SUNY Plattsburgh Remembers Kent State, Jackson State Violence
SUNY Plattsburgh remembered those killed and wounded 53 years ago at Kent State and Jackson State at its annual commemoration ceremony Thursday, May 04.
A plaque stands in front of Kehoe Administration Building with the names of the four killed at Kent and the two, including a high school student, killed at Jackson State. Nine students were wounded, including Dean Kahler, who was paralyzed as a result of being shot, when Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on students protesting the United States’ involvement in the Viet Nam War May 4, 1970.
Eleven days later, police unloaded more than 450 shots in the span of a half a minute onto students outside a Jackson State dormitory who had been protesting racism on campus, killing two —a college student and a high school senior who was on his way home. Twelve other Jackson students were wounded.
At Thursday’s commemoration, Allison Heard, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, spoke of the how important it is to continue to remember the violence that occurred those days on two college campuses — one in Ohio, the other in Mississippi — and to remember those wounded as well.
In a moment of poetry, she had four of those gathered hold signs that spelled out Kent, with each letter corresponding to the words “Knowledge,” “Erase,” “Nice” and “Together,” explaining how knowledge of the past will help us avoid violence in the future, how erasing racism from our lives will lead to peace, how being nice can help lead to that peace, and how we all need to be in this effort together.
SUNY Plattsburgh is the only college that has commemorated the Kent and Jackson state killings every year. Tom Dietz of Grand Isle, Vt., who was among those gathered, thanked the college for its steadfast remembrance.
“I was at Kent State, and it means so much to me that you do this,” he said. He said he has attended several times in the past when he was unable to get to Kent State.
“I was an undergrad in 1970, and in the fall of 1979 co-founded the Kent Legal Defense Fund to defend the Kent 25 — student and faculty indicted by an Ohio Grand Jury,” he said. The grand jury indicted 24 students and a professor for inciting a riot. The charges were eventually thrown out, as were criminal charges against eight National Guardsmen.
“Like many who were at Kent then, we deeply appreciate Plattsburgh’s long tradition of commemorating those events,” Dietz said.
Following a moment of silence, the group sang “America the Beautiful” and placed colorful carnations at the memorial plaque.
— Story, Photo By Associate Director of Communications Gerianne Downs