More than a year after the murders at Kent State, the federal government justice still eludes the victims and their families.
Mr. Davies, born in England, is a self-employed insurance broker who became an American citizen in 1966. He has three sons, all younger than 10.
It has been said by James Michener, among others, that what happened at Kent State University last year was inevitable; that the increasing animosity between dissenting students and angry adults was bound to culminate in tragedy. Outside agitators and hard-core revolutionaries were manipulating this animosity, Michener claimed, to the point where deadly confrontation became inescapable. That it happened at Kent State, however, was purely accidental.
But this theory overlooks the fact that the Ohio National Guard was armed with live ammunition. in 1910 only Arkansas and Ohio authorized their militia to carry loaded weapons in every civil disturbance situation, regardless of locale or gravity of the disorder. These two states were disregarding guidelines laid down by the Department of the Army and consequently made possible the kind of indiscriminate shooting that occurred at Kent State on May 4, 1970. It can be reasonably argued, therefore, that the deaths at Kent State were caused not by a conflict between life styles but rather by the refusal of Ohio Adjutant General, Sylvester Del Corso, to be guided by the Pentagon’s specific advice.
Officialdom’s increasing willingness to rely on unrestrained force as the solution to controlling dissent and preventing crime is being encouraged by public approval and a few powerful elements of the news media. That is the law of force, and it has brought us from Kent State to Jackson State, to the massacre at Attica. It remains to be seen whether, aroused by the horrors of Attica, those who subscribe to the force of law will at last demand that our judicial system be allowed to assess responsibility for all the deaths since May of last year,
The tragedy at Kent State not only shocked me, as it did many Americans; it also challenged my conscience. The recklessness of the shooting was all too evident in the distances at which students were hit. None was closer to the National Guard than 60 feet and Donald MacKenzie was placed by the FBI some 730 feet from the Pagoda, where the Guard was massed. John Kifner, a reporter for the New York Times, was standing but a few yards from Jeffrey Miller and could just as easily have been killed. Any parent of a Kent State student could have lost a son or daughter in those thirteen seconds, yet far too, many refused to believe the circumstances under which the shooting occurred. They were quick to accept the explanations of Del Corso and Gen. Robert Canterbury, only to learn later that there were no snipers, that the Guard was not surrounded and that their lives were not in danger.
Within a week of the killings, the father of Allison Krause, one of the two girls who died at Kent State, responded to my letter of sympathy and together we took up the challenge to our conscience and to our understanding of law. For ten months we expended time and money, which neither of us could really afford, in a seemingly hopeless effort to make the government fulfill its obligations to the Constitution. As the months dragged by, our conviction that the gunfire was totally unnecessary was confirmed, first by the Justice Department’s summary of the FBI investigations and them by the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest. Not only was it unnecessary; it was termed “inexcusable.” Thirteen students had been inexcusably shot, but those who did the shooting could not be called to account.