After four decades, guardsman talks

Lydia Coutré

Canfora: ‘He has great courage coming here’

Tim Moore, Laura Davis, Alan Cantora, Ron Snyder and Tom Saw were panelists for the annual fall forum run by the May 4 Task Force last night in the Kiva. PHOTOS BY BRITTANY ANKROM | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Last night, Ron Snyder became the first guardsman to speak in a public forum at Kent State about what happened on May 4, 1970.

Snyder, along with four other panelists, discussed the May 4 shooting at 7 p.m. in the Kiva at an event put on by the May 4 Task Force.

“The situation isn’t the same as it was in 1970,” said Alan Canfora, who was wounded by a National Guardsman on May 4. “The antagonisms are gone. There’s still the need for the truth.

“There’s a need for talking, for healing and for dialogue, and as a result I have no real antagonism toward (Snyder). I respect him. I think he has great courage coming here tonight,” Canfora said.

The panelists included Snyder; Canfora; Tim Moore, a Kent State freshman in 1970 and now associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Laura Davis, who witnessed the shooting and is now a professor of English; and Vietnam veteran Tom Saw.

Nora Rodriquez and Krista Napp, co-chairs of the May 4 Task Force, fielded questions from the audience for the panelists to discuss.

Snyder, who fired no shots on May 4, noted that the guardsmen were called to the campus and didn’t go there on their own, which he said some have misunderstood. He also said that by bringing the National Guard to campus, politicians are also partially responsible.

“This is one of the problems with sending military personnel to deal with civil service,” Snyder said. “Before you send military to handle civilian protests, you really need to put the politicians’ feet to the fire, as the expression goes, because once they start the ball rolling, they don’t have any control over it.”

While the panelists had some disagreements on what happened in the moments leading up to the shooting, there were no hard feelings among them.

Moore said he appreciated Snyder coming to share his point of view.

“I really feel that anyone in the military is for the most part going to follow the orders of the commander,” he said. “And so I hold no malice toward anyone in the National Guard. I’m glad that we’re finally getting his point of view because we need to know that.”

Learning more about different perspectives was the driving force behind the forum. The details of May 4 are still greatly surrounded by mystery, Davis pointed out.

“Ask questions. Continue to look for answers,” she said. “It’s still very much an unfinished story.”

Canfora encouraged the undertaking of an organized effort to uncover truths about the shooting.

“One thing we’d like to see at Kent, whether it’s through a truth commission sponsored by the government or the community, would be to have the guardsmen and the students and all the eyewitnesses come together to testify about what happened,” he said. “Not for the purpose of jailing the guardsmen or punishing them at this late date, but just for the sake of the truth of those mothers and for the sake of history.”

Saw said there should be a constant discussion to avoid similar incidents.

“The day we stop talking about Vietnam and the day we stop talking about Kent State is the day that those things will repeat themselves,” Saw said.

Contact news correspondent Lydia Coutré at [email protected].