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John Darnell photo of guardsmen

photo/John A. Darnell Jr. from the Kent State University Library Archives

For me, truth has always been hard to come by when it comes to Kent State. But the photo above, in my world, is the closest to truth I've ever found. Oddly, this version from the KSU Archives is actually cropped ever so slightly on the right. In the uncropped version, with a magnifying glass, you can see right down the barrel of one of the rifles as one of the Guardsman took aim (seemingly) directly at John Darnell. Darnell has said that he saw that, snapped the shutter, dropped to the ground and heard a bullet whiz over his head. That is truth.

Following the re-election of Barack Obama, I will have more to say about truth and Kent State. But, until then, I bring you the conclusion of Laurel Krause's article for PROJECT CENSORED.

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Monday morning, I woke up to the news that a student at the University of Southern Alabama had been shot and killed by the campus police. The details of the shooting are about as far from the events at Kent State as can be imagined:

A University of South Alabama freshman was running through the streets nearly naked, screaming obscenities and claiming he was on a "spiritual quest" not long before he was shot by a campus police officer, two acquaintances said Monday.

Authorities have said 18-year-old Gil Collar of Wetumpka assumed a "fighting stance" and chased a police officer before the officer shot him around 1:30 a.m. outside the campus police station. Police say Collar was naked when he was shot. ...

School officials have said nothing to indicate he was armed. Campus officers typically also carry a baton and pepper spray, though university officials refused to say whether the officer who shot Collar was carrying either.

The university said the officer heard a bang on a window at campus police headquarters and went outside to investigate. The officer tried to retreat numerous times to defuse the situation before opening fire, the university said in a news release.

Nevertheless, this incident shows that, all these years later, police officers still resort to deadly force when, almost certainly, "other methods would have resolved the confrontation." That language, taken directly from the statement issued by the victims of Kent State after they settled their civil suit against the National Guard and Ohio state officials, came as part of their plea that something be done to ensure that citizens be protected from having their civil rights denied by those acting under color of law. The victims urged "citizens and law enforcement" to "find better ways." (emphasis in original)

And yet, here we are, 33 years later, and the University of Southern Alabama just shot a naked student to death because... because... because... WHY? I hate to say this but, in my opinion, Gil Collar ended up dead because the university police had no idea how else to handle this situation. Certainly, it would be pretty amazing if, in fact, this naked man had a weapon and represented a deadly threat to the campus police. But the police were armed with guns. If they had any less lethal tools available, they chose not to use them. The tool that, from reports, would seem to have been most effective -- a trained counselor capable of talking down someone who was almost certainly in some sort of altered state -- appears to have been nowhere in evidence. But, to get back to my question of WHY, forgive me for saying that I believe the answer is depressingly simple:  they shot him because it was easiest and they knew they could do so with likely impunity.

And that should send chills up the spine of every student at every college, every member of a disenfranchised minority in every community with a belligerent police department, and every parent who sends a child away to college.

How often has this kind of overreaction occurred since the Kent State victims settled their civil suit, 33 years ago? In the second installment of this series, I quoted their settlement statement where they noted that 28 students had been killed on college campuses under color of law in the previous ten years.

I have always felt badly that I don't know the names of each of those 28 students and the circumstances under which they died. Maybe some of them died in circumstances not unlike those that unfolded this weekend at the University of Southern Alabama and claimed the life of Gil Collar. Certainly antiwar protesters were included in the count. James Green and Phillip Gibbs, the two young men killed at Jackson State on May 14, 1970, were part of the 28. But Samuel Hammond, Delano Middleton and Henry Smith, killed in Orangeburg, South Carolina, in February 1968 would not be.

And what would the number be today? How many have been killed since 1979? How many families have sent their child off to college only to have them come home in a coffin, placed there by the very authorities who are ostensibly charged with protecting the students? How many of these incidents occur with little to no press coverage? How many of these families have been left to grieve without public support? And why, why, why do we still have to wake up to headlines such as these?

Gil Collar, I hope your death can serve to shed light on the needlessly aggressive tactics of the University of Southern Alabama police force. I hope your family will receive the answers and support that they need. I hope the university community will come together to challenge the use of force on their campus. I hope that students everywhere who may be in need of help for mental health or substance abuse issues find that help before meeting a similarly tragic end. And, most of all, I hope that our country someday soon confronts our addiction to violence and that, as a society, we will recognize that violence only leads to tragedy.

And now, Part Three of the PROJECT CENSORED article by Laurel Krause and Mickey Huff.

