

Will the US government do this? Not without pressure from those of us who still care deeply about Kent State and not without help from all of you.

Our work at the United Nations with the Human Rights Committee continues in 2015. Please stand with Allison, the Kent State Truth Tribunal and me in this 45th year. Together let’s demand US government accountability for the unlawful killings at May 4th Kent State. Join us and ‘like’ us on facebook at facebook.com/KentStateTruthTribunal

I’d like to close with a portion from my speech at the United Nations:

The right to assemble and protest is professed as a cherished American value and is a fundamental facet of our democracy. The Kent State precedent has cast a shadow over this democracy for over 40 years. If Kent State remains a glaring example of government impunity, it sends a message that protestors, especially young men and women, can be killed by the state for expressing their political beliefs. My sister died protesting for peace and I would like to honor her memory by ensuring that this never happens to another American protestor again.”

FirstRose

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April 22, 2015

On the 45th anniversary, May 4, 2015, starting at 11:24am on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus, the alumni will be creating and dedicating a new memorial for the May 4, 1970 Kent State Massacre.

READ all about it

KentState2015UofWisconsinEauClaire

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