*Text of May 4, 2009, speech delivered on The Commons of Kent State University by Alan Canfora, Director of the Kent May 4 Center since 1989. Canfora was shot through his right wrist by an M1 bullet fired by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970 during an anti-war demonstration.*
TASKS OF THE MAY 4 MOVEMENT
On this solemn May 4 day of commemoration in 2009, as we have for each of the past 39 years, with respect & determination we pause to pay tribute to our fallen sisters and brothers: Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer, William Schroeder & Jeffrey Miller.
Allison Krause, the brilliant young artist in the KSU Honors College, killed 343-feet away because she, along with her lover Barry Levine, dared to cry out against war and the National Guard invasion of our campus on May 4, 1970, only one day after she declared to a National Guard officer: “…flowers are better than bullets”.
Sandy Scheuer, a quiet, pleasant, gentle, peace-loving sorority-woman who preferred long-haired boys including Steve Drucker and Jeff Miller -- a May 4 rally spectator, books under her arm, Sandy was killed 390-feet away while walking toward a classroom building on the day of her parents’ wedding anniversary.
Bill Schroeder, a KSU business student, all-American boy, former Eagle Scout, high school basketball star, respected ROTC Military Science cadet, also killed nearly 400-feet away as he walked toward his classroom, with books under his arm, after stopping to observe armed Guardsmen with tear-gas & bayonets attack unarmed students.
And Jeff Miller, my friend, the youthful anti-war poet from New York City, a fraternity guy at Michigan State University who supported the anti-war Students for a Democratic Society, transferred to Kent State’s Honors College & opposed the National Guard occupation of our campus—killed 265-feet away even though he confided to his mother: “I may get arrested but I won’t get shot.”
“I won’t get shot”? A reasonable supposition at Kent State University until May 4, 1970 when we were shot down in broad daylight here on our campus.
How young and how innocent we were on that day 39 years ago. Of course, none of us who gathered, rallied, chanted, shouted, protested or observed here on the Kent State Commons expected we would get shot down at 12:24pm on our campus where we were students & classes were in session.
How young & innocent we were until those bullets were ordered to be fired in our direction & four students were suddenly, wrongfully dead while nine others, including me, survived yet suffered a surreal experience of pain while watching our red blood flow onto the green grass or dirty concrete of our college.
I speak here today to represent our group of nine blood-brothers – KSU students wounded by bullets here – as casualties of May 4, 1970: Joe Lewis, John Cleary, Tom Grace, Dean Kahler, Doug Wrentmore, Scott Mackenzie, Robbie Stamps & Jim Russell.
Because Allison, Sandy, Bill & Jeff were cruelly silenced forever, we gather here each year to attempt to speak out on their behalf with certainty they did not die in vain. Because their young lives were ended in a 13-second hail of 67 gunshots when war came home from Southeast Asia to this beautiful Kent State campus, our duty is to be teachers & explain the context of complicated misunderstood events.
And as we remember our lost sisters & brothers, we should also remember the effective & powerful anti-war uprising in Kent, Ohio, during May 1-4, 1970 -- an effective revolt against war and the extreme abuse of Federal & state power under Republican leadership.
We were ultimately silenced only by bullets ordered by top Ohio National Guard military commanders. Four students were killed but the longstanding Kent State tradition of student activism against war and in defense of positive social change was not killed in 1970 & has continued uninterrupted on this campus ever since.
So has the May 4 Movement demanding truth & justice continued since those nightmarish moments immediately after the gunfire ended: Kent State students have cried out against the injustice & yearned for acknowledgement of the truth.
And during 39 years of myths, purposely hidden truths and long-overlooked evidence, some of us are also compelled to do the detective work and make certain the crime is illuminated. On our own now, we are solving a deep mystery ourselves and we are uncovering the elusive truth about Kent State, May 4, 1970 as we pause today & consider:
What are the tasks of the May 4 Movement?
The May 4 Movement began here in 1970 among KSU students seeking truth & justice while opposing the attempted persecution of the Kent 25 – mostly students & one faculty member accused & arrested by a state grand jury. When the case was dismissed, students pressed onward demanding a new federal grand jury investigation.
Simultaneously, during the 1970s, while Ohio Governor Rhodes & his killer guardsmen evaded criminal prosecution, the Kent State victims fought long courtroom battles until 1979 when our lawsuits ended. Our May 4 Movement was led by the families of the victims, in particular the late Arthur Krause & his wife Doris as well as Rev. John Adams, author Peter Davies & others.
In 1975, the May 4 Task Force student organization was founded here at KSU in support of the victims’ families & to continue annual May 4 commemorations. The M4TF agitated & educated through 1977 when the May 4 Coalition emerged with thousands of supporters in a vain attempt to protect sacred historic land & “Move the Gym”. Hundreds were arrested, the gym-annex was built & the May 4 Coalition disbanded but the May 4 Task Force endured & with the support of our 13 May 4 families of 1970 victims we carried our May 4 Movement forward into the 1980s and beyond..
When Rev. John Adams & Arthur Krause passed away during the 1980s, the torch was passed to others among us who carried on the fight for truth & justice. The central focus of the ongoing struggle during the 1980s & 1990s occurred here on the KSU campus.
M4TF students joined with the families of the KSU victims & together we convinced KSU to build a May 4 Memorial in 1990 which, though incomplete, awaits full construction someday. And in 1998, we convinced KSU President Carole Cartwright to create May 4 areas in the Prentice Hall parking lot where Allison, Jeff, Sandy & Bill were killed. After nearly 30 years, cars finally stopped parking where students died in 1970.
Coincidentally, in 1989, our non-profit educational group, Kent May 4 Center, emerged to widen our longstanding educational endeavors to a wider national & international audience. Just in time to reach millions of potential supporters via the internet, the Kent May 4 Center established the earliest, most effective online presence and started to awaken the world where numerous national & international May 4 Movement supporters exist even to the present day.
Along with M4TF students, the KSU library archive & others, during this modern age of the internet, we are reaching a huge online international, modern gathering of supporters, near & far, as we now enter the home stretch and push our May 4 Movement toward our longstanding ultimate goal – destroying the Kent State cover-up.
Sadly, though we have come a long way, not everyone remains at our side now as we still yearn for Kent State truth & justice. The fathers of our four Kent State victims are gone now & two of our nine wounded students, Jim Russell & Robby Stamps, have also passed away in recent years.
Fortunately, the four mothers who inspired our movement so long ago are still alive & reasonably well & this motivates us to especially seek to attain our longstanding goals of truth & justice here at Kent State.
The May 4 Task Force & Kent May 4 Center now co-exist with KSU administrators & faculty members who will soon realize the creation of a new May 4 Visitor’s Center. This is a huge step forward toward effective KSU education as we provide factual information for a widening audience of scholars, students, activists, historians & other citizens world-wide.
KSU President Lester Lefton, the KSU trustees, faculty & Kent students & townspeople are joining together at last to embrace & address our tragic history instead of seeking to minimize or ignore our historical educational duties.
So, as the 40th anniversary of May 4, 1970 approaches one year from now, other significant developments are anticipated.
In 2007, our revelation of an audio tape recording made by 1970 KSU student Terry Strubbe included undeniable proof of the Ohio National Guard verbal order to shoot. Soon, that original tape recording will be flown to California where modern sound professionals will use advanced digital technology to analyze that tape which includes the shouted verbal command to fire as well as the 13 seconds of gunfire. That unique tape, a rare historical artifact will be finally revealed on national TV soon as we continue to reveal long-lost, hidden & suppressed evidence.
The central mystery of the May 4 tragedy here has always centered around one basic question: Was there an order to shoot the 67 gunshots which killed & wounded KSU students? Ohio National Guard commanders have always said they did not shout a verbal command to fire. They shifted the blame for the shooting onto the lower-ranking shooters in Troop G with the explanation these younger troops were fearful to the point they individually decided to simultaneously, stop, turn & shoot – and keep shooting for 13 seconds – as if by coincidence.
That never made sense. Especially for those of us who witnessed the shooting incident, there is no doubt the guardsmen were commanded to stop, turn & fire because that is exactly what happened. Logically, there had to be an order to shoot.
Photographic evidence & eyewitness testimony indicates the certainty there was a verbal command to fire. Conflicting eyewitness evidence includes the following statements by guardsmen & KSU eyewitnesses proving there was an order to fire:
OHIO NATIONAL GUARD testimony proving the order to fire:
“At one point, Sergeant Pryor said, ‘If they rush us, shoot them’.
