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.
I'm sure somewhere in my heart I knew that would never really be possible. The fact that all the trial proceedings had failed to turn up "the truth" would eventually just strengthen my resolve to keep searching. But that day, all I felt was pure and total defeat.
As I left the courtroom, Sarah Scheuer, mother of victim Sandy Scheuer, came up to thank me for being there and to make sure I was planning to attend the plaintiffs' press conference. I forced a smile and said, "Of course," knowing that I was probably lying. When I got back to my hotel, I called my husband, cried, watched some of the infuriating news coverage and then started packing. Knowing I had no intention of going to the press conference and also knowing that my dear friend, Elaine Holstein, mother of victim Jeff Miller, was flying in for it, I decided to call Sarah and tell her I wouldn't be attending but ask her to please give Elaine a message for me.
When I reached Sarah, she refused to give Elaine my message. "No," she said in a firmer voice than I had ever heard from her before. "You come and tell her yourself." When I protested, she announced that if I wasn't going to come personally, then Elaine would just have to think whatever about my non-presence. It was a very sneaky way for Sarah to force me to attend. So, knowing I couldn't let Elaine wonder what had become of me, I got myself together and walked over to the hotel where the press conference would be held.
Elaine finally arrived and, much to the dismay of the plaintiffs' attorneys who were awaiting her signature -- the last one they needed -- on the settlement papers, as soon as she saw me, she walked away from the attorneys and came over to me. I was a wreck; I admit it. At that moment, I would have been happy to see the whole thing blow up. And Elaine, still smarting at the inevitable but devastating conclusion of the civil suit, was dismayed by my distress. The guardsmen and state officials were already all over the television, announcing their interpretation of events, claiming that they agreed to settle simply because the costs of doing so ($675,000 total) were less than going through another trial (the 1975 trial having ended in a verdict for them). How, I asked Elaine, could she accept such an outcome?
Looking back, I think it was the perfect question to ask Elaine at that moment. It forced her to think again about accepting this settlement that had caused her and the other plaintiffs such anguish. But then she looked at me and took my hand and said, "How can I stand on principle when Dean cannot stand at all?" (Dean Kahler, one of the nine wounded, had been paralyzed by his injuries. The bulk of the award -- $350,000 -- was scheduled to go to him to help get his life back together.) At that moment, I understood Elaine's decision. Her son was gone; nothing this court or anyone else did would ever bring him back. And that included my own efforts at discovering "the truth." The truth for Elaine was simple: Jeff was dead. He would never grow up. He would never get married. He would never have a family. He was dead. No other truth could ever trump that one.
But she had one other answer for me, an answer that would be repeated in the statement released by the families of the victims in their press conference that afternoon. They settled in order:
They also noted that the settlement "statement of regret" had asserted that "better ways must be found for future confrontations which may take place." They hoped that would indeed take place. They ended with this powerful statement:
- To demonstrate that the excessive use of force by the agents of government would be met by a formidable citizen challenge;
- To exhaustively use the judicial system in the United States and demonstrate to an understandably skeptical generation that the system can work;
- To assert that the human rights of American citizens, particularly those citizens in dissent of governmental policies, must be effected and protected.
Because of the experience we have had during the past eight and one-half years, there are other words which we are compelled to speak. We have become convinced that the issue of the excessive use of force -- or the use of deadly force -- by law enforcement agencies or those acting with the authority of law enforcement agencies, is a critical national issue to which the attention of the American public must be drawn.Even today, as I read those amazingly eloquent words with their simple plea for something that should be so automatic and accepted, I cry. Not only because of the memories of that day but because that eloquent plea is still both so apt and so unmet.
President Carter, on December 6, 1978, in his speech on the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said, "Of all human rights, the most basic is to be free of arbitrary violence...." He then noted that citizens should have the right to be free of violence that comes from governments.
We deplore violence in every form for any cause and from every source. Yet we believe the average American is little aware of the official violence which has been used across our land indiscriminately and unjustifiably. Twenty-eight students have been killed on campuses in the past ten years. A long but unnumbered list of residents in minority communities have been killed unjustifiably. [emphasis mine]
We find it significant that just a few weeks ago the United States Commission on Civil Rights held a consultation in Washington, DC, on "Police Practices and the Preservation of Civil Rights" in preparation for the conducting of hearings on the use of deadly force in selected cities. That is an issue with which we have had to be concerned. It is an issue with which a growing number of citizens are becoming concerned.
Through our long legal and political struggle, we have become convinced that the present federal law which protects citizens from the deprivation of their civil rights by law enforcement agencies or those acting with their authority, is weak and inadequate. It is a provision which is little used -- but when it is used, it has little use. A citizen can be killed by those acting under the color of law almost with impunity. The families of the victims of those shootings or killings have little recourse and then only through an expensive and lengthy process.
