Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Kent State Massacre in 1970 (Part 1)

New light shed on Kent State killings
Shots fired at Guard, declassified files indicate
Previously undisclosed FBI documents suggest that the Kent State antiwar protests were more meticulously planned than originally thought and that one or more gunshots may have been fired at embattled Ohio National Guardsmen before their killings of four students and woundings of at least nine others on that searing day in May 1970.
Left: Ohio National Guardsmen fire tear gas to disperse a crowd of Vietnam War protesters on the commons of Kent State University on May 4, 1970.
As the nation marks the 40th anniversary of the Kent State antiwar protests Tuesday, a review of hundreds of previously unpublished investigative reports sheds a new — and very different — light on the tragic episode.
The upheaval that enveloped the northeastern Ohio campus actually began three days earlier, in downtown Kent. Stirred to action by President Nixon's expansion of U.S. military operations in Cambodia, a roving mob of earnest antiwar activists, hard-core radicals, curious students and others smashed 50 bank and store windows, looted a jewelry store and hurled bricks and bottles at police.
Four officers suffered injuries, and the mayor declared a civil emergency. Only tear gas dispersed the mob.
An exhaustive review later concluded that this unrest on the streets — the worst in Kent's history — was "not an organized riot or a planned protest."
But the FBI's investigation swiftly uncovered reliable evidence that suggested otherwise. Among the strongest was a pre-dawn conversation — never before reported — between two unnamed men overheard inside a campus lounge later that night. Their discussion was witnessed by the girlfriend of a Kent State student and conveyed up the FBI chain of command 15 days later.
"We did it," one man exulted, according to the inquiry. "We got the riot started."
The second man expressed disappointment at being excluded from the riot's planning. "Wait until tomorrow night," the leader replied excitedly. "We just got the word. We're going to burn the ROTC building."
This was 20 hours before the ROTC headquarters on the Kent State campus, an old wooden frame building, was, in fact, burned to the ground.
"What about the flare?" the second man asked before the leader spotted the coed listening to them and abruptly ended the conversation. Dozens of witnesses later told the FBI they saw a flare used to ignite the blaze.
Now largely forgotten, the torching of the ROTC building was the true precursor to the killings at Kent State because it triggered the deployment of the National Guard to the fevered campus.
That deployment climaxed in bloodshed on the afternoon of May 4, 1970, with the guardsmen, clad in gas masks and confronted by angry, rock-throwing students, firing their M-1 rifles 67 times in 13 seconds, killing Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder.
A report submitted to Attorney General John Mitchell in June 1970 stated "there was no sniper" who could have fired at the guardsmen before the killings.
Numerous witnesses corroborated this.
A female freshman provided the FBI with a sworn statement that "there was no shot before [the guardsmen's] volley, and there were no warning shots fired." The Justice Department's internal review cited statements by six guardsmen who "pointedly" told the FBI that their lives were not in danger and that "it was not a shooting situation."
Yet the declassified FBI files show the FBI already had developed credible evidence suggesting that there was indeed a sniper and that one or more shots may have been fired at the guardsmen first.
Rumors of a sniper had circulated for at least a day before the fatal confrontation, the documents show. And a memorandum sent to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover on May 19, 1970, referred to bullet holes found in a tree and a statue — evidence, the report stated, that "indicated that at least two shots had been fired at the National Guard."
Another interviewee told agents that a guardsman had spoken of "a confirmed report of a sniper."
It also turned out that the FBI had its own informant and agent-provocateur roaming the crowd, a part-time Kent State student named Terry Norman, who had a camera. Mr. Norman also was armed with a snub-nosed revolver that FBI ballistics tests, first declassified in 1977, concluded had indeed been discharged on that day.
Then there was the testimony of an ROTC cadet whose identity remains unknown, one of the pervasive redactions concealing the names of all the FBI agents who conducted the interviews and of all those whom they interrogated. Although presumably angry over the demonstrators' destruction of the campus ROTC building, the cadet's calm, precise firsthand account nonetheless carries a credibility not easily dismissed.
Before the fatal volley, the ROTC cadet told the FBI, he "heard one round, a pause, two rounds, and then the M-1s opened up."
The report continued that the cadet "stated that the first three rounds were definitely not M-1s. He said they could possibly have been a .45 caliber. … [He] further stated that he heard confirmed reports of sniper fire coming in over both the National Guard radio and the state police radio."
The cadet also told the FBI he observed demonstrators carrying baseball bats, golf clubs and improvised weapons, including pieces of steel wire cut into footlong sections, along with radios and other electronic devices "used to monitor the police and Guard wavelengths."
Separately, a female student told the FBI she "recalled hearing what she thought was [the sound of] firecrackers and then a few seconds later [she] heard noise that to her sounded like a machine gun going off, but then later thought it may have been a volley of shots from the Guard."
Absent the declassification of the FBI's entire investigative file, many questions remain unanswered — including why the documents quoted here were overlooked, or discounted, in the Justice Department's official findings.
At a minimum, the FBI documents strongly challenge the received narrative that the rioting in downtown Kent was spontaneous and unplanned, that the burning of the ROTC headquarters was similarly impulsive and that the guardsmen's fatal shootings were explicable only as unprovoked acts.