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In early January 1979, I sat in a Cleveland federal courtroom and listened to Judge William Thomas read a prepared statement agreed to by both the plaintiffs and defendants that brought the civil suit for damages stemming from the May 1970 killing of four Kent State students and wounding of nine others to a close. As I sat there, having left behind my law school studies and having spent hundreds of dollars I didn't have to be in that courtroom, it felt to me as if the whole notion of justice was being trampled to death. When I heard the judge announce that "nothing in this settlement should be interpreted as an admission of guilt," I wanted to stand up and scream. I felt so betrayed. I wondered how in the world it was possible that so many years of struggle had come to a point where it would all end so hollowly. I knew that the defendants -- the odious James Rhodes, the Ohio National Guard commanders, the more and less culpable individual Guardsmen -- would go on to denounce the whole process. And that they would be free to claim that they admitted to nothing, that they had simply settled out of expedience. This despite the clear sentence in the "Statement of Regret" that said:  "Hindsight suggests another method would have resolved the confrontation." [emphasis mine] Not could have, not might have, not should have ... but WOULD have. But I knew that would be lost in the retelling.

Even more galling was the knowledge that the pathetic little bit of money that would be going to the plaintiffs -- about half a million dollars total, with a measly $15,000 affixed to the lives of each of the four dead -- would actually be paid by the Ohio taxpayers, a special deal having been arranged for exactly this purpose. At least I had the solace of no longer being an Ohio taxpayer. In fact, as I sat in that courtroom, uppermost in my mind was getting back to the hotel, packing my stuff, getting to the Amtrak station as soon as possible and going back to Wyoming where I could hide away again. At that moment, I had no intention of ever going back to the pain of Kent State. It was over. I had to let it go.

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Welcome, friends, to the latest installment in our ongoing series exploring and exposing the mysteries, intrigues and investigations into the trauma that is the 1970 Kent State killings. As many of you will remember, 2010-2012 brought a number of new revelations about what really happened on that horrible spring day. But despite the newly-discovered evidence of a possible order to shoot and the discovery that, indeed, someone other than the Ohio National Guard fired shots that day, the story has once again been shelved, with little follow-up by either the mainstream media or, more importantly, people who could actually do something about finally exposing the truth and bringing about a just conclusion to this sad chapter of our American history.

As a result, the story of the continuing stonewalling of justice regarding Kent State has been chosen as one of the PROJECT CENSORED stories of 2012.  The article will appear in the forthcoming Censored 2013: Dispatches from the Media Revolution to be published by Seven Stories Press. But, lucky you, you can read it here first as I will be serializing it in full, in four installments, over the next few weeks. In addition, should any of you wish to share this on your own blogs or other websites, please feel free to do so. Just be sure to credit the authors and the upcoming book from Seven Stories Press.

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Fri May 04, 2012 at 10:00 AM PDT

Kent State's 40th Anniversary (2010)

by kainah

So many years have passed since the Ohio National Guard ended the lives of Allison Krause, Jeff Miller, Bill Schroeder and Sandy Scheuer and wounded nine others. Forty-two years... Such a very long time.... But no matter how much time passes, those of us who lived through Monday, May 4, 1970 remember the trauma as if it were yesterday. I guess we always will.

To those of you who asked me to write about the 40th anniversary event back in 2010 after I returned, please forgive me. I simply couldn't do it. I found myself utterly drained. I felt good about what I had experienced. I felt devastated by again being at Kent State. And, in the end, I just wanted to keep my silence, to hold tight to those private experiences, to shield my heart from any more interaction on the subject.

But, over the years, you have all been so supportive of my work on this issue that I couldn't shake the sense that I owed you a recap. And, in the two years since, several things have come to light about the shootings, things that perhaps answer some questions while raising new ones. So, today, to honor the events of 2010 and to remember the horrors of 1970, I give you that long and long overdue diary on the 40th anniversary. Of course, in the end, these diaries are written primarily to honor those bright young lives cut short on that sunny May day so very many years ago.  

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The Justice Department has declined to reopen the investigation into the shootings at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, despite a new analysis recently completely of an enhanced copy of the only complete audio recording of the events of that day. According to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez: "There are insurmountable legal and evidentiary barriers to bringing a second federal case in this matter." The review had been requested by wounded student, Alan Canfora, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and the sister of slain student, Allison Krause. Canfora said that, while disappointed, he wasn't surprised:  

It's absurd for anyone to expect the Justice Department to thoroughly investigate itself, including its FBI division. I don't think they're fair, I don't think they're objective, and the only way they can alleviate this controversy about their own failed investigation is to go to some outside, independent experts.
Poll

Do you think there will ever be justice for the Kent State victims?

