Monday, February 13, 2012

Kent State

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students on the Kent State campus.  Nine other students were wounded.  All were unarmed.  Some had been demonstrating against the U. S. invasion of Cambodia; others were just walking to class.  No one was ever convicted of a crime.

White House  May  9, 1970
I was living in Toronto at the time.  I borrowed Jerry Brown's van and with four other friends headed out for Washington, DC, the following Friday to participate in a demonstration being organized in protest.  We arrived in front of the White House at about 8:00 pm that night.  Buses ringed the President's home. Someone with a loudspeaker was blaring, "Fuck Richard Nixon", over and over again.  I thought it was strange that possibly the most powerful man in the world was being held a seeming captive.

Jane Fonda   May 9, 1970
The demonstration the next day (May 9, 1970) attracted about 100,000.  I remember Jane Fonda speaking.  A march through the streets was so packed that I started wondering what impact a canister of tear gas would have, feeling that we would go down like a wave and be crushed.  Fortunately, there was no panic.  Otherwise, we walked around the Washington Monument, watching the mounted police watch us.  Everything remained peaceful, as did almost all anti-war demonstrations that I ever saw.

Arriving back at the Canadian border at midnight, we were not allowed to cross, because the van had U. S. plates, and I wasn't the registered owner.  We had to wait until morning for Jerry to come down in my car and bring the van back into Canada.

I am reminded of this period by Laurel Krause, a Facebook friend, whose sister Allison was murdered by the National Guard at Kent State.  Forty years later, she is still trying to find out why her sister was shot, who gave the order, and whether it was premeditated. Recently, surviving victims and witnesses have been giving their stories as to how the events unfolded:

Of course, if you have a close family member who dies in war or domestic conflict, a parent, child, sibling, it changes your life forever.  It's not something you prepare for.  It never seems fair.  Some choose the adventure of war, the chance to be "all that you can be".  Most are just victims of its cruelty.