We believe that citizens and law enforcement must, in the words of the signed settlement, find better ways. We appeal for those better ways to be used not only on campuses but in cities and communities across the land. We plead for a federal law which will compel the consideration and use of those better ways.
We are simply average citizens who have attempted to be loyal to our country and constructive and responsible in our actions, but we have not had an average experience. We have learned through a tragic event that loyalty to our nation and its principles sometimes requires resistance to our government and its policies -- a lesson many young people, including the children of some of us, had learned earlier. That has been our struggle -- for others, this struggle goes on. We will try to support them.
For Allison, Sandra, Jeffrey and William. For Peace and Justice. Shalom.
Last week, when I spoke with Laurel Krause about posting this PROJECT CENSORED article that she has written with Mickey Huff, she spoke about how her goal now is to ensure that not one more protester ever has to die. We spoke as the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street loomed. She expressed her concerns that we would see "another Kent State" in response to OWS. I told her that I have been fearful of "another Kent State" ever since lies pushed us into the Iraq War.
As I thought about what I would write to introduce this second piece of her article, I knew that it would be this, a recounting of that January day in Cleveland, of the promises and vows made, of the pain and suffering that led to that courtroom and of how, nearly 34 years later, Laurel and I are still worrying about state-sanctioned violence. That, despite everything, that possibility is as strong as it ever was. That we still have to caution protesters to be careful, that when guns appear, you must assume they are loaded.
Until we learn to find those better ways to resolve our conflicts, part of my soul will continue to cry.
by Laurel Krause with Mickey Huff
The other major piece of Kent State evidence identified in Allen’s analysis was the “sound of sniper fire” recorded on the tape. These sounds point to Terry Norman, FBI informant and provocateur, who was believed to have fired his low-caliber pistol four times, just seventy seconds before the command-to-fire.
Mangels wrote in the Plain Dealer, “Norman was photographing protestors that day for the FBI and carried a loaded .38-caliber Smith & Wesson Model . . . five-shot revolver in a holster under his coat for protection. Though he denied discharging his pistol, he previously has been accused of triggering the Guard shootings by firing to warn away angry demonstrators, which the soldiers mistook for sniper fire.”4
Video footage and still photography have recorded the minutes following the “sound of sniper fire,” showing Terry Norman sprinting across the Kent State commons, meeting up with Kent Police and the ONG. In this visual evidence, Norman immediately yet casually hands off his pistol to authorities and the recipients of the pistol show no surprise as Norman hands them his gun.5
The “sound of sniper fire” is a key element of the Kent State cover-up and is also referred to by authorities in the Nation editorial, “Kent State: The Politics of Manslaughter,” from May 18, 1970:
The murders occurred on May 4. Two days earlier, [Ohio National Guard Adjutant General] Del Corso had issued a statement that sniper fire would be met by gunfire from his men. After the massacre, Del Corso and his subordinates declared that sniper fire had triggered the fusillade.6Yet the Kent State “sound of sniper fire” remains key, according to White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, who noted President Richard Nixon’s reaction to Kent State in the Oval Office on May 4, 1970:
Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman told him [of the killings] late in the afternoon. But at two o’clock Haldeman jotted on his ever-present legal pad “keep P. filled in on Kent State.” In his daily journal Haldeman expanded on the President’s reaction: “He very disturbed. Afraid his decision set it off . . . then kept after me all day for more facts. Hoping rioters had provoked the shootings—but no real evidence that they did.” Even after he had left for the day, Nixon called Haldeman back and among others issued one ringing command: “need to get out story of sniper.”7In a May 5, 1970, article in the New York Times, President Nixon commented on violence at Kent State:
This should remind us all once again that when dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy. It is my hope that this tragic and unfortunate incident will strengthen the determination of all the nation’s campuses, administrators, faculty and students alike to stand firmly for the right which exists in this country of peaceful dissent and just as strong against the resort to violence as a means of such expression.8President Nixon’s comment regarding dissent turning to violence obfuscated and laid full blame on student protesters for creating violence at Kent State. Yet at the rally occurring on May 4th, student protester violence amounted to swearing, throwing small rocks, and volleying back tear gas canisters, while the gun-toting soldiers of the ONG declared the peace rally illegal, brutally herded the students over large distances on campus, filled the air with tear gas, and even threw rocks at students. Twenty minutes into the protest demonstration, a troop of National Guard marched up a hill away from the students, turned to face the students in unison, and fired.
The violence at Kent State came from the National Guardsmen, not protesting students. On May 4, 1970, the US government delivered its deadly message to Kent State students and the world: if you protest in America against the wars of the Pentagon and the Department of Defense, the US government will stop at nothing to silence you.
Participating American militia colluded at Kent State to organize and fight this battle against American student protesters, most of them too young to vote but old enough to fight in the Vietnam War.9 And from new evidence exposed forty years after the massacre, numerous elements point directly to the FBI and COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) as lead agencies managing the government operation of the Kent State massacre, including the cover-up, but also with a firm hand in some of the lead-up.