The FBI files provide, in short, a hidden history of the killings at Kent State. They show that the "four dead in Ohio" more properly belong, in the grand sweep of history, to four days in May, an angry, chaotic and violent interlude when a controversial foreign war came home to American soil.
Some might argue that this posting should be included with the material on "Police State" under the posting "Is George Orwell Dead? Big Brother Isn't!" Perhaps so but I believe that this incident is important enough to merit a section by itself. Do you consider it strange that this massacre was downplayed in the media for 37 years? Yes I'll mention it. All us citizens, world-wide, never stood up and questioned it either. Maybe psychological, or maybe a state of denial, but nevertheless, WE citizens failed to demand an investigation into what happened and their killers got away. The "protest" movement also died that day!

U.S. National Guard and the pictures of "The 4 Students" who died.
The Lethal Media Silence On Kent State's Smoking Guns by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman: http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/contributors/992 After 37 years of official denial and cover-up, tape-recorded evidence that has existed for decades and has been in the possession of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has finally been made public. It proves what "conspiracy theorists" have argued since 1970 -- there was a direct military order leading to the unprovoked assassination of unarmed students. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents show collusion between Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes and the FBI that aimed to terrorize anti-war demonstrators and their protests that were raging throughout the nation. But the media's apparent unconcern about confirmation of the official order to carry out these killings may bear a simple message: that we should be prepared for them to happen again.
Mary Ann Vecchio screams as she kneels by the body of a student.
Kent State, May 4, 1970: America Kills Its Children http://www.spectacle.org/595/kent.html Twenty-five years ago this month, students came out on the Kent State campus and scores of others to protest the bombing of Cambodia-- a decision of President Nixon's that appeared to expand the Vietnam War. Some rocks were thrown, some windows were broken, and an attempt was made to burn the ROTC building. Governor James Rhodes sent in the National Guard. The units that responded were ill-trained and came right from riot duty elsewhere; they hadn't had much sleep. The first day, there was some brutality; the Guard bayonetted two men, one a disabled veteran, who had cursed or yelled at them from cars. The following day, May 4th, the Guard, commanded with an amazing lack of military judgment, marched down a hill, to a field in the middle of angry demonstrators, then back up again. Seconds before they would have passed around the corner of a large building, and out of sight of the crowd, many of the Guardsmen wheeled and fired directly into the students, hitting thirteen, killing four of them, pulling the trigger over and over, for thirteen seconds.
US History Encyclopedia:
Kent State Protest
On 4 May 1970 Ohio national guardsmen opened fire on Kent State University students protesting the Vietnam War. In a mere thirteen seconds four students were killed, and nine others wounded. What had begun as a small campus demonstration turned Kent State into a symbol of the Vietnam era worldwide.
Kent State students protested President Richard M. Nixon's 30 April announcement that troops would invade Cambodia to strike against suspected guerrillas. Nixon's declaration set off a chain reaction, and 1.5 million students protested around the country. The president fueled the confrontation by calling them "bums" who were "blowing up the campuses." Tensions in Kent, Ohio, escalated in the days leading up to 4 May. Mayor Leroy Satrom declared the city under a state of emergency after a disturbance downtown got out of hand. On 2 May Satrom requested that the Ohio National Guard deploy.
Despite the presence of armed soldiers, Kent State students continued to hold rallies. The situation spiraled out of control when a fire burned down the university Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) building. Governor James Rhodes arrived on 3 May and condemned student radicals, comparing them to nazis and communists. In response protesters gathered on campus but were teargassed.
On 4 May a rally drew approximately two thousand students, many merely curious onlookers. National Guard officers ordered the protesters to disburse, shooting tear gas into the crowd. Next more than one hundred armed guardsmen advanced on the students. The troops moved toward the protesters, up a hill, and then down to a practice football field. Reaching a fence at the far end, some knelt and aimed their weapons. Students retreated into a parking lot between several buildings, but some lobbed rocks and tear gas canisters back at the guardsmen.
Kent State students dive to the ground as the Ohio National Guard fires on faculty and students on campus during the May 4, 1970, Vietnam War protest, which left four students dead and nine injured.
After ten minutes the troops moved back up the hill. When they reached the crest, a group of twenty-eight guardsmen turned quickly and shot in the direction of the parking lot and the main group of protesters. They fired sixty-one rounds of ammunition. Of the thirteen people killed or injured, only two were actively participating in the confrontation. One student was killed while walking to class, and another ironically was an ROTC student. Others were more than one hundred yards away.
As news spread Kent State and nearly five hundred other colleges were closed. Ten days later another shooting occurred, this time at Jackson State University in Mississippi. Police and state patrolmen fired into a dormitory at the all-black school, killing two students and wounding nine others. The lack of attention given to the deaths at Jackson State embittered many in the African American community.
Kent State immediately transformed from a sleepy midwestern college into the symbolic epicenter of student protest in the Vietnam era. Lingering romantic notions of the 1960s ended with the Kent State shootings. The incident has been immortalized in countless books and even a television movie, but nothing was more stinging than the song by the group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, "Ohio," with its haunting lyrics, "Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming. … Four dead in Ohio!"