9%6 votes
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10%7 votes

| 66 votes | Vote | Results

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Wed May 04, 2011 at 12:37 PM PDT

New Evidence in Kent State Shootings

by kainah

On May 4, 1970, communications student Terry Strubbe set the microphone of his reel-to-reel tape recorder on the windowsill of his dorm room overlooking Blanket Hill and turned on the recorder before leaving to join the demonstrations rocking his Kent State University campus that beautiful spring Monday. He had no way of knowing that the thirty minute recording he would capture would eventually be the most important clue to what really happened that day. But once Strubbe heard the recording, he knew the tape needed special protection and he arranged to keep it in a climate-controlled bank vault.

The only known recording of events leading up to and including the fatal volley of 67 shots, the Strubbe tape captures a tinny bullhorn announcement commanding students to leave "for your own safety," the pop of tear gas canisters and the wracking coughs of those caught in the gas, the drone of helicopters overhead, and the protests chants and the repeated tolling of the victory bell to rally students before the fatal volley erupts.

Until recently, we thought that was the extent of what the tape revealed.

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Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 11:33 AM PDT

The Truth About Kent State

by kainah

On May 4, 1970, headlines across the country blared the news:

Four students killed at Kent State University

Some carried a sub-heading:

Ohio National Guard opens fire on antiwar protest

Those of us who were old enough to remember that day, those of us who were on a college campus that day, those of us who survived the actual shooting -- we have never forgotten. That moment, shortly after noon, when we learned that the Ohio National Guard had killed four students and wounded nine others during an antiwar protest changed our lives.

What we had feared -- but never believed could happen -- had come to pass. They were killing us for our beliefs.

Forty years later, many of us still wonder what really happened that day.

In memory of Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, Sandy Scheuer and Bill Schroeder, please follow me over the jump.

Poll

Is it possible at this late date to discover the truth?

32%428 votes
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| 1313 votes | Vote | Results

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For those of us who were in college in the late 60s and early 70s -- and, as I learned so well a few years ago -- for many who were not, the early days of May bring back memories of a time before the Bush administration when our world went crazy. We remember when another President invaded a sovereign country, declaring that the "limited incursion" was "not for the purpose of expanding the war ... but for the purpose of ending the war." We remember when a governor, embroiled in a nasty campaign to win the rapidly approaching primary election for the Republican Senate seat in his state, pounded the table while decrying a generation of student activists as "worse than the brown shirts and the Communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America." And, most of all, we remember the horrible photo of a young man lying dead in a roadway with a young girl screaming in horror over his lifeless body. We remember going to sleep that night, wondering if we would be the next to die. We remember May 4, 1970 and we weep.

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Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 01:23 PM PDT

WY Senate: Could Dems Pull a Surprise?

by kainah

Many of you might have met Nick Carter at Netroots Nation in Austin. I wasn't there but I understand Nick represented our state well. In August, he won a close primary contest against Keith Goodenough, a long-time, well-known liberal stalwart in conservative Wyoming, 12,313 votes against 12,006 votes. Carter now will take on John Barrasso who was appointed last year to fill temporarily the empty seat created by the death Sen. Craig Thomas.

Although we have two Wyoming Senate seats up for grabs this year -- Mike Enzi being in his normal re-election cycle -- no one has thought that Dems had any shot at either one of them.

Well, new polling out today suggests John Barrasso might be vulnerable.

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Thu Mar 06, 2008 at 04:59 PM PST

Wyoming Awash in Candidates

by kainah

Wyoming rarely gets any attention from the presidential candidates. As everyone knows, we're pure red, a caucus state, and too small to matter anyway. In the last seven years, we've had several fun opportunities to denounce and reject Dick Cheney on his allegedly home turf but, as for attention from national Democrats, forget it. Even Gary Trauner, who only lost to Barbara Cubin by 1000 votes in 2006, had a hard time getting the national party to pay any attention to him.

But, for today and tomorrow, we are front and center.

Welcome to Wyoming, Barack, Hillary, Bill, and Chelsea!

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Wed Mar 05, 2008 at 12:18 AM PST

Dems Crawling Out of the Woodwork in WY

by kainah

So I went down to the County Clerk's office today to change my registration from I to D so that I can caucus for Obama on March 8th. And I had an interesting conversation with the clerk who told me that they have been "crazy busy" since last week -- which just happens to coincide with the opening of Obama's headquarters in Laramie (and Casper, Cheyenne, and Rock Springs.)

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