Seven people shot by the Ohio National Guard gunfire at Kent State University 42 years ago Friday have renewed an appeal for an independent review of new evidence that an order to fire was given.
"Our May 4 movement for truth and justice has continued for 42 years, and we will not desist until truth about this government crime is acknowledged by our government," the group said Thursday on the eve of the anniversary of the shooting, which killed four people and helped galvanize opposition to the Vietnam War.
The survivors are launching a campaign to persuade state and federal lawmakers and other officials to convene hearings to examine new evidence from the May 4, 1970, shootings.
"We have undeniable, verifiable, digital, forensic, recorded evidence proving a shouted military command ending with the word `FIRE!' preceded the barrage of 67 deadly gunshots fired by the Ohio National Guard on this campus," the statement by survivors said.
* * *
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:
[...] In a news conference Thursday, the survivors said they are launching a campaign to persuade state and federal lawmakers and other officials to convene hearings to examine new evidence from the May 4, 1970, shootings, which were a defining event of 20th-century America.
Four of the wounded former students were present at Thursday's briefing. Three others joined them in signing a consensus statement.
Four students were killed and a total of nine were wounded when Guardsmen, retreating as the raucous protest wound down, suddenly wheeled and unleashed a 13-second barrage of 67 indiscriminant shots. Why the Guardsmen fired remains a mystery.
"We appeal to our supporters across America and worldwide to raise your voices and attention now, as we enter our final campaign for truth and justice." --Alan Canfora"We appeal to our supporters across America and worldwide to raise your voices and attention now, as we enter our final campaign for truth and justice," said Alan Canfora, who was shot in the wrist and who now directs the Kent May 4 Center, a nonprofit educational organization.
"It's important to get the truth out before it's too late," added Dean Kahler, who was shot in the spine and paralyzed from the waist down by a bullet as he lay on the ground. Thomas Grace, who was hit in the ankle, and Joseph Lewis, who was shot in the stomach and leg, also were present Thursday.
The survivors' group, their attorneys and the May 4 Task Group, an organization of current KSU students, are backing a broad-based effort to root out more information about the shootings. It includes appeals to Congress, the Ohio legislature, Gov. John Kasich, Attorney General Mike DeWine and human-rights groups to initiate inquiries.
The appeal follows the U.S. Justice Department's decision last month not to reopen an investigation of the shootings. The agency had weighed requests to revive its inquiry based on a recent re-analysis of an audio recording that captured the events of May 4.
The re-analysis, conducted by two forensic audio experts at The Plain Dealer's request, revealed what the experts said was an order for the Guard to fire, preceded by what one of the analysts said were four .38-caliber pistol shots.
An FBI review of the recording this year was inconclusive, determining the voices were unintelligible and that the sounds identified as pistol shots may have been slamming doors. The Justice Department said there were "insurmountable legal and evidentiary barriers" to reopening the case.
Canfora stressed the Kent State survivors want a political resolution of the unanswered questions. He urged other independent audio experts to review the recording.
"We're not going to courts first, filing lawsuits," said Paul Meyer, a Cleveland attorney who is advising the group. "We'd rather build up a groundswell of public opinion to support the effort to seek the truth and achieve some reconciliation. We think if elected officials are aware of the [new] evidence, they will be persuaded to take effective action. There are people who know things who have yet to tell their stories . . . and we are looking for them, too."
One of those is Terry Norman, a Kent State student and sometime police and FBI informer who was on campus May 4, 1970, photographing protesters. After the shootings and a violent confrontation with demonstrators, he sought the Guard's protection and surrendered a .38-caliber pistol. He denied firing it, but some suspect the four supposed pistol shots on the recording were from Norman's gun.
The survivors stressed they have no desire to prosecute or to sue individual Guardsmen who fired. Canfora, who on May 4, 1970, waved a black flag at Guardsmen as some of them knelt and pointed their rifles at him, acknowledged that he had been "an angry young man" but that "the time for antagonisms against the National Guard are over."
"Many of us here now believe that those Guardsmen who were ordered to fire had the burden on their shoulders all these years forced upon them by their commanding officers, who gave the order," Canfora said. "In a way, they've been victimized just as we have. That's why we're asking them to join with us for the sake of truth and for the sake of healing."
In a related development this week, the Justice Department's refusal to re-open the Kent State investigation prompted an impassioned appeal for reconsideration from Laurel Krause, whose sister Allison was fatally wounded by the Guard's gunfire as her boyfriend Barry Levine pulled her behind a car for shelter. She died in his arms.
Krause, writing to President Barack Obama on behalf of her elderly mother, Doris, a Lorain native, described her sister as a "compassionate, gorgeous, full-of-life young woman who seemed to have it all." She recounted the wrenching impact Allison Krause's death had on the family, and the efforts by her parents and herself to seek justice so that her sister would not have died in vain.
"Last week, Allison would have celebrated her 61st birthday," Krause wrote to the president. "Please do not allow another Kent State anniversary to pass without truth and justice for Allison Krause and her fellow murdered classmates, Jeffrey Miller, Sandy Scheuer and William Schroeder."
* * *
Congressman Dennis Kucinich released this statement today:
Upon the solemn 42nd anniversary of the shootings at Kent State University we remember with love and compassion those who were affected. There are many of us who remember where we were when the news broke that the students had been killed. We will never forget how this tragedy changed our nation. News of the shootings sparked massive nation-wide protests and defined the way a generation of Americans interacted with its government.
The Kent State shootings remain a significant event in American history, and my heart goes out to the families of those affected by this tragedy. Nothing less than a full investigation is warranted.What happened as a result of the shootings is well-documented. What we still don't know, to this day, is why the shootings took place. An audio recording of the events of May 4th may have answers.
The only known audio recording of those events was made by Terry Strubbe, who placed a microphone out of his window and recorded 29 minutes of audio. At least two copies of the Strubbe tape were made, with one ending up in Yale University's Kent State Collection in 1989. In 2010, the Cleveland Plain Dealer engaged forensic audio engineers to examine a copy of the Yale recording made by Alan Canfora, one of the thirteen victims of the Kent State shootings. That analysis found that shots were fired before the National Guard opened fire. That evidence could be significant, because it could connect an FBI paid informant who was on campus that day and who possessed a gun that might have been the one caught by Strubbe's microphone.
As Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I requested that Yale University make another copy of the Strubbe tape to ensure its authenticity, and sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Department of Justice undertake a forensic analysis of this authenticated recording. The DOJ concluded that the tape was unintelligible, but that the sounds preceding the fire from the guardsmen were likely to be the sound of Strubbe's dorm room opening and closing.
Despite the detailed response from the Justice Department, significant questions remain. There was no attempt to reconcile major discrepancies in conclusions among expert analysts. The role of Terry Norman, the FBI informant on campus that day was not discussed. In order to lay these questions to rest, I wrote to the Justice Department requesting the full analysis used to reach their conclusions.
The Kent State shootings remain a significant event in American history, and my heart goes out to the families of those affected by this tragedy. Nothing less than a full investigation is warranted.
# # #