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SOJO Commemorates the 40th Anniversary of the Kent State Massacre

  • May 1, 2010 · 2:00 PM
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On May 4, 1970, students gathered on the Kent State campus and scores of others to protest the invasion of Cambodia and the expansion of the Vietnam War. Some rocks were thrown, some windows were broken, and an attempt was made to burn the ROTC building. Governor James Rhodes sent in the National Guard. The Guard, commanded with an amazing lack of military judgment, marched down a hill, to a field in the middle of angry demonstrators, then back up again. Seconds before they would have passed around the corner of a large building and out of sight of the crowd,
the Guard fired directly into the students, killing four of them and wounding nine more, one of whom was permanently paralyzed from the waist down. The Guard continued shooting over and over for thirteen seconds. Guard officers---none of whom were later punished, civilly, administratively, or criminally---admitted firing at specific unarmed targets; one man shot a demonstrator who was giving him the finger. The closest student shot was fully sixty feet away; all but one was more than 100 feet away; all but two were more than 200 feet away. One of the dead was 255 feet away; the rest were 300 to 400 feet away. The most distant student shot was more than 700 feet from the Guard. No demonstrators were armed, there was simply nothing threatening the Guard that justified an armed and murderous response. In addition to the demonstrators, the campus was full of onlookers and students on their way to class, including two of the dead. A day or two after the deaths, President Nixon reportedly called the parents of the only slain student known to be a bystander---he was a member of ROTC---to express condolences. The phone never rang in the other parents' houses. The message couldn't have been clearer: they had it coming. To this day, heated controversy surrounds the events at Kent State. Perhaps the most debated and controversial event is the burning of Kent State's Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) building the evening of May 2, 1970. In response to the two previous days of demonstrations, on Saturday May 2, 1970, Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom declared that Kent was in a state of Civil Emergency. Activist Alan Canfora, one of the students shot on May 4, and a participant in the ROTC demonstration explains, "Some of the students there did try to light the building on fire. It was like the Three Stooges trying to burn the ROTC building; throwing matches through the windows. Then the fire trucks showed up with the Sheriffs, State Troopers, campus police and Kent police, and thoroughly doused out the few curtains that did catch fire. Then they started taking flash pictures of us and then they started using tear gas, so we left. When we left, that fire was completely out." "At that point," Canfora continues, "the group decided to head towards town to gather more people. When we did come back about an hour later, the building had burned to the ground. It is important to understand that the building burned while it was under control of the authorities. Today, it remains one of the biggest mysteries of Kent State because that was the excuse to bring in the National Guard." In an immediate show of solidarity after the May 4 shootings, the only national student strike in American history erupted with over four million students shutting down some 800 campuses. Across the nation, thirty ROTC buildings were burned in protest. Maryland students blocked Route 1 outside of Washington D.C. President Nixon found himself trapped inside the White House, surrounded by 150,000 student demonstrators. In San Francisco, students stormed and occupied City Hall, demanding the impeachment of Richard Nixon. Despite clear evidence that the National Guard had fired in offense (rather than defense), derived from over one thousand pages of FBI reports, countless eye-witness testimonies and a through investigation by local, state and federal authorities, the courts ultimately blamed the student protesters. Years later, Crosby, Stills, and Nash visited the Kent State campus to commemorate the shootings. When asked about the song “Ohio” and why the group was attending the commemoration, Graham Nash responded:
“Four young men and women had their lives taken from them while lawfully protesting this outrageous government action. We are going back [to Kent State] to keep awareness alive, not only in America, but worldwide…to be vigilant and ready to stand and be counted… and to make sure that the powers of the politicians do not take precedent over the right of lawful protest.”
Here are the names of those who died at Kent State, so that they may not be forgotten: ALISON KRAUSE JEFFREY MILLER SANDRA SCHEUER WILLIAM SCHROEDER The preceding is excerpted from and _____________________________________ If you're a veteran SOJO'er, you already know the program, but details of our next meetup are above (and below), for the benefit of all SOJO members.
If you're new to Sing Out Jam Out (SOJO): Welcome, we're happy you found us and we look forward to a rewarding association together! All the details you need for coming to sing and/or play with us are on this page. Always feel free to email any of the organizers if you need more information. MOST IMPORTANT POINTS: 1. Please do your best to bring a copy of Rise Up Singing. The book is out of print, but you should have no trouble buying a copy on eBay,, or We also may have loaners available with a "borrow one time only" honors policy. 2. Please do RSVP. It helps us know how to set up the room beforehand and relieves us of the need to shuffle furniture around as members arrive after the merrymaking has begun. 3. Bring something to drink, as singing is likely to make you thirsty. 4. We request, but do not require, a $4 contribution to help pay for renting the room.
5. Parking availability is our most frequently asked question. Free parking is available on weekends at nearby garages, the closest being on 23rd St between Rt. 1 and Crystal Drive, just a short distance west of Crystal Drive on the north side of 23rd St. ------------------------------------------------------------------- FURTHER DETAILS, if you like: * Our next gathering is Saturday, May 1, at our usual Crystal City venue (wheelchair accessible). Exact location is above. We'll meet as we always do, from 2 to 5 p.m., with a break around 3:30. * For detailed directions from the Metrorail station, make sure you're signed into SOJO's website, click on "Files" in the menu at upper left, and choose "Crystal City Metro to SOJO directions" posted by Freddy on Sept. 7, 2008, or see the more brief metro directions above. * Please arrive a little early if you can, to help set up and so we have a musical quorum to start. * Feel free to bring lyrics to hand out, preferably with chords, for songs not in the book. * Click on "About" on the left side of our Web site's screen for additional information about our format, etc. (You are either now on our Web site, or you can get there by clicking the link below.) * Click on "Photos" on the left side of our Web site's screen for pictures of some of our gatherings.
Whether you're new to SOJO or not so new, we look forward to singing and/or jamming with you!

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  • Rick

    Carl must've brought in an abbreviated Quicksilver "What About Me." Come to think of it, I don't remember singing these lyrics: "I'm always getting busted...," "...I smoke marijuana...," " they shoot my people down...," " prepared to be shot down..." Let's do the "long version" next time!

    May 2, 2010

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