About the Kent State Truth Tribunal
Seeking Truth and Justice at Kent State
The Kent State massacre on the 4th of May remains a seminal day for many Americans. Even though the events that transpired on May 4, 1970 at Kent State created an international, historic tragedy, those responsible for the massacre have steadfastly refused to credibly investigate or account for what happened that day.
At the heart of the Kent State massacre is the American right to safely and peacefully protest without the government limiting or attacking that right. Since the United States is a signatory in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in America it is considered a human right to protest. When a government’s militia takes aim, shoots and kills protesters, a government must endeavor to offer accountability, conduct credible investigation and make amends for the government acts against its citizens.
In the Kent State massacre, the government target assassinated the unarmed student protesters against the Vietnam War. To add insult, over these last five decades, those who were responsible for the massacre and the killings found complete protection in government impunity. Even more damning, survivors who have sought truth at Kent State have been silenced and rebuffed from meaningfully participating in the upcoming Kent State University’s $2 million 50th commemoration.
Instead of accountability and credible investigation into what occurred in the Kent State massacre, the US government’s response was to blame the student protesters. For 50 years, with regard to Kent State the government’s primary focus remains whitewashing the government’s participation in creating the Kent State massacre, censoring all who seek truth and protecting Kent State University’s brand.
Days following the Kent State massacre, Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko responded in writing “Flowers & Bullets” for slain Kent State University student protester Allison Krause. Less than 24 hours before her killing on May 4th, Allison asked Ohio National Guardsmen, “What’s the matter with peace? Flowers are better than bullets.” In May 1970 City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco published and introduced Yevtushenko’s poetry to a generation of peaceful American readers.
When the issues of the Kent State massacre were heard in courts, eight of the Ohio National Guardsmen who opened fire on unarmed protesters were indicted by a Grand Jury but the case was later dismissed. To this day, the Ohio National Guard refuses to publish the findings of its investigation into command responsibility for the Kent State massacre.
After nine years of litigation, including taking Kent State before the US Supreme Court (advancing the right to sue the State of Ohio), in 1979 families of those killed at Kent State received $15,000 in civil settlement, a Statement of Regret and little information about how their loved ones were slaughtered that day.
The Kent State Truth Tribunal is committed to sharing the People’s Truth from a public inquiry while honoring, recording and preserving the stories of the student protesters and witnesses directly impacted by the May 4, 1970 Kent State massacre.
Since the Kent State massacre, with little accountability and few amends offered, Allison’s family still suffers the scars of losing their beloved Allison. All those who witnessed and were harmed by the Kent State massacre continue to grapple with its repercussions. Laurel Krause, Allison's sister, founded the Kent State Truth Tribunal to reveal the truth, and establish a clear and correct historical record to help heal the personal and collective wounds from this atrocity. Truth heals … and may bring peace.
On the first day of January 2010 in the 40th anniversary year of the Kent State massacre, Allison’s sister Laurel decided to learn and record the truth at Kent State from the people who were there. For decades she had watched Kent State University and the US government act with institutional power and unlimited funds as they minimized the influence of the Kent State massacre in our world today, censoring truth at Kent State and burying all evidence of government complicity in creating the Kent State massacre.
Seeking direction and support, Krause sent an email to her mentor, life-long friend and Boston University professor Dr. Howard Zinn inviting him to join the Kent State Truth Tribunal team at the first Truth Tribunal in Kent, Ohio May 1-4, 2010. Zinn shared he wasn’t going to be able to make it yet sent this note of support. Sadly, Zinn passed away two weeks later.
You are right that trying to get “redress” via the judicial system is a dead end, or a maze, and that learning and spreading the truth is the most important thing you can do. That was the idea of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.
--- Howard Zinn
The Kent State Truth Tribunal opened its doors in Kent, Ohio on the 40th anniversary to record the personal narratives, or testimonials, of original 1970 Kent State witnesses and participants. Michael Moore streamed the Truth Tribunal testimonials on his website over the first four days of May 2010, livecasting the tribunals held at Kent, Ohio, San Francisco and New York City.
On a mission to uncover and honor the truth at Kent State and to begin setting the Kent State massacre record straight, Emily Kunstler and Laurel Krause organized three Truth Tribunals. In 2010 at pop-up shoots, the Truth Tribunal filmed, honored and collected the first-person narratives of more than 70 original witnesses and participants of the May 4, 1970 Kent State massacre.
Award-winning filmmaker Emily Kunstler, daughter of civil rights attorney William Kunstler, in her intelligent, empathic and evocative interviews galvanizes the more than 70 extraordinary testimonials of original Kent State participants and witnesses.
The Truth Tribunal honors those whose lives have been directly affected by the killings and also marks the importance of Kent State as an influential chapter in the history of protest, democracy, civil rights and public security in the United States.
"50 years after the Kent State killings, justice still has not been served. The Kent State Truth Tribunal brings us closer to that goal by sharing first-hand accounts with the public. I am grateful for their efforts and hopeful that some day the truth will come out."
--- Michael Moore
The photograph "Closer view of crowd gathered into a group"
is used with permission from the Kent State University Libraries Special Collections