FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Four Dead in Ohio

by SAUL LANDAU

In May 1970, 19 years before Chinese officials ordered troops to fire on its students and other citizens demonstrating in favor of democracy at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, US state and federal officials had authorized National Guardsmen to fire with live ammunition at unarmed students ­ in Ohio.

The massacre occurred on May 4. 37 years later, Alan Canfora listened to the recording of the commander’s words. “Right here. Get set. Point. Fire.” The tape then recorded 13 seconds of uninterrupted gunfire.

Four students lay dead. Nine others, wounded, went to the hospital. Ironically, some of those shot were either observing or strolling nearby. Collateral damage?

Canfora, 21 years old, took a bullet in the wrist. Because the tape he acquired reveals a command structure in the shooting, he has demanded a new investigation.

“There has been a 37-year cover-up at Kent State. The commanding officers have long denied there was a verbal command to fire. They put the blame on the triggermen,” said Canfora. “They stopped, turned, raised the weapons, began to shoot and continued to shoot for 13 seconds,” he said. “It was like a firing squad.” (Guardian, May 2, 2007)

On the audio tape, the cold, hard words emerge. The shooters received direct orders to kill students and they carried out their orders, contrary to “the official cover story that they were responding in panic to a random shot fired at them, or that they were defending themselves from some kind of student attack.” (Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman, “The Lethal Media Silence on Kent State’s Smoking Guns,” May 7, 2007.)

Observers noted no armed students; no shots were fired at Guardsmen. The uniformed soldiers positioned themselves some 300 yards from the protesters, making the claim of “the threat of serious attack” by unarmed students totally preposterous.

The Guard claimed at the time that one reservist panicked. Others then lost their discipline and fired multiple rounds. The Guard denied that a commander had issued orders to fire. The tape shows the Guard lied.

Ohio subsequently indicted eight guardsmen; none were prosecuted. The families of the dead and wounded filed civil suits against Ohio, its governor and the National Guard — all settled out of court.

President Nixon’s illegal invasion of Cambodia had provoked a new round of demonstrations at Kent State and other campuses. The event has acquired “historical memory.” One famous photo shows a distressed young woman, near the corpse of a student. She is crying in rage and anguish — or for help. Neil Young wrote his song “Ohio” about the incident.

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

But until the revelation of the “fire” order on the tape, few dared think of Kent State as a US dress rehearsal for the Chinese government to copy later on a larger scale. Ironically, even with the tape as evidence of government ordered killing, human rights groups that routinely denounce China and Cuba, for examples, have remained silent about official US complicity in the Kent State horrors.

Yale University archives acquired the tape as part of a collection of materials gleaned from the civil suit. That’s where Canfora rediscovered the recording made by Terry Strubbe, a Kent State student who placed his tape recorder on the window sill of his room, located near the fatal events. He had delivered a copy of the tape to the FBI.

Documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act show that then Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes worked with the FBI to intimidate anti-war demonstrators. Such tactics were and are common for the Bureau, especially to use against “subversives.” In 1970 students played the lead role in opposing the Vietnam War and the FBI saw them as a criminal enemy when they exercised First Amendment rights.

University life in the 1960s and early 1970s went beyond going to class, smoking pot and dropping acid. Students and professors staged Vietnam War teach-ins, strikes and walkouts. For hundreds of thousands of students campus life also consisted of organizing the next rally, including ones that resulted in violence.

Students, however, did not initiate all the violence. FBI records stolen in 1971 from the FBI Field Office in Media, Pennsylvania showed that an FBI “informant,” acting as agent provocateur, had burned down a dormitory at the University of Alabama; another had placed explosives at a bridge in Seattle; a third tried to blow up a post office. (Taken from a censored segment of PBS’ “The Great American Dream Machine” 1971, produced by SAUL LANDAU and Paul Jacobs)

In line with such provocative acts, on May 2, 1970, just before the big demonstration, someone torched the ROTC building at Kent Sate. (A “biker” supposedly doused the building with gasoline).

