Thirty Years Later- Kent State
May 4, 2000
Thirty years later, just after noon, the Victory Bell again rings through the green grass of Kent State University’s Commons. The bell rings twenty-seven times; one toll for each of the four students killed and
nine wounded by the Ohio National Guard May 4, 1970, and 14 times in solidarity for the two students murdered and twelve wounded by Mississippi Highway Patrol at Jackson State University May 15, 1970
Kent State University officials stopped holding Commemoration ceremonies in 1975, but dedicated students have kept the ideals represented by the Kent State shootings alive. For the past twenty-five
years, the students of the May 4th Task Force have organized the annual May 4th Commemoration ceremonies, bringing such speakers as Jane Fonda, William Kuntzler, Dr. Hellen Caldicot and performers including Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Co-chair of the May 4th Task Force from 1995-98, and still considered the backbone of the organization by many students, Kent State senior Wendy Semon believes that continued student activism is the true remembrance of May 4, 1970. “The living legacy of those four students is activism,” Semon states. “The only appropriate way students of today can keep that legacy alive is to promote activism and educate others.” This year, the Task Force brought some of America s most prominent leaders of social and political change to embody all facets of the current movement. These speakers include; the American Indian Movement’s Vernon Bellecourt, environmental and social justice advocate Julia Butterfly Hill, Philadelphia’s MOVE member Ramona Africa, Global Exchange’s Julliette Beck, political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and world-renowned political theorist Noam Chomsky.
Kent State junior Jeff Ritter, and current co-chair of the May 4th Task Force feels that this year’s Commemoration reflects the unification of the current national movement. “So many movements are represented here today, the American Indian Movement, the environmental movement, anti-globalization, the MOVE organization. It’s a real symbol of solidarity, of all the things that are going on today.”
Kent graduate student Kabir Syed, a ten-year member of the May 4th Task Force sees the Commemoration as a place for political activists to gather and connect with one another. “The wide variety of issues speaks to the growth of the social-political movement which exists in the U.S. We see a range, and yet, an integration of ideology here today. Though there are differences between us, we are growing aware that these differences need not separate us from accomplishing our tasks.”
Around three thousand current college students, anti-Vietnam War veterans, and activists from as far away as Quebec and Seattle observe a moment of silence as the last hollow brass toll rings across campus. These people have gathered today at Kent State not only to remember the murders of 1970, but to celebrate America’s long tradition of protest and resistance.
Chic Canfora, a survivor of the May 4, 1970 shootings, high school teacher, and longtime community activist explains, “Today we assemble and pay tribute to four friends who fell here thirty years ago, but let us also pay tribute today to the countless students who have since then, in the past thirty years, followed in their steps. May 4th is not just about tragedy. We assemble here each year not onlyto remember our fallen friends, but to resurrect the issues and ideals for which they died. The most important of which, for all of us, for every American citizen, is freedom of speech.”
History of the May 4 Shootings
On April 30, 1970, President Richard Nixon announced to the nation that he was expanding the Vietnam War into neighboring Cambodia. Immediately, college campuses across America rose in protest. At Kent
State, a mid-size public Ohio college, Nixon’s announcement began four days of protest, which cumulated in the wounding of nine students and the murders of Allison Krause, Jeff Miller, Bill Schroder, and Sandra
Scheuer by thirteen members of the Ohio National Guard.
To this day, heated controversy and questions still surround the events at Kent State April 30- May 4, 1970. Perhaps the most debated and controversial event of these days is the burning of Kent State’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) building the evening of May 2, 1970.