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History and Goals

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History and Goals

The May 4 Task Force is a registered student organization at Kent State University since October 30, 1975. At that time, the KSU student government leaders issued a call to form “a task force on May 4” in response to the controversial 1975 KSU administration decision to cease university-sponsored annual May 4 commemoration events.

Since October of 1975, the May 4 Task Force (M4TF) has continued to meet on a weekly basis throughout each school year to the present day. We offer educational information and programs on the KSU campus culminating in our sponsorship of annual May 3-4 commemoration events featuring speakers and musicians. Our history is uninterrupted since 1975 and we remain one of the most significant, longstanding student activist organizations at KSU.

Our basic goals remain the same as in 1975:

1) M4TF seeks to support the families of the 1970 KSU victims in an ongoing quest for truth and justice and to attain proper memorial tribute to our fallen fellow-students Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder;

2) M4TF is an educational/activist student organization seeking to raise awareness regarding misunderstood truths about the Kent State tragedy of May 4, 1970;

3) M4TF seeks to link our educational efforts at KSU to promote understanding of similar American campus tragedies which occurred at Jackson State University and elsewhere between 1968 and 1972;

4) M4TF encourages non-violent conflict resolution as a meaningful legacy of our Kent State tragedy of 1970;

5) M4TF promotes understanding about the importance of recognizing and maintaining the tradition of KSU student activism promoting positive social change.

Starting in October of 1975, M4TF students began organizing and raising awareness on the KSU campus to build support for annual commemoration events on May 3-4. M4TF students participated in numerous dormitory educational events to build support for a blossoming movement seeking truth and justice. M4TF effectively soon convinced KSU administrators to recognize May 4 as a day of solemn observance without classes on May 4 during commemoration events.

On May 4, 1977, after two years of effective activism on the KSU campus, M4TF students joined with militant students of the May 4 Strike Committee and opposed construction of a massive gymnasium on part of the site of the historical May 4 confrontation. The May 4 Coalition emerged and organized a 62-day tent-city occupation of the “Blanket Hill” gym-site which was ended by court-order and the arrest of 194 people including several parents of the 1970 KSU victims.

After nearly 400 total arrests and numerous militant confrontations joined by thousands of US student activists,which concluded on May 4, 1978, KSU leaders (prompted by Ohio Governor James Rhodes in Columbus) demonstrated ongoing insensitivity and destroyed a large portion of Blanket Hill and built the controversial gym. Though no longer used from gym-purposes and deteriorating badly, this neglected and despised “gym-annex” remains and still covers the location where Ohio National Guard troops marched just prior to the 1970 shooting incident. The gym-annex monstrosity also covers the location where KSU student Jim Russell was shot and wounded in 1970.

In 1977 and in 1993, M4TF students failed but attempted to gain US government recognition of the May 4 site as a National Landmark area. *Note: in 2010, the US government will finally make this recognition.

Starting in 1980, M4TF students demanded construction of a permanent May 4 Memorial on the KSU campus. Showing continuing insensitivity and stalling until 1985, the KSU administration finally yielded to persistent M4TF pressure and announced plans for a significant May 4 Memorial. A national design competition generated nearly 700 potential memorial designs submitted for consideration.

However, when the winning May 4 Memorial design was selected in 1986, conservative organizations including the American Legion and Fraternal Order of Police denounced the planned May 4 Memorial as “…a memorial to terrorists”. Under this conservative pressure, KSU President Michael Schwartz intentionally failed to assemble a fund-raising committee, failed to effectively solicit national donations of memorial construction funds and failed to promote the concept of a significant May 4 Memorial. In 1988, KSU President Michael Schwartz provoked the wrath of the M4TF and our many national supporters when he cruelly blamed the American public for a “lack of support” and announced the controversial reduction of the May 4 Memorial design by approximately 93%.

When the tiny sliver of a 7% portion of the May 4 Memorial was dedicated on May 4, 1990, over 3,000 students and others protested the hollow-gesture silently in a steady rainfall. The memorial dedication ceremony was boycotted by the nearly all of the KSU victims’ families. The so-called “May 4 Memorial” remains as an ongoing controversy which will be resolved in the future when the remainder of the original memorial design is completed.

After 1990, M4TF students continued to promote May 4 education and sponsorship of annual commemorations, of course. On May 4, 1997, over 10,000 people (the largest May 4 attendance ever) heard Crosby, Stills and Nash performed their song “Ohio” at KSU for the first time ever.

After the May 4, 1998, commemoration, noted Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic led M4TF students and others who marched to the KSU library to demand the end of vehicles parking where our 1970 martyrs were killed in the Prentice Hall parking lot. KSU President Carole Cartwright promptly agreed and in September of 1999, mothers of our martyrs joined M4TF students at the Prentice Hall parking lot when memorial areas were dedicated. Thereafter, the M4TF victory endures as no vehicles park where our martyrs suffered and died.

Since that time, realizing the M4TF student organization maintained everlasting support of the 1970 KSU victims’ families, KSU administrators and faculty showed increased sensitivity and respect regarding the M4TF and May 4 issues. KSU administrators/faculty have recently offered annual “May 4 Symposium” events.

Under the leadership of KSU President Lester Lefton, a new May 4 Visitors Center will soon open in Taylor Hall and provide visual artifacts, video and outdoor walking tours with audio commentary and 1970 photographs for the many visitors at the May 4 area on campus. The May 4 Visitors Center concept initially was promoted by the M4TF in recent years and the KSU administration has admirably agreed to realize this long-overdue facility.

Although 42 years have passed since 5/4/1970, M4TF students as well as the KSU administration and faculty anticipate significant commemoration events in a spirit of unprecedented unity and determination. After 42 years, including 37 years of M4TF activism, we can say our 1970 Kent State martyrs – our fellow-students – have not died in vain.

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