Kent State: How can you run when you know?

Kent State: How can you run when you know?

by digby

I guess nobody cares much about this anymore, but they should. If things keep going the way they're going it's not hard to imagine that this will happen again.

Jesse Kornbluth reports on the anniversary of Kent State:

Kent State is America's Tiananmen Square. The photo of a young girl kneeling over the body of a dead student is etched on our collective retinas. But all these years later, it is still hard to comprehend how National Guardsmen facing no real danger from student protestors several hundred feet distant would suddenly turn, raise their rifles, and fire, in just 13 seconds, 67 bullets into the crowd.

Inevitably, National Guard leaders insisted that the Guardsmen had not been ordered to fire; either they shot in self-defense or, at worst, acted on their own. Three hundred FBI investigators found no proof of a plan to shoot students; the Department of Justice closed the case three times in as many years. It took until 1979 for a civil suit to be resolved, with the state of Ohio issuing a mild statement of regret and paying $675,000 to the victims and their families.

And yet there is no resolution of this tragedy. Just before the May 4th demonstration began, a Kent State communications major who lived in a dorm overlooking the Commons decided to record it. Setting the microphone of his tape deck in his window, he created the only real-time account of the shooting. The original was destroyed by the Department of Justice in 1979, but a copy of the tape surfaced in a collection of evidence given to the Yale University Library. In 2010, at the request of two Ohio newspapers, forensic experts used technology not available in the 1970s to evaluate a digital CD of the tape.

They heard someone shout "prepare to fire" and then give an order. Two seconds later, the gunshots begin. (Alan Canfora, who was wounded that day and is now director of the Kent May 4 Center, presented the Department of Justice with the CD and asked the government to re-open the investigation. Last week the DOJ declined, declaring the enhanced recording "inconclusive."

Sure it was. Read the whole article because it's especially useful to be reminded how the American public reacted to young people being shot down by men in uniform for protesting. As you know if you read Nixonland the idea that the 60s youth rebellion or left politics in general were unopposed and the whole country was in the grip of hippie fever is just wrong:

In 1970, nothing was inconclusive. The reaction among the young was immediate: a nationwide strike involving 850 campuses and 4 million students, and a powerful song by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young that condemned President Nixon and the National Guard. Among their elders, the reaction was largely the opposite. A Gallup Poll taken shortly after the shootings at Kent State revealed that 58% of the respondents believed the responsibility for the deaths lay with the demonstrators; only 11% blamed the National Guard. As the author of a book about the shootings would later write, "These were the most popular murders ever committed in the United States."
This is our country. Same as it ever was. The good news is that even if it isn't popular and it spawns a certain hateful reaction, progress happens. Painfully.

Update: Here's David Brinkley reporting the event via Newstalgia: