LISTEN: May 4 group hopes new admin will reopen case

Melissa Dilley

Canfora says recording may prove National Guard ordered to start shooting

May 4 survivor Alan Canfora said new evidence proves National Guardsmen were ordered to shoot student protesters here in 1970.

During the historic protest, Canfora waived a black flag in front of the guardsmen and was shot in the wrist. He now runs the Kent May 4 Center and, like other survivors, is an avid activist for the cause.

In May 2007, Canfora presented audio footage of the event, which he found in a Yale University library.

Audio from May 4, 1970

Canfora said after listening closely to the recording, one can hear an order to the guardsmen: “Right here. Get set. Point. Fire!”

The tape was recorded by Terry Strubbe, a student living in Johnson Hall. Canfora said Strubbe set the recorder on his window sill before evacuating the tear gas-filled dorm room.

Canfora said although he has had this information for almost two years now, he and other survivors have been waiting for the right moment to present it to state and federal attorney generals.

“We had this information during the Bush years, but we didn’t think Alberto Gonzalez (former Attorney General) would help much,” Canfora said. “We were waiting for a new Attorney General, and we have a lot of faith that the Obama administration will make May 4 a priority.”

First, however, Cleveland courts must move to re-open the case.

Professor Emeritus Thomas Hensley was teaching at Kent State during the May 4 shootings and has since written books, taught classes and given lectures on the topic. His book “Kent State and May 4th: A Social Science Perspective,” which he co-wrote with Professor Jerry Lewis, includes a complete history of the court proceedings.

After both the federal and state and the civil and criminal trials were settled out of court in 1975, those who received settlements agreed not to press further charges or attempt to re-open the case, Hensley said.

Canfora doesn’t deny Hensley’s claim, but feels that because the audio evidence is new, no promises would be broken.

“According to what I have learned, the judge left the record open and the case was not closed, just in case new evidence came forward,” Canfora said. “This new evidence was either hidden or suppressed so they will be using it to try to re-open the claim for damages.”

Experts, such as Hensley, believe that regardless of whether the court will listen, evidence from the tape is inconclusive.

“Even if the court listens, I don’t think it will make a difference,” Hensley said. “I listened and couldn’t hear anything that could be presented as solid evidence.”

The process could be lengthy, especially if the evidence proves to be questionable for some, but Canfora said he thinks those who died and were injured will eventually get the justice they deserve.

“May 4 is very misunderstood because it’s so complex,” Canfora said. “Those of us who continue to fight in memory of those who can’t be here to stand for themselves are not looking for retribution, but for the truth. With this evidence, I think we are on the verge of complete success in our attempts.”

Contact student politics reporter Melissa Dilley at [email protected].