May 3, 2020 candlelight march and vigil
Despite the coronavirus and the cancellation of the originally scheduled events for the May 4, 1970 50th Commemoration at Kent State University, a small group still followed tradition and showed up in the Prentice Hall parking lot to remember Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, William Schroeder and Allison Krause.
The group carried candles and lanterns as they looped through the campus, then one person stood vigil in each of the four spaces that marked where the students were shot.
Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on students and bystanders protesting the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. Four students were killed and nine others were wounded.
Each year, the night before May 4, there is a candlelight vigil for the students killed in the Prentice Hall parking lot in 1970. While the university canceled the event this year due to COVID-19, people still gathered to pay their respects.
On Sunday night, a group of no more than 20 people met at the memorials of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder, who were killed May 4, 1970, by the Ohio National Guard.
The group maintained social distancing while lighting candles for the four dead students and proceeding to march around campus.
On April 13, Kent State announced that all on-campus events, including the May 4 commemoration, were canceled through July 4 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Among those in attendance were Brianna Fowl, senior fashion merchandising major; Cecilia Ing, senior early childhood education major; Emily Paras, senior business management major; and Andrea Libal, senior marketing major.
The four live together and came to remember Sandra Scheuer who was a part of their sorority, Alpha Xi Delta. Fowl said they normally like to get a bigger group from the sorority together to come to the memorial.
“We normally have people come throughout the whole day,” Paras said. “But obviously, like (Fowl) said, we can't really all be here together and stuff, so we just wanted to come in our own time.”
The group wrote messages in chalk for Sandy at her marker in the Prentice Hall parking lot when the candle-light tribute returned from the walk around campus.
“It seems like, I think there is a lot going on,” Libal said. “I think with the circumstances that we're in, I think that kind of goes to show that we can also come together, even if it's six feet apart.”
Colt Hutchinson, junior political science and jazz major, is the president of the current Students for a Democratic Society on campus and was also in attendance.
“I think that it's a tradition that needs to be carried on,” Hutchinson said. “I can’t be on this campus and not think about it, let alone being here on the 50th and not doing the march.”
SDS brought a list of four demands to the university president earlier in the semester including a “proper” committee for May 4 that involves students and meetings open to the public.
“We're definitely going to have to keep fighting (for May 4 to) go back to the students. I think we're going to have to maybe escalate our tactics,” he said. “I think we tried the polite way of doing things. It doesn't work. I think we knew that, but it was good to do it.”
SDS held two events over the weekend separate from the university due to the university not wanting to include them in the program, Hutchinson said.
There were also attendees who had been there for years including William, Bill, Arthrell who was at the protest in 1970.
“I was here 50 years ago. I was protesting on the other side of Taylor Hill against the war in Vietnam and Nixon's invasion of Cambodia. The guard moved on us and, and they initiated the violence. They started shooting tear gas. We did return it,” Arthrell said. “I was on the practice football field right over there when the guard huddled and when they broke the huddle, they went back up Taylor Hill. When they reached the crest, all of the guardsmen turned the same time and same direction and began firing at students."
Arthrell said he has anxiety and PTSD from the shooting, that he jumps when a phone rings because of the shooting.
“It's about feelings of guilt, other people died and I didn't. That has haunted me,” he said. “I can't tell you what it's like to see people die in front of you. After I hit the dirt over on the practice football field and I came back, all I could see was blood and sunshine and blood and sunshine and blood and sunshine.”
Arthrell was charged with rioting alongside 24 other students, also known as the Kent 25. He says that it is important to honor social distancing during this time, but that he and the group wanted to come and peacefully honor the students who died.
“Something so extraordinary happened here and it really changed American history, you know, that it was not just an isolated event, but Nixon withdrew from Cambodia in six weeks,” Arthrell said. “The draft ended, the voting age was lowered to 18. We got Nixon out of office, we got Johnson out of office. There were a lot of reforms that came out of the student movement.”
Contact Madison MacArthur at email@example.com.