Groundbreaking For May 4 Memorial Includes Protests
KENT, Ohio (AP) _ A silent protest greeted Kent State University officials Wednesday as they broke ground for a scaled-down memorial to students shot by Ohio National Guardsmen during 1970 anti-war demonstrations.
Students stood silently holding a banner depicting a peace symbol and a dove to protest as inadequate the $100,000 memorial university trustees unanimously agreed to build. The trustees voted Nov. 15 to reduce the cost of the memorial from $1.2 million after a fund-raising campaign netted only $40,000.
The groundbreaking took place on a campus hill near where guardsmen fired more than 60 shots that hit 13 students and killed four. Then-Gov. James Rhodes sent the guardsmen to the campus on May 4, 1970 during the fourth day of student protests in opposition to the Vietnam War.
Attorneys for donors and the May 4 Task Force, a group of students who want to continue raising funds for the original design, said they met with university attorneys who agreed to contact all donors before starting construction of the monument.
″They can’t just use their money and build something else,″ said William Whittaker, an attorney for the donors.
About 300 people turned out for the groundbreaking, where Dean Kahler, one of nine students wounded by guardsmen, spoke from his wheelchair.
″There is still a stigma and that incident affects all the alumni,″ Kahler said.
″Today’s events mark the culmination of that stigma. We don’t have to scratch the scab May 4 every year anymore,″ said Kahler, an Athens County commissioner who attends yearly candlelight vigils commemorating the shootings.
Architect Bruno Ast said the scaled-down concrete, granite and earth memorial is a portion of the original design.
Alan Canfora, one of the students wounded in the shootings, said the Kent May 4 Foundation still plans to raise money in an effort to have the memorial constructed as originally designed.
″We are forming a national suport committee, we are guided by professional fund-raisers and we are promoting national publicity.″ Canfora said.
But William Risman, chairman of the board of trustees, said, ″It is time for final resolution. The size and cost of the memorial are not of importance and not of true consequence.″
George Janik, 56, former chairman of the board of trustees, said the original memorial could have been built if the fund-raising campaign, which was directed at alumni who graduated around the time of the shootings, had been improved.
″It’s a project that needed to be sold,″ Janik said. ″That’s what I think was missing.″