Q & A: Students’ questions about May 4 answered

For this column, I went around campus and asked current Kent State students for questions they have surrounding the events of May 4, 1970. Here are some of those questions from your fellow students:

Why should May 4 be remembered and commemorated each year?

The May 4 tragedy should be remembered for the same reason all events in history should be — to learn from the mistakes. May 4 is one of the most well known and talked about events in American history. It occurred when tensions surrounding the Vietnam War were increasing all across America. For many people, the tragedy symbolizes “the day the war came home.”

In addition, the war we are facing today shares many similarities with the Vietnam War. A major similarity being that the War in Iraq and the war then is that it is a war that many people believe we should not be involved with — just like it was during the Vietnam era. Such an event like May 4 can never happen again.

Why hasn’t Kent State done more to raise the awareness about the events of May 4?

It is my firm belief, and the belief of many others, that the university does everything in its power to hide the fact that such an awful tragedy occurred here at Kent State.

For example, in 1975, the university decided to stop holding annual May 4 commemorations. The next year and for years after, the May 4 Task Force has stepped in to commemorate the events. There was no physical memorial on campus until 1990, and the spaces where the four slain students fell were not closed off until 1999.

In my opinion, the events of May 4 do not hurt the credibility of Kent State as far as being an educational institution. If anything, the credibility of the U.S. government and military is defamed by what happened 35 years ago.

Were the members of the National Guard who were sent to Kent poorly trained?

On Saturday, May 2, the National Guard was called to the city of Kent. They were called into the city — not the Kent State campus. Neither Gen. del Corso nor Gen. Canterbury requested the permission of any university official to send troops onto the campus.

According to the book The Kent State Coverup, members of the National Guard who fired on May 4 had never even shot an M-1 rifle. “We knew that a number of men in Troop G had never fired the weapon before; many of them had no conception of the weapon’s awesome power.” In addition, many of the enlisted members had poor eyesight, according to the book. One guardsman had no riot control training whatsoever, and one had just completed basic training a few days prior.

George W. Bush was in the National Guard and look at the poor military decisions he’s made.

Why were none of the guardsmen ever arrested or charged with murder?

In a federal civil trial held in 1975, the jury ruled 9-3, finding that none of the members or officers of the Ohio National Guard were responsible for the murders. This decision was appealed and another trial was held. That trial ended in 1980 when an out-of-court settlement was reached. The amount of $675,000 was paid to the wounded students and the parents of the slain students. The money was funded by the State of Ohio and not by any of the guardsmen.

Justin Stine is an electronic media productions major, the treasurer of the May 4 Task Force and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].