Was this an FBI agent’s act, or was it, like the destruction of the math building at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the burning of the Bank of America in Santa Barbara, the act of students irate about Nixon’s illegal war? In any case, the violence provided a pretext for Rhodes to call in the Guard.

His act coincided with Vice President Spiro Agnew labeling student protestors “Nazi brownshirts.” The self-righteous Agnew, who later resigned before getting indicted for stealing, advised university presidents and police to treat the students as if they were the equivalent of Hitlerian goons.

Governor James Rhodes re-phrased Agnew’s hyperbole and on May 3, 1970, one day before the Guardsmen fired the fatal shots, called anti-war students “the worst type of people that we harbor in Americaworse than the brownshirts and the communist element and also the nightriders and the vigilantes.” He added that “we’re up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America.”

The staunch Republican Rhodes not only worked closely with the FBI. He appeared to be controlled by the Bureau. Shortly after Rhodes assumed office on January 14, 1963, a Cincinnati FBI agent wrote Director J. Edgar Hoover: “We will have no problem with him [Rhodes] whatsoever. He is completely controlled by an SAC [Special Agent in Charge] contact, and we have full assurances that anything we need will be made available promptly. Our experience proves this assertion.”

“FBI declassified material suggests that the Bureau’s extensive influence over Governor Rhodes, perhaps due to their knowledge of his ties to the numbers rackets, may have played a role in the Governor’s hard line law and order tactics that led to the deaths of four students at Kent State in 1970.” (Bob Fitrakis, The Free Press, May 4, 2007)

After the Guard entered Kent’s campus, some students had shouted insults at Guardsmen and even hurled a few rocks their way, hardly reasons to have the Guardsmen load their weapons with live ammunition.

The Kent State scenario switched to Jackson State University in Mississippi. On May 14, students protesting against the Vietnam War and sympathizing with the fallen at Kent State heard “rumors that Fayette, Mississippi mayor Charles Evers (brother of slain Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers) and his wife had been shot and killed. Upon hearing this rumor, a small group of students rioted.” They set fires “and overturned a dump truck that had been left on campus overnight.” (The African Registry)

After the fires were extinguished, “police and state troopers marched toward a campus women’s residence, weapons at the ready. At this point, the crowd numbered 75 to 100 people. Several students allegedly shouted ‘obscene catcalls’ while others chanted and tossed bricks at the officers.” The police opened fire on the crowd and the dormitory. Two died. Twelve others were wounded by gunfire. The FBI estimated that almost 500 rounds struck the building.

US Presidents invoke the word “democracy” as if it somehow both applied across the board to all of US society and simultaneously excused all “mistakes.” Kent State, like Jackson State, were examples of officials shooting citizens who disagreed with policies and exercised first amendment rights. US and state officials authorized the murder of unarmed students as if they and not Governor Rhodes and President Nixon were the “brown shirts.”

What words do Bush, Cheney and Rove use for anti-war activists? In the early 1970s, Nixon ordered his “plumbers (dirty tricks squad) to raid The Brookings Institution and Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office to get documents. Later, he perpetrated a cover-up of the 1972 Watergate break-in and had to resign.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez’s “firing” of US Attorneys, the lies perpetrated by Bush and Cheney to justify attacking Iraq, and even the latest “hookergate” scandal news in which the powerful and pious availed themselves of sinners needing money, show the criminal mind much alive in the White House. By starting a dubious process — phony pretext for war ­ it’s a short step to ordering the Guard to shoot citizens. The Los Angeles police shot rubber bullets at the May Day immigrant rights demonstration! Wait till next time!

SAUL LANDAU’s new book, BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD, with a foreword by Gore Vidal, is now available from Counterpunch Press. His new film, WE DON’T PLAY GOLF HERE, is available on DVD from roundworldmedia@gmail.com

 

 

 

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail