Posted on Wed, May. 04, 2005

Kent State remembers students killed protesting Vietnam War

Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT) - Most Americans old enough to remember President John F. Kennedy's assassination can recall what they were doing or where they were when it happened.

But the sister of one of the four students slain at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, told about 500 onlookers Wednesday that probably only a handful of people remember what they were doing when those shootings occurred during a Vietnam War protest. Nancy Tuttle remembers. She was in Lawrence, Kan., with a month-old boy. Her brother, William Schroeder, was one of the four killed.

Barry Levine, who was the boyfriend of Allison Krause, also remembers. She died in his arms after being shot while running through a campus parking lot.

The Victory Bell at the Commons at Kent State University rang 15 times at 12:24 p.m. Wednesday in honor of the students killed and wounded at Kent State and 10 days later at Jackson State University in Mississippi.

Killed at Kent State were Schroeder, Krause, Jeffrey Miller and Sandra Scheuer. Nine others were wounded. At Jackson State, two students were killed: James Earl Green and Phillip Gibbs.

Turnout Wednesday for the 35th anniversary of the Kent State shooting was relatively light. People drifted into and out of the audience that listened to speeches delivered over three hours.

Banners were displayed on the side of a fenced-in area that blocked off a construction area. The signs included: "Carry On the Struggle, March On" and "Casualties of War; The Cost of Freedom" and "Kent State, unnecessary, unwarranted, inexcusable and unforgettable."

The theme of this year's commemoration was "Tell Me Father, Did They Aim?" - a quote from a telegram sent by Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary to then-FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover the day after the shootings.

An anonymous poem, Who killed Allison and Why?, was read aloud. It laid out the positions of townspeople, teachers, the mayor, guardsmen, Gov. James Rhodes and President Richard Nixon on the shooting.

In the poem, no one took the blame: The townspeople felt the protesters were bums and needed to be taught a lesson, the teachers thought the students' opinions should be written and not heard, the governor said "not on my watch," and the guardsmen said they were "just doing what they were told."

Family members and friends of the four slain Kent students shared their views.

"Stay home, Billy, stay home," Tuttle said she had pleaded in her last conversation with her brother. "He never did listen to me anyway," she said of her 6-foot-2 younger brother. "My brother's life was taken away - all his creativity, ambition and intelligence was lost. I lost him to history, and his history became mine."

Russell Miller, Jeffrey's brother, talked about the insight his brother had even at age 16, and he urged today's students to maintain balance in their lives. He described war as senseless and said the May 4 protest contributed to shortening the Vietnam War.

Mike Alewitz, Scheuer's friend, said he came not to mourn but to honor his friend. "When we act together, human solidarity can defeat corporate greed," he said. "Don't let them trivialize what we did at Kent State and Jackson State."

A former guardsman, Chad Salamon, 25, of Ravenna, Ohio, spoke out against the war in Iraq. He spent six months in Iraq and said he learned firsthand that it is a "pointless conflict. When they approve a policy that replaces debt and destruction, then I will support our leaders."

The May 4 Task Force, which organizes the annual commemoration, ended the event with a performance by the Waterband, a local band, singing the May 4 anthem "Ohio" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

An anti-war protest sponsored by the Portage Community Peace Coalition and the Kent State Anti-War Committee followed the commemoration. About 200 people marched peacefully from the campus site to downtown Kent.


© 2005, Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio).

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