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FOCUS: FOUR DEAD IN OHIO
In my view: May 4, 1970
Three of those directly affected by the Kent State campus shootings remember that day.
Last Modified: 04 May 2010 11:11 GMT
The deaths at Kent State University in Ohio would help to turn the tide against the war in Vietnam

On May 4, 1970 soldiers opened fire on a student anti-war protest on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. Four students were killed and nine others were wounded.

Here, three of those directly affected by the events of that day talk to Al Jazeera.

Elaine Holstein, mother of Jeffrey Miller, who was killed on May 4, 1970

"I called Jeff's apartment and it rang and rang for quite a while and some kid picked up and I said 'let me talk to Jeff' and he said 'Jeff's dead' ..."

"I was driving home and I had the radio on in the car and I got the report that some kids had been killed at Kent State.

Now nowhere did it occur to me that Jeff was one of those kids - you know out of 21,000 kids there or something. But I figured I'm going to call him up immediately and tell him to come home until this passes over, until this quiets down.

So I came in, I left the door open because Artie was coming to meet me, and I called Jeff's apartment and it rang and rang for quite a while and some kid picked up and I said "let me talk to Jeff" and he said "Jeff's dead".

And with that Artie walked in and you know, he took the phone.

I cannot survive this, it didn't seem possible. I heard Artie ask, he was wearing a little ring with a peace symbol, they were trying to identify and make sure this was Jeff, and it was, and all hell broke lose at that point.

Reporters started arriving, everyone who knew me started calling me up and arriving at the apartment, and it was like living in some kind of surreal nightmare. Even now I start shaking about it.

You know, I don't know how to describe the whole aftermath that seemed to go forever and ever.

I saw on TV the line up of guardsmen with gas masks shooting at the students.

I know that Artie simply took me in his car at the end of the school year and we started driving cross country. We just had to get out and away. And we had to drive through Ohio and I didn't want to drive through Ohio. I hated it, naturally ... I slid down on the seat. I didn't want to see Ohio."

Ron Snyder, captain of the Ohio National Guard Company C on May 4, 1970

"And then suddenly I heard one shot, then I heard a series of shots and it's directly in front of me. We were able to observe that two students got hit immediately ..."

"The "riot act" as it is known in Ohio was read out. A jeep went out with loudspeakers and the riot act was read for the students to leave. Basically [it said] it's an illegal assembly, you have to leave, and nothing happened.

So then the plan was formulated whereby Troop G would go up to the right side of the building in front of us. I would take Company C and I would go up the centre part to make sure nobody filtered in and came up behind them. And we fired tear gas.

FOUR DEAD IN OHIO

  The day the war came home
  Why remember May 4, 1970?
  In my view: the Kent State University shootings
  In video: Remembering the campus killings

I had a pretty big philosophy about the use of tear gas. I don't know how many rounds we fired, maybe between 200 and 400 rounds that day. Tear gas is very effective even if the winds are not right because generally demonstrators, most of them, don't have gas masks and it kind of puts an end to the riotous part and allows you to drive them to where you want to drive them.

In this case we wanted to move them away from the area of the commons. So we started up the hill and we go up, we take our position, Company C that is. Troop G and Company A swept around the right side of the building, and once they got out of my peripheral vision I never [saw] them again.

And then suddenly I heard one shot, then I heard a series of shots and it's directly in front of me. We were able to observe that two students got hit immediately. But I never did see the other guardsmen at that time.

I didn't know what happened. I took a squad forward to see if anybody was alive, to help. They weren't.

I called for the ambulances right away, and then withdrew because, I mean, it was a lot of confusion there and the ambulances were taking care of the wounded and the dead."

Alan Canfora, one of the nine students injured on May 4, 1970

"On May 4, 1970 I was shot through my right wrist. I shed my blood on that day. But I think more importantly, I was an eye witness ..."

"It's true, the central mystery of May 4, 1970 at Kent State remains this question: Why did the national guard fire?

The commanding officers on the scene deny giving an order and they shift the blame away from the officers onto the triggermen.

They say that the individual dozen triggermen simultaneously thought that their lives were in danger so they all stopped, turned, raised their weapons began to shoot and continued to shoot [for] 13 seconds, all of their own individual choice.

It doesn't seem plausible.

Now on May 4, 1970 I was shot through my right wrist. I shed my blood on that day.  But I think more importantly, I was an eye witness.

I was standing near the bottom of the hill looking up 200 feet away and I saw those guardsmen stop and turn and aim and they all started shooting simultaneously.

From that moment forward to the present day, I was convinced there was an order to fire.

Now later when we heard that the guardsmen or officers all claimed there was no verbal command, we knew that was a lie. So that's been the big mystery since 1970.

Why do the commanding officers deny the order? Because I think it's clear it was [a]criminal order to order a dozen guardsmen to fire M-1 rifles, very powerful deadly weapons, into a crowd of unarmed students.

It was a barbaric crime that was committed that day, so they tried to shift the blame away from the officers onto the individual soldiers."

Four Dead in Ohio can be seen from Tuesday, May 4, at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2330; Wednesday: 0530, 1430; Thursday: 0030, 1930; Saturday: 2130.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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