--Ohio National Guard SP4 James E. Pierce, Troop G, handwritten statement, May 4, 1970.
“My unit for the most part refrained from firing. However several heard one of the commanders of the flank unit yell “Fire” and thought this meant them.”
--Lieutenant Howard Fallon, Ohio National Guard, handwritten statement, May 4, 1970.
“Something had to be done…I also thought I heard the word 'fire' and I did hear the others fire.”
--Sgt. Robert D. James, Ohio National Guard, statement to Ohio Highway Patrol, June 9, 1970.
“On 4 May 1970, while participating with my Company (A Company) in the mission…on the campus of Kent State University. I thought I heard the command to ‘Fire’…The firing had started on my left flank."
--Sgt. Roger A. Maas, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.
“While participating with my unit…I heard the order to fire…Before I fired after the order to fire was given, firing started on my right…”
--SP4 James W. Farriss, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.
“…I heard firing on our right. I heard the order to fire…Approximately 1000 students were partiating at time of fireing.”
--SP4 Robert D. James, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.
“While acting with my unit I fired 2 rounds of 30 cal M1 over the crowd in warning after number of men fired and I hear the commaned to fire. I do not know who gave commaned.”
--PFC Richard R. Shade, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.
"When the firing happened, I felt I did not panic, held my ground, and obeyed my orders...I don't feel they were people but 'savage animals'."
--Sergeant James Pierce, Ohio National Guard, Troop G, handwritten statement, May 4, 1970.
KSU WITNESSES’ TESTIMONY PROVING THE ORDER TO FIRE:
“Rick Levinger, a freshman from New York City, said he was to the rear of the firing guardsmen. He said he saw ’20 to 30 guardsmen walking away from the students, then suddenly turn around at them and open up’. Levinger insisted he heard one officer issue an order to fire. ‘I saw those guys turn and get on their knees after I heard the officer order them to fire’."
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper article: “Troops Lost All Their Cool”, by Joseph Eszterhas, May 5, 1970.
“So when the Guard retreated, I followed them and found a position near the pagoda. I was the closest person to the Guard and I heard an officer give the order, ‘Turn around and fire three rounds’. He yelled so loud I could hear it very plainly… The story has never appeared in any public record. Could it be that the investigators haven’t wanted to believe that an order was given?”
--KSU electrician “Jack Albrecht”, quoted in book: KENT STATE: WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY, by James Michener, 1971.
During all previous courtroom & investigation situations, the digital version of the1970 Terry Strubbe tape recording was never available to fully corroborate these statements & the clear proof of the verbal command which can be now heard on the CD digital version of the tape.
Here are the exact words of the long-suppressed verbal command shouted immediately before the 13 seconds of gunfire on Blanket Hill on May 4, 1970:
“RIGHT HERE! GET SET! POINT! FIRE!”
Hopefully, when this suppressed evidence is soon presented to the US Justice Department, we can gain new investigations compelling even some Ohio National Guardsmen to join us while we seek truth without vengeance or retribution.
And, in my opinion, there is reason to believe some lower-ranking 1970 guardsmen now seek to escape the burden of history and finally place the blame where it belongs—on the high-ranking guard commanders who ordered the May 4 tragedy here in 1970 – or perhaps upon Ohio Governor Rhodes or President Nixon.
In the coming year, inevitable new investigations will soon complement new Kent 1970 books, documentary films and a Hollywood feature film which will soon generate millions of younger supporters worldwide & dovetail, as we approach May 4, 2010, creating a renewed digital-age tidal wave of May 4 Movement supporters demanding truth & justice in the coming year.
We seek a Truth Commission to investigate Kent State 1970 & related COINTELPRO government assaults against innocent US citizens who dared to speak out against war & racism.
Let me be perfectly clear: we seek the truth without retribution or revenge at this late date.
As May 4, 2010 approaches, we will continue to reveal the misunderstood mountain of Kent 1970 evidence online & here at KSU. Our May 4 Movement has revealed & will reveal more hidden evidence so we can declare forever: the Kent State cover-up is destroyed for the sake of honest history.
This is our challenge. This is our duty. We will win.
Long live the May 4 Movement for truth and justice!