Over 50 anti-war activists sent a letter to President Todd Diacon demanding a revision of the May 4 50th commemoration plans due to a lack of attention given to the Vietnam War and hundreds of anti-war protest groups.
The group demanded Kent State open all records, meetings and discussions regarding May 4 to the public, provide memorial activities that represent broad sections of the anti-war movement while also defending the peoples’ right to peacefully assemble and establish activities to educate people on the historic role of government surveillance in spying.
May 4, 1970 marks the day four students were killed and nine injured when the National Guard opened fire on a group of nearly 3,000 students protesting the Vietnam War.
“Our true history must be brought to light,” the letter said. “May 4, 1970 was a protest against the war in Vietnam and the militarization of our campuses. It must not be sanitized and depoliticized as a simple ‘remembrance.’”
Writer of the letter Kent State alumnus and May 4 witness, Mike Alewitz, said the letter was prompted by the selection of CIA veteran and assistant professor in Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Stephanie Smith, as university chair of the 50th May 4 Commemoration Advisory Committee. Alewitz, who is the national chairman for the Committee of Kent State Massacre Witnesses, said this was a poorly made decision based on Smith’s history with the CIA.
Alewitz’s complaint lies with Smith’s position in the CIA.
Laurel Krause, the sister of Allison Krause, who was killed on May 4, said in a blog on her post that Smith’s appointment felt like a “stunning slap in the face” for every protester of the Vietnam war.
On her blog, Krause wrote, “It is widely known the CIA was the most rogue and vicious contributor to Vietnam war crimes, now wholly focused on re-writing their crimes, re-messaged their war, before, during and after, a key aim of the CIA in covering their tracks.”
Smith stepped down from the position in May following public pressure from the May 4 community and her name has since been removed from the May 4 Planning Committee website.
Alewitz said the Kent State administration continued to include Smith and her supporters in the events for the commemoration while simultaneously “ignoring the active-duty antiwar soldiers and their supporters.”
Executive Director of University Media Relations Eric Mansfield said the university has received the letter and is focused on sharing the truth about May 4.
“We have received the letter, and we remain open to all ideas and input in helping to guide our approach to this significant milestone in the history of Kent State and our nation,” Mansfield said. “The university’s year-long observance of the 50th commemoration of May 4, 1970 is inclusive and ongoing, and we are committed to sharing the lessons of this tragic event: the dangers of polarization and the transformative power of civil discourse and reconciliation.”
The letter received 57 signatures in total, and the online petition listing the same demands received 112 as of Sept. 10, 2019.
“The student protesters were fighting for peace and justice,” the letter said. “It is a disservice to their memory and to the KSU university community to promote militarism under the guise of a memorial to our martyrs!”
Contact Zaria Johnson