Thursday, May 5, 2016

Unnecessary, Unwarranted, and Inexcusable May 4th, 1970.

We flew yesterday to Cleveland and then drove to Kent, Ohio so that we could participate in the memorial services for the Kent State shootings. The photo above is taken at the marked site of Jeff Miller's death.  Last night there was a candlelight vigil and Jeff's brother Russ stood inside the marker.  At each of the other markers for Bill Schroeder, Allison Krause, and Sandy Scheuer someone was standing inside the sites.

It was a very powerful two days. Last night there was a candlelight march around the campus that ended in the Prentice Hall parking lot where all four of the students were slain.  We met Dean Kahler one of the nine students wounded on that day. Dean was so gracious talking to all of those who wanted to speak with him.  He has been in a wheel chair since that day 46 years ago. On that day he was standing just to the left of where I stand in this photo. He was up on the grass no more than 20 feet from where Jeff Miller was shot. I asked him if he had known Jeff and he said he had not. In fact, Dean had just started studying at Kent State in the spring quarter of 1970, and had only been on campus for five weeks.

At the ceremony today, at 12:24 Eastern time, the victory bell on the commons was sounded for each of the 13 victims of Kent State as well as the 2 students shot at Jackson State eleven days later. There was a beautiful introductory address by the president of Kent State as well as a number of other appropriate remarks. The most powerful were from four people representing the four dead students.  The woman representing Allison Krause was a cousin who spoke the longest and most powerfully of the four very effective tributes.  Very moving. There were other addresses some pertaining to the people of color who have been killed by police officers in recent years who had, like the National Guardsmen on May 4th, 1970, inadequate and impeachable motivation.

The president's commission on campus unrest concluded that the killings at Kent State were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable. They were.  We took a tour of the May 4th visitors center which included a documentary about what happened that day.

I asked a number of people last night why they attended the vigil.  Several responded that they come every year, but none--I found interesting--were at Kent State then.  Three people had been in fifth grade, one in high school, others I spoke with were local people who felt the insult of soldiers shooting for 13 seconds at defenseless students--two of whom were not even protesting, just happened to be in the parking lot, in one case walking to a class, and in the other case walking from a class.

We should all be insulted.  I have now been to Kent State three times. Each time I am more and more convinced that this act--an act for which the Guardsmen have never been found culpable--was nothing more than irresponsible and reckless murder.

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