Forty-four years ago today, on the college campus of Kent State in Ohio, four students were killed with rifle fire from the Ohio National Guard while protesting America's expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. Ten days after Kent State, two students, James Earl Green and Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, were killed on the campus of Jackson State University by the Mississippi State Police, also for protesting the Vietnam War.
Four years after the tragic event in Ohio, eight of the Guardsmen were indicted by a grand jury for willfully violating the rights of the dead and wounded students, but the charges were dismissed because the judge said the government failed to prove its case. In 1979, each family received $15,000 and a Statement of Regret from the United States government for what happened that day, but no one was held accountable for the deaths of four students on their college campus and no apology was ever offered.
Though the United States government held hearings on the matter and determined that the Guardsmen opened fire after being spooked by what they believed was sniper fire, a copy of a tape recorded at the scene and digitized several years ago revealed that the Guard was ordered to shoot. The FBI destroyed the original recording and the Justice Department refused to reopen the case upon being informed of the new evidence.
To date, no one has been held responsible for the killing of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder, but this year that may change.
The family of Allison Krause and Emily Kunstler, daughter of William Kunstler who defended the Chicago Seven, established the Kent State Truth Tribunal in 2010 in light of the new evidence in the form of the digitized audio tape.
On March 14, 2014, Krause's sister Laurel, appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its 4th Periodic Review in Geneva, Switzerland. The United States was represented by Roy L. Austin, Jr, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights.
Krause requested an "independent, impartial investigation into the May 4 Kent State massacre (Article 2 (Right to remedy); Article 6 (Right to life); Article 19 (Right to freedom of expression); Article 21 (Right to peaceful assembly))."
The Tribunal's submission in 2013, that led to their invitation to the 4th Periodic Review, made clear that it believes that "Failure to ensure justice and accountability for the Kent State massacre has set a
precedent that the U.S. can continue to harass, abuse, and even kill protestors."
It cites as justification for this statement that "suppression of peaceful assembly continues today. Since the Occupy movement began in 2011, protestors have been labeled as domestic terrorists by the F.B.I. and have been arrested in massive numbers for peaceful protests and assemblies."
In an email, Krause related that at the UNHRC hearing, Roy L. Austin, Jr, referred to the deaths of the students as "murder." Krause says she will be following up with Austin and copying the UN on all correspondence.
She is also planning to request a UN special rapporteur in extrajudicial killings.
The United States government is required, in the next year, to answer to the charges made by the Kent State Truth Tribunal. Perhaps by the next anniversary of this sorry date in American history, the families will have received justice.
For the four Kent State students, however, they found the cost of freedom, and the price was their lives.