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COVID-19 forces cancellation of 50th commemoration of Kent State massacre

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette logo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3/23/2020 By Michael A. Fuoco / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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Perhaps not unexpectedly given restrictions to combat COVID-19, Kent State University announced Monday afternoon it was canceling its planned 50th commemoration of the Kent State massacre on May 4, 1970, by members of the Ohio National Guard in which four students were killed and nine others were wounded during an anti-war protest.

The weekend of events that had been slated for May 1-4 on the Ohio campus were part of a year-long university-sponsored observance of the shootings that the school had said were “not only an important milestone in the history of Kent State University, but also a landmark moment in the history of our country.”

The university announced that “a meaningful virtual May 4 Commemoration program” to honor the four killed and nine wounded students is under development. Details will be released at a later date, the university said. Up-to-date information regarding the virtual commemoration will be available at

“This action comes as a great disappointment to so many who have looked forward to this milestone weekend and who have worked tirelessly to make this event happen,” Kent State president Todd Diacon said in a news release. “However, the health, safety and well-being of everyone is our first priority.”

As of Monday afternoon, Ohio had reported 442 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and had issued a stay-at-home order to its residents.

Mr. Diacon noted that the planning process itself has provided a firm foundation for future commemorations and ongoing educational efforts.

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“For the first time, Kent State administrators, students and faculty, along with May 4 survivors and family members, united around a commitment to jointly plan a commemoration,” the release said. “The collaboration of groups previously divided on May 4 issues personifies a spirit of unity and reconciliation that has become an integral part of the history and legacy of the Kent State shootings.”

Those killed were Allison Krause, 19 of Churchill; Jeffrey Miller, 20, of Plainview, N.Y.; William Schroeder, 19; of Lorain, Ohio; and Sandra Scheuer, 20, of Youngstown, Ohio.

Among the nine others who were shot was John Cleary, now 68 and a retired architect from Pine. In an iconic Life magazine cover published just after the massacre, Mr. Cleary, then a 19-year-old freshman, lies wounded, mouth agape, barely clinging to life as other students try to stanch bleeding from the left side of his chest. Of the 13 who were shot, he was second-closest to the Guard, only 110 feet away.

The university asked that visitors reschedule plans to visit the May 4 National Historic Landmark site on campus until after the national public health emergency has passed and the university has resumed on-campus operations.

Refunds for the May 4 50th Commemoration Benefit Concert featuring Joe Walsh and David Crosby and a luncheon featuring historian Eric Foner have been processed, the university said.

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