Decades Later, No Justice for Kent State Killings

On May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired between 61 and 67 shots into a crowd of unarmed anti-war protestors at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four students and wounding nine others. My 19-year-old sister, Allison Krause, was one of four students shot to death by the Ohio National Guard in the parking lot of her university campus as she protested the Vietnam War. I was 15 years old at the time.

It has been 44 years, and the U.S. government still refuses to admit that it participated in the killing of four young students at Kent State. There has not been a credible, independent, impartial investigation into Kent State. No group or individual has been held accountable. In 2010, after undeniable forensic evidence emerged pointing to direct U.S. government involvement in the killings, Emily Kunstler and I founded the Kent State Truth Tribunal (KSTT). Our hope was to finally receive a full account of the tragic events and to see that the victims and their families receive redress. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice refused to reopen the case, claiming there were “insurmountable legal and evidentiary barriers."

But justice for Allison doesn’t have to end there. To that end, we are traveling to Geneva, Switzerland, next week to demand accountability for the Kent State massacre before the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which will be reviewing U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), one of the few human rights treaties ratified by the United States.

The right to assemble and protest is a cherished American value and is a universal human right. But the United States – and so many other proclaimed democracies around the world – repeatedly and shamelessly commits gross violations of this human right. We were recently reminded of extensive U.S. government surveillance of anti-war activists in the 1960s, but sadly, such dangerous activity isn’t a thing of the distant past. As recently as 2011, with the start of the “Occupy” movement, protestors were labeled “domestic terrorists,” surveilled by the FBI, and arrested in massive numbers for nonviolent demonstrations and assemblies.

The Kent State precedent has cast a shadow over our democracy for over 40 years. If Kent State remains a glaring example of government impunity, it sends a message that protestors can be killed by the state for expressing their political beliefs. This lack of accountability and hostility towards peaceful expression flies in the face not only of our Constitution, but also our international human rights commitments.

Though we are a small organization, KSTT is committed to seeking justice for the victims of the Kent State massacre. Next week, representatives from KSTT will be briefing the U.N. Human Rights Committee about the United States’ failure to provide full accountability for the Kent State massacre. We hope the Committee will ask our government to provide answers regarding its complicity in the killing of peaceful protesters, or at the very least acknowledge its failure to conduct a thorough and credible investigation. We intend to make it clear that we have not forgotten the horrific event that took place at Kent State. Allison stood for peace and died for peace. May no other protestor in the U.S. ever have to pay the price she paid for her peaceful political expression and dissent.

Laurel Krause is a writer dedicated to raising awareness about ocean protection, safe renewable energy and truth at Kent State. She is the cofounder and director of the Kent State Truth Tribunal

Click here for more on the ACLU's work on behalf of the students who were killed or injured at Kent State University.

Learn more about protestors’ rights and other civil liberties issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

View comments (10)
Read the Terms of Use

Geoff Burkman

“insurmountable legal and evidentiary barriers" = "We know we'll get our asses handed to us and simply refuse to deal with that."


You might want to check your photo policies a bit more closely. The photograph you're using was shot by John Filo, who won a Pulitzer for it. I'm not sure how it wound up in the flickr pool of Cliff1066, who appears to have a fondness for claiming exclusivity for his trade name while 'borrowing' from other people.

Doesn't exactly make you guys look real reputable, y'know?

Filo's a friend, btw. I've sent him the link.


the snipers in Ukraine learned by watching the US


that was just practice the government trained a lot more people to shoot civilians since then

from Richard, V...

The entire Vietnam war era harmed people on both sides of the debate. I'm truly sorry for your loss.
That said, however, I can speak only from my own perspective on Vietnam and war protesters, which have both been hellacious experiences for me - fighting the war and receiving the non-hero's return home.

All the men returning from Nam were also unarmed - unlike the protesters who met us, and thought that not only could they throw those things at us but could accuse every last one of us of being a "baby killer," thereby indelibly impressing on us that you can shoot someone with more than a firearm, and that words really do make solid indentations on a person.
Whether we ACTUALLY "killed babies" appeared to be immaterial to these people, b/c we all got the same treatment for having been called by the military for the little get-together they were having in Vietnam - which in my own case was according to a lottery number of 12, guaranteeing me an expedient trip to the Orient.

Do the people who spewed their misdirected hatred at us instead of on the government where it REALLY belonged think we actually controlled whether our country went to Vietnam? Were they oblivious when the Lottery was adopted or did they think that was part of some unholy conspiracy on our part to further entrench our country in the police action that was Vietnam?

I do disagree with what happened at Kent State, but I have to say that my own experience with the war protesters of the Vietnam era was hardly what I'd call peaceful. Not the ones who would line up, wait for returning soldiers to deplane, then hurl both objects and expletives at us without knowing a damn thing about ANYthing that went on beYOND the news camera perspective, which is the only view they had of Nam. Not the first-person eye witness view that I had then and still hold in my mind today for better or worse.
People at home were shown Vietnam through a keyhole perspective, so that the viewer saw it as if he or she were kneeling in front of a locked door peeping on the events within via the keyhole. There was so much of the "room" that the viewer missed it's a wonder any protesters could make such sweeping accusations of all returning soldiers, but most of them did so and apparently with little to no regrets for having done it.

The very phrase 'Vietnam War protester' still has the power to make me feel defensive.


I WAS AT THE SHOOTINGS THAT DAY AND THEY ARE BURNED IN MY MEMORY FOREVER There is not a day that goes by that i don't think of that day and the injustice that happen in this country, the land of the free.
I'm sadden and upset that no resolve has ever come in this massacre. After an experience like this how could you trust anything that you are told about this country. Buy time and people forget, well i have not forgotten the injustice of what happened and never will. It is quick and easy for us to criticize other countries for what we feel are injustices but at times we need to look at home first. It can only make this country stronger if we are honest and admit to our mistakes and tell the Truth about Kent State.


I was 2 years old when it happened and I have absolutely no memory of it. I don't even have a recollection of people discussing it years later.
I wasn't even born until almost the end of the Vietnam war but a Vietnam Veteran, two of them actually, are the ones who have helped me the most with my own situation.
I was in a bank when it was robbed and held hostage for 5 hours, then he shot me.
Afterwards I couldn't get better, and it was a Vietnam Veteran who helped me find a way to keep the bad vibrations at bay most of the time.
The bank robbery is burned into my mind forever, and branded into my body where I was shot, but he got a ridiculous sentence for almost killing me and sending me into clinical death twice. I had to be resuscitated, I was clinically dead, and he gets no more than 10 years for that part of his crimes. That's totally insulting to the victim.
You think you're going to get "justice" and when you finally do get SOMEthing, it's like a bad joke. It's like a smorgasbord where YOU'RE the main dish. No sentence they get seems to diMINish the bad memories.
I think they should get sentenced for creating terror in another person.

Jim Chaput

The right to protest is vital, as is the right to oppose a bad government policy, but there is another side to this case. The shooting came after days of rock throwing, arson and incendiary rhetoric. The night before the shooting the campus ROTC building was burned. The day of the shooting protestors threw rocks at the troops attempting to cordon off a small part of the campus and injured several.The hour before the shooting protestors attempted to seize campus buildings. At the time of the shooting rocks were being thrown at the troops.

It is understandable that some of these poorly trained and poorly led young men opened fire thinking they were under attack. No, they should not have fired, but the foolish young protestors should not have assumed they could attack armed troops with impunity. Simply put, they were too full of self-righteousness to leave room for reality, or even civility. They should be remembered as examples of what not to do.


Saul Alinski was there and fired the first shot to cause the guard to shoot.


And what 19 to 20 year olds do you know who AREN'T "full of self-righteousness?"
OTOH burning things doesn't sound too damn peaceful. The minute you burn ANYthing IMO you cross the line between "peaceful" ANYthing and become hostile. Although I guess that viewpoint is severely colored by the fact that someone in my family died in a fire that someone set on purpose.

Stay Informed