Prior to the announcement of the Cambodian incursion, the ONG arrived in the Kent area acting in a federalized role as the Cleveland-Akron labor wildcat strikes were winding down. The ONG continued in the federalized role at Kent State, ostensibly to protect the campus and as a reaction to the burning of a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) building. Ohio Governor James “Jim” Rhodes claimed the burning of the ROTC building on the Kent State University campus was his reason for “calling in the guard,” yet in this picture of the burning building, the ONG are clearly standing before the flames as the building burns.10
From eyewitness accounts, the burning of the ROTC building at Kent State was completed by undercover law enforcement determined to make sure it could become the symbol needed to support the Kent State war on student protest.11
According to Dr. Elaine Wellin, an eyewitness to the many events at Kent State leading up to and including May 4th, there were uniformed and plain-clothes officers potentially involved in managing the burning of the ROTC building. Wellin was in close proximity to the building just prior to the burning and saw a person with a walkie-talkie about three feet from her telling someone on the other end of the communication that they should not send down the fire truck as the ROTC building was not on fire yet.12
A memo to COINTELPRO director William C. Sullivan ordered a full investigation into the “fire bombing of the ROTC building.” But only days after the Kent State massacre, every weapon that was fired was destroyed, and all other weapons used at Kent State were gathered by top ONG officers, placed with other weapons and shipped to Europe for use by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), so no weapons used at Kent could be traced.
From these pieces of evidence, it becomes clearer that the US government coordinated this battle against student protest on the Kent State campus. Using the playbook from the Huston Plan, which refers to protesting students as the “New Left,” the US government employed provocateurs, staged incidents, and enlisted political leaders to attack and lay full blame on the students. On May 4, 1970, at Kent State University, the US government fully negated every student response as they criminalized the First Amendment rights to protest and assemble.13
4. Mangels, “Kent State Tape Indicates Altercation and Pistol Fire Preceded National Guard Shootings (audio),” Plain Dealer (Cleveland), October 8, 2010, http://www.cleveland.com/....
5. Kent State Shooting 1970 [BX4510], Google Video, at 8:20 min., http://video.google.com/....
6. Editorial, “Kent State: The Politics of Manslaughter,” Nation, April 30, 2009 [May 18, 1970], http://www.thenation.com/....
7. Charles A. Thomas, Kenfour: Notes On An Investigation (e-book), http://speccoll.library.kent.edu/....
8. John Kifner, “4 Kent State Students Killed by Troops,” New York Times, May 4, 1970, http://www.nytimes.com/....
9. Voting age was twenty-one at this time, until the passage of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1971, which lowered the voting age to eighteen, partially in response to Vietnam War protests as youth under twenty-one could be drafted without the right to vote.
10. It should also be noted, that Rhodes was running for election the Tuesday following the Kent shootings on a law and order ticket.
11. “My Personal Testimony ROTC Burning May 2 1970 Kent State,” YouTube, April 28, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/... Freedom of Information Act, FBI, Kent State Shooting, File Number 98-46479, part 7 of 8 (1970), http://vault.fbi.gov/....
12. The Project Censored Show on The Morning Mix, “May 4th and the Kent State Shootings in the 42nd Year,” Pacifica Radio, KPFA, 94.1FM, May 4, 2012 live at 8:00 a.m., archived online at http://www.kpfa.org/... and http://dl.dropbox.com/.... For Wellin on ROTC, see recording at 28:45. Show description: The May 4th Kent State Shootings 42 Years Later: Justice Still Not Served with Congressman Dennis Kucinich commenting on the DOJ’s recent refusal to reopen the case despite new evidence of a Kent State command-to-fire and the ‘sound of sniper fire’ leading to the National Guard firing live ammunition at unarmed college students May 4, 1970; Dr. Elaine Wellin, Kent State eyewitness shares seeing undercover agents at the ROTC fire in the days before, provocateurs in staging the rallies at Kent, and at Kent State on May 4th; we’ll hear from investigator and forensic evidence expert Stuart Allen regarding his audio analysis of the Kent State Strubbe tape from May 4th revealing the command-to-fire and the ‘sound of sniper fire’ seventy seconds before; and we hear from Kent State Truth Tribunal director Laurel Krause, the sister of slain student Allison, about her efforts for justice at Kent State and recent letter to President Obama. Also see Peter Davies’ testimony about agents provocateurs and the ROTC fire cited in note 1, “The Burning Question: A Government Cover-up?,” in Kent State/May 4, 150–60.
13. The Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), “Volume 2: Huston Plan,” http://www.aarclibrary.org/....
14. Associated Press, “Kent State Settlement: Was Apology Included?,” Eugene Register-Guard, January 5, 1979, http://news.